Help for Alcohol Addiction: Treatment Options Explained

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Alcohol addiction is a daily struggle for many people who didn’t realize it was happening to them. Social drinking can slowly become a daily habit that devolves into an uncontrollable need. Days then start to revolve around drinking, responsibilities fall away, health deteriorates, and loved ones feel helpless.

Overcoming alcohol problems is challenging, but it’s far from impossible!

Help for alcohol addiction exists in the form of many capable professionals and caring support systems who can help you reclaim control and joy in your life. You just have to reach out.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

The first step on the road to recovery is recognizing that you have an alcohol problem, as the line between social drinking and alcoholism can sometimes be blurry.

The criteria that healthcare professionals use to diagnose alcohol use disorder focus on impaired control over consumption and are typically in line with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Signs that indicate alcohol addiction include:

  • You start to neglect responsibilities at work, home, or school because of drinking. Drinking during work and being unable to perform your duties due to hangovers are also clear signs.
  • Spending significant time trying to obtain and consume alcohol and recover from its effects. After all, you wouldn’t go out of your way or make a special effort to get a drink if it was just casual drinking.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop drinking for good. A lot of people who struggle with alcohol addiction wish to drink less but are unable to despite resolutions to change.
  • You continue to abuse alcohol despite health and relationship problems. People struggling with alcoholism may continue to prioritize alcohol even when faced with job loss and legal problems related to drinking.
  • Needing to drink increasingly larger amounts to feel the desired effects, also known as increased tolerance. Eventually, this turns into daily drinking, and you end up consuming more than you intend to.
  • Episodes of shaking, sweating, nausea, and anxiety when not drinking. These withdrawal symptoms often begin just hours after the last drink. They can lead to alcohol dependence.

If several of the above-listed cases are present, it’s time to consider seeking professional help for alcoholism.

Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Misuse

Excessive drinking over a prolonged period can negatively impact both physical and mental health, leading to unhealthy weight gain, increased risk of cancer, poor cognitive function, and a higher risk of suicide. Here’s a breakdown of these effects:

Impact on Physical Health

Since the human liver metabolizes alcohol, chronic heavy drinking can severely damage it and lead to diseases such as fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.

Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption—about three or more drinks per day—increases the risk of mouth, throat, and breast cancers, among others. The effect isn’t limited to hard liquor; beer and wine are culpable, as well.

Alcohol is also linked with cardiovascular problems, which include high blood pressure, arrhythmias, strokes, and cardiomyopathy. Binge drinking, in particular, puts much strain on the heart.

Further, alcohol affects the brain. It can cause permanent neurological impairments such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which involves vision changes, memory loss, and lack of muscle coordination.

Impact on Mental Health

Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression often coexist with and are exacerbated by alcoholism. The numbing effects of alcohol make mental health issues worse in the long run.

Also, it’s possible to experience psychosis if you drink a lot of alcohol on a regular basis. And because alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions and act impulsively, it can lead to self-harm or even suicide.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Addiction Explained

Many think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab whenever alcohol addiction treatment is brought up.

However, there are several other effective methods to treat alcohol dependence available today, thanks to major advances in the field over the past 60 years.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to alcohol abuse. Different approaches work better for different people based on factors like the severity of their alcohol use disorder (AUD), personality, and support system.

The key is choosing an approach that’s tailored to your individual needs, as well as having the motivation and determination to seek help and remain engaged in your treatment program.

Here are the main categories of alcohol addiction treatment:

Inpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient rehab entails staying at a treatment facility 24/7 for 1-3 months or longer. Not only does this ensure constant care, but it also removes the patient from the environment that’s contributing to their addiction, along with the triggers therein.

Most facilities offering inpatient treatment also offer medically supervised detox to safely manage withdrawal symptoms. Shaking, sweating, high blood pressure, and racing heart rate are symptoms that can be dangerous if not properly monitored and treated during detox.

Further, inpatient programs involve individual talk therapy and group counseling. During these sessions, you work with therapists and addiction counselors to identify the root causes driving alcohol abuse and develop coping skills.

Aftercare planning for continued recovery post-discharge is often incorporated as well.

Essentially, the inpatient facility collaborates with outpatient programs, sober living homes, and community resources to create a transition plan tailored for you.

Best Candidates

  • People with severe physical dependence and who require medically supervised detox.
  • Those in unstable or high-risk living environments not conducive to recovery.
  • Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders that require close monitoring.
  • People who have relapsed despite prior outpatient treatment
  • Those with dual diagnoses, such as addiction to other substances in addition to alcohol.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment takes place at a facility during the day and allows clients to return home at night. The key benefit here is that you’re able to fulfill your work, school, or family obligations while getting the help you need.

Such programs involve therapy sessions and alcohol education classes that help enrollees understand what drives their addiction and how to change addictive behaviors. They’re highly customizable to each person’s unique needs.

Random alcohol breath or urine tests are implemented in these programs to ensure clients abstain from alcohol while in treatment. This helps promote accountability and deter relapse.

For those with unsupportive/high-risk home environments, outpatient programs may recommend transferring to supervised sober housing after completing the program.

