When should you seek treatment for alcoholism?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 17 million people in the US have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many people gradually change from moderate consumption to full addiction over time, so they may not understand the severity of their situation. Don’t wait to hit rock bottom to get treatment for an alcohol use disorder; be proactive.
In 2012, 1.4 million people, 416,000 women and 1 million men, received alcoholism treatment at specialized treatment centers for AUD. There have been many great strides around treatment for alcoholism – both in removing the stigma surrounding addiction and increasing access to information for Americans who are struggling to recover on their own or in need of professional help.
What are the signs of alcoholism?
Learn how to recognize the ‘signs of alcoholism’ so you are aware when help is necessary. AUD can spiral out of control rather quickly and have negative effects; being proactive when it comes to recognizing the symptoms of AUD can possibly save a life. Signs of alcoholism can include:
- Getting drunk, or being sick from drinking, repeatedly causing issues…
- In school
- At work
- In personal relationships or friendships
- Trying and failing repeatedly to reduce or stop drinking
- Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol when sober
- Having withdrawal symptoms such as physical sickness when abstaining from alcohol
- Giving up or cutting back on hobbies and activities to spend more time drinking
- Ending up drinking more, or for longer than you intended to
- Feeling the need to downplay or hide your drinking from others
- Developing health problems due to your drinking
- Being confronted by others about you about how much you drink
What types of treatments are available for alcoholism?
There are currently only three medications which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating alcohol use disorder:
- Disulfiram is a medicine that changes the way alcohol is absorbed by the body, making it very unpleasant to drink while on this medication.
- Naltrexone helps to reduce the pleasant feelings associated with alcohol intoxication, which in turn helps an individual avoid relapse.
- Acamprosate is effective in helping people who have quit drinking to continue their abstinence.
Not everyone will react to these medicines the same way, and in no way are any of these considered a cure for alcoholism. There is no single fix that will end a person’s addiction. Rather, these and other medications should be considered one part of a multifaceted plan to treat a substance use disorder. Medical treatment for alcoholism should always be supervised by a physician. Combining medication treatment with behavioral therapy produces better results for alcohol detox than either would on their own.
There are some potential drawbacks to taking medications for alcohol dependence, but replacing one addiction for another is not one of them. None of these medications are addictive, and they serve only as a tool to support a patient as they work towards weaning themselves off alcohol completely.
Counseling & Psychotherapy
A common way to treat alcoholism is with some form of counseling or psychotherapy. When initially searching for treatment options, it can get a bit confusing trying to determine what treatment center is the best fit. Every treatment center has their own approach to the way alcoholism treatment is structured for their patients, but there are a some similar components:
- Individual Therapy: For most addiction recovery plans, individual treatment is going to be one of the core ingredients. One-on-one meetings will usually take place with a variety of counselors, all sharing the common goal of learning about the person and how to change behavioral patterns while also building the skills necessary to deal with stress and other triggers.
- Group Therapy: In addition to meeting individually with a therapist, many programs include group meetings, where a counselor hosts a conversation with a group of patients. In this setting, patients benefit both from the guidance of the therapist, as well as from the experiences and feedback from others in a similar position or with shared experiences. It is somewhat common for patients to be encouraged to participate in both group and individual meetings during a course of rehab.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most common forms of psychotherapy. Through working with a counselor, patients are led to a deeper understanding of their own emotions and motivations. The goal of CBT is to identify thought processes in order to change behavior by changing unhelpful thought patterns. Commonly used for treating depression or anxiety, addiction treatment is another area where CBT has shown positive results.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This is a cousin to CBT. This evidence-based therapy structure is geared towards helping patients get back to a place of self reliance. DBT helps build coping mechanisms through examining and rewriting emotionally driven reactions to events or thoughts. Because of the complex ways addiction and mental illness fuel one another, the most effective way to help patients recover is by addressing both disorders at the same time.
- Holistic Care: For those who are interested in holistic care, many treatment centers have begun to offer therapies to treat the whole body. Holistic treatments are designed to address physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. These therapies can include meditation, yoga, acupuncture, nature therapy and more. For some patients, combining traditional addiction treatments with holistic options provides patients a tangible approach to managing stress and help them live a balanced life after they are finished with their treatment.
- Alternative Therapies: Many treatment centers are diversifying the types of therapies they provide. Options such as art therapy are becoming increasingly common. Experiential therapy, which focuses on physically active treatment, also falls into this category. Just as each patient is an individual, their treatment should be catered to their specific needs and goals as well.
