Alcoholism is a chronic disease that results from an addiction to alcohol. This disease is characterized by symptoms such as uncontrollably drinking, continuing to drink alcohol even when it causes financial or relationship problems, physical dependence to the substance, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drinking is slowed or stopped.
People who suffer from alcoholism are usually unable to quit drinking without help. This is because a failure to acknowledge that there is a problem is a common symptom of alcoholism. Many times, intervention from a friend or family member is the first step towards treatment and recovery. Depending on the level of physical dependency, individual treatments — such as alcohol rehab — for alcoholism will vary.
Common Alcoholism Treatments
- Detoxification: Alcoholism treatment will usually start with a detoxification program that will take place in an inpatient treatment center or a hospital. This will take anywhere from two days to a week. Since withdrawal symptoms will generally include severe reactions, such as shaking, confusion, and hallucinations, sedative medications may be taken to help reduce these symptoms.
- Treatment Plan: After detoxification is successful, meeting with an alcohol treatment specialist is usually the next step. This includes going over things like setting goals, learning techniques for changing behaviors, reading self-help manuals, attending counseling, and participating in follow-up care at a treatment center.
- Therapy: Psychological counseling is a key part of recovering from alcoholism. Whether in group or individual settings, talking about the illness is helpful for understanding the problem as well as gaining support during recovery. The psychological affects of alcoholism can be difficult to overcome, which is why these sessions are important for the healing process.
- Oral Medications: There are some drugs that have been proven to help prevent drinking. Some work by causing a negative physical reaction when alcohol enters the body. One drug that works in this way is called Antabuse (disulfiram), and it causes flushing, nausea, vomiting, and headaches as a physical response to the consumption of alcohol.Other preventative drugs, such as Revia (naltrexone), work by blocking the good feelings that are caused by alcohol consumption. Others, such as Campral (acamprosate) work by stifling alcohol cravings. Though these drugs will not cure alcoholism on their own, they can be very beneficial for initial treatment.
- Injected Medications: There is an injectable version of the drug naltrexone called Vivitrol. By being injected once a month instead of taken orally, it guarantees more consistency of the dosage and therefore might produce better results.
- Support: There are many support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, that exist to help people recovering from their addiction. These groups are good for managing and preventing relapses, as well as helping participants cope with the lifestyle changes that occur throughout the recovery process.
- Treatment for other conditions: Alcoholism commonly occurs in conjunction with other mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Diagnosis and treatment of these conditions separately can be beneficial to the success of recovery, as well as the prevention of relapses.There are also common medical problems that occur as a result of high alcoholism consumption over a long period of time. These include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, liver disease, and heart disease. Though many of these problems will significantly improve once the drinking is stopped, treatment for these conditions might be necessary.