Best Candidates

  • Those with a strong support system at home to help reinforce recovery.
  • Enrollees with less severe addictions and no major physical dependency.
  • Individuals with work, school, or family care obligations.
  • People who need continued care after completing an inpatient program.
  • Those who exhibit high levels of motivation to remain abstinent.

Therapy and Counseling

Various types of behavioral therapies and counseling help people dealing with substance abuse relearn healthy coping mechanisms, modify their drinking behaviors, and maintain their motivation for recovery.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common approaches, focusing primarily on identifying unhealthy thoughts and behavior patterns, as well as building alcohol refusal and craving management skills.

Another common approach is motivational enhancement therapy (MET), which employs motivational interviewing techniques to build inner motivation to change without judgment or confrontation.

There’s also family therapy, which helps resolve conflicts related to alcoholism and rebuild broken relationships with loved ones, and contingency management, which uses tangible rewards—vouchers, for example—to positively reinforce abstinence and compliance.

Best Candidates

  • Anyone seeking to understand the root psychological causes of their addiction.
  • People who want to learn new coping mechanisms to deal with triggers and stress.
  • Individuals looking to rebuild damaged relationships with family and friends.
  • Those seeking to manage mental health conditions alongside alcohol addiction.
  • Anyone wanting to reinforce their motivation and commitment to sobriety.

Medications

Certain prescription medications help reduce cravings and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Naltrexone: Reduces heavy drinking and cravings by blocking the opioid receptors involved in alcohol reward pathways.
  • Acamprosate: Supports abstinence by balancing glutamate and GABA neurotransmitters.
  • Disulfiram: Causes unpleasant symptoms if alcohol is consumed, acting as a deterrent against drinking alcohol.
  • Benzodiazepines: Help relieve withdrawal anxiety, agitation, and seizures under medical supervision.

The above-listed medications are often prescribed in conjunction with psychosocial treatments, not as standalone solutions. They’re most effective as part of a comprehensive alcohol addiction program.

Best Candidates

  • People experience severe cravings and an inability to resist urges to drink.
  • Individuals struggling with prolonged withdrawal symptoms after quitting alcohol.
  • Those who wish to abstain from alcohol but have failed in the past.
  • Patients with co-occurring psychiatric disorders that medication can help manage.

Mutual Support Groups

Peer support groups are a vital component in most if not all alcohol treatment programs. They offer camaraderie and encouragement from others facing the same struggle and help decrease feelings of isolation.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provides a structured program focused on achieving abstinence, honesty, and emotional growth through working the 12 steps. Their meetings are widely available, both offline and online.

There’s also SMART Recovery, a science-based support program that’s grounded in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT). It’s an AA alternative that helps enrollees cope with urges and cravings and maintain motivation without requiring abstinence.

Best Candidates

  • Anyone seeking an affordable and easily accessible form of therapy and aftercare.
  • People who lack family support and are in need of a sobriety community.
  • Individuals wanting to learn from those further along in their recovery journey.
  • Those seeking accountability by sharing their experiences.
  • People who need help addressing character defects that are hindering recovery.

Providing Support for a Loved One Struggling With Alcoholism

Addiction has a profound impact on loved ones. The support of family and friends can make seeking treatment easier for individuals struggling with alcoholism.

Here are a few quick tips on how to support a loved one dealing with addiction:

  • It’s very important to express concern and care, not anger. Let your loved one know that you want to help them get well, not punish or blame them for their decisions.
  • You want to avoid lecturing, confrontation, and ultimatums at all costs, as they can drive away your struggling loved one. It’s still important to set healthy boundaries, though.
  • Accompany your loved one to medical appointments and recovery meetings when possible. This will show your commitment to their sobriety.
  • Attend support groups designed for families dealing with addiction. A good example is Al-Anon. This will provide you, as well as your loved one, with the support you both need.
  • Since you cannot help someone else recover if you’re completely drained, you need to take care of your own health—mental, physical, emotional, and financial.
  • Do not enable your loved one’s behaviors. Giving them money to buy alcohol or making excuses for them to have a drink is the last thing you want to do if you want them to recover.

Preventing Relapse After Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Overcoming alcohol addiction is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. Most individuals require repeated efforts, and it’s pretty common to relapse during stressful situations. You shouldn’t view relapse as a failure and instead have a plan to get back on track.

Start by identifying high-risk triggers and situations that could cause cravings. Avoiding bars, parties where drinking occurs, and even certain people can reduce the temptation to drink alcohol again.

Next, you should implement lifestyle changes that help promote sobriety and healthy living. Adhering to an exercise routine, engaging in new hobbies, and cooking nutritious meals are all great examples.

Remember that boredom and lack of structure can lead to relapse, so it’s best to stay occupied and mindful

Attending AA, SMART Recovery, or other support groups on a regular basis even after completing treatment is also important. If you don’t have much time to do so, you should consider online meetings.

Progress Not Perfection

The road to recovery isn’t linear; setbacks and slip-ups are likely to occur. However, with patience and resilience, you can overcome alcohol addiction and achieve lasting sobriety.

Don’t know where to start? Book an appointment with Curednation today and take back control of your life.

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