How to Choose an Alcoholism Treatment Program
If you or someone important in your life have reached the point of accepting the need for treatment, the next step is usually finding the right treatment programs to fit individual needs. Searching for a treatment center may seem overwhelming, but there are ways to narrow down your search and find the right fit. When choosing a treatment center, make sure to ask the following questions:
What treatment options are available at a location?
When going through the process of vetting treatment centers, take note of what types of treatment programs are offered by each. It may be that you would be more comfortable with some programs than others. For example, if holistic care is something you would like to be a part of your treatment plan, ask prospective options if it is offered. Understanding program options can help you decide what kind of treatment structure fits your needs and will be most comfortable.
Is there individualized treatment?
In order to give clients the best chance at a successful recovery, treatment should be tailored to the individual as much as possible. For a treatment center, this means having a diverse team of clinicians offering a variety of services to create a successful treatment plan. Adapting to what works for each individual is much more effective than trying to push every client through the same structured therapy plan on a strict schedule.
How is success measured?
Pay attention to what each addiction program considers a successful course of treatment, and make sure that it aligns with your own. Look at alumni testimonies and see how previous patients have fared after completing the treatment program and if they have stayed connected to the treatment program. Ongoing involvement is often a good indicator of a positive experience.
What support is there for ongoing care beyond the program?
Little things such as ancillary support after an intensive course of treatment can end up making a big difference in long term recovery. Clients should understand that relapse is a real possibility, but is just a bump on the road to recovery. Treatment centers anticipate relapses and often have services in place to help anyone who ends up needing them.
What is the treatment process like for alcoholism?
For some individuals, intervention is an important first step on the way to treatment. When seriously confronting someone about their alcohol use, it is always best to have an addiction specialist present. This impartial counselor can help to mediate the interaction and help work towards a positive outcome. Many people react defensively to this type of confrontation, or are otherwise opposed to treatment at first. It is important to have a recovery plan and treatment center chosen before an intervention takes place. This way, if the person is open to receiving help, there is a plan in place that will be easy to set in motion.
When a person enters a treatment program for an alcohol use disorder, the first phase is detoxification. The process of going through withdrawal as the body is denied alcohol can be very unpleasant. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly painful to potentially life-threatening. They differ from person to person, but commonly include anxiety, nausea, headache, fatigue, and shakiness. With medication and other treatments, these symptoms can be reduced or controlled while a patient works his/her way through withdrawal.
In more severe cases, patients can have seizures known as Delirium Tremens. Even if one is having mild withdrawal symptoms, it is best to seek treatment and detox with the help of an appropriate physician. It is not recommended that people suffering from AUD or alcoholism abruptly stop drinking without help from an addiction treatment specialist.
After getting through the worst of the withdrawal phase, patients can begin to focus on the second stage of recovery — rehabilitation. Through different therapies, patients begin to confront their psychological dependance on alcohol, now that the body has been rid of its physical dependence. If a patient has a dual diagnosis of mental health issues and addiction, treatment should include both types of therapy as part of the rehabilitation and overall recovery plan.
Long Term Maintenance
The final stage of treating an addiction is long term maintenance. Remember that no one emerges from detox and rehab completely cured of addiction, there is usually still some work to be done. Relapse is also still a threat, which means, each person should have a plan of action if it does occur. A strong support network and organized plan can minimize the damage from a relapse, and help get that patient back on the path to recovery as soon as possible.
Other therapies can be continued long-term as a form of secondary support. Having regular group meetings, for example, can help someone maintain their commitment to sobriety. It never hurts to have the support of others to help keep you from losing the progress you’ve made towards long-term recovery.
How can I get help for someone else?
If you have noticed some of the symptoms of alcohol addiction in a friend or family member, you may be unsure of what to do next. Trying to force your loved one to stop drinking or otherwise change will usually make things much worse. With emotions running high, it is less likely that person will be open to accepting treatment.
Ultimately, seeking treatment must be a decision made by the individual. In the meantime, you can be as supportive as possible throughout the whole process. Having good friends and family for encouragement and accountability can make a huge difference for many people trying to overcome an alcohol addiction.
Get help for alcoholism today.
Futures of Palm Beach offers a wide variety of treatment plans that are customized to the individual patient. We know that alcoholism treatment should be used to serve the patient as effectively as possible. Contact Futures now to get answers to your questions about the addiction treatment process. Whether you are calling about a loved one, or for yourself, you can reach out any time to Futures of Palm Beach to learn more about being treated for alcohol or drug addiction.