Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is a medical condition where a person is physically and psychologically dependent on drinking alcohol.
Individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder can’t control or stop their drinking despite the harmful outcomes in their health and everyday lives. They experience an overwhelming need to consume alcohol in increasing amounts to feel the desired dissociative effects or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Also referred to as alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcohol abuse, this condition ranges from mild to moderate to severe. The adverse health, occupational, and social effects of alcoholism can be devastating.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), alcoholism results in 3 million deaths worldwide each year. In the USA, over 28 million people in 2021, ages 18 and older, had alcohol use disorder, according to the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
In another study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) said that in 2013, over 18.0 million people who met the criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse, and only a small subset (1.4 million) received substance use treatment or any form of treatment (excluding mutual help groups)—ranging from a single meeting with a counselor to participation in a specialized treatment program healthcare at a rehab center or addiction treatment center.
Treatment programs are crucial for curbing the aftermath of alcoholism. They can help individual needs like you or your loved one, and even young adults take back control and steer away from life-threatening danger.
Table of Contents
- 1 UNDERSTANDING ALCOHOLISM
- 2 COMPONENTS OF EFFECTIVE ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT PROGRAMS
- 3 TYPES OF ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT PROGRAMS
- 4 PERSONALIZED TREATMENT AND HOLISTIC APPROACHES
- 5 CHALLENGES IN ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT
- 6 SUCCESS STORIES AND TESTIMONIALS
- 7 CONCLUSION
- 8 References
To tackle alcoholism, we need first to understand what it is and how it affects a person.
The Biology of Addiction: How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?
Alcohol can alter the functionality and structure of the brain.
Alcohol can affect various brain centers and communication routes that regulate speech, balance, memory, reason, and more. This can lead to impaired control of such processes paired with a lack of sound judgment, often resulting in negative, potentially health-hazardous consequences.
The extent of the damage progresses as the person continues to consume alcohol in excess over time. It can even reach an irreversible state of brain damage.
What’s the Difference Between Casual Drinking, Heavy Drinking, and Alcoholism?
Not everyone who drinks alcohol or drinks too much suffers from alcohol misuse disorder. We can observe differences between someone who’s a casual drinker, a heavy drinker, and an alcoholic.
- Casual or social drinking:
- Consume one or two drinks on appropriate occasions;
- Can how much and how often they drink;
- No risky behaviors or blackouts under alcohol influence.
- Heavy drinking:
- Frequent alcohol consumption;
- Easily lose control over drinking amount;
- Often think about drinking and dedicate time to it;
- Possible blackouts or risky behavior under alcohol influence;
- Intact ability to stop drinking.
- Inability to control drinking amounts and frequency;
- Constant mental and physical craving for alcohol even after drinking;
- Can’t stay sober without professional/medical intervention;
- Risky behavior and blackouts are usually involved.
Consequences of Alcoholism
The aftermath of alcohol use disorder can be devastating in all aspects of life.
Various systems and organs in the body can sustain damage due to alcoholism. Effects include:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats
- Liver disease (hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, etc.)
- Digestive issues
- Impaired immunity (pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc.)
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Mouth and throat cancer
- Breast cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon and rectum cancer
- Premature ejaculation, impotence, infertility, and other sexual problems
- Brain damage leading to memory loss, dementia
Alcohol addiction typically results in mental adverse effects such as:
- Inability to focus
- Impaired or lack of common sense
- Impaired learning ability
- Impaired memory recollection capacity
- Emotional instability
Alcohol addiction doesn’t only harm the user’s physical and psychological health but also their social life and even the people around them.
- Educational failure
- Loss of friendly and romantic relationships
- Family break-up
- Financial issues
- Domestic abuse
- Criminal behavior
COMPONENTS OF EFFECTIVE ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT PROGRAMS
Treatment programs are vital for patients suffering from alcohol use disorder to help them break free from the grasp of alcohol.
But before we get into the different types of treatment programs available, let’s talk about the main elements that make up any effective alcohol addiction treatment approach.
Assessment and Diagnosis
Effective treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis to determine the best course of action.
The help provider has to assess the severity of the patient’s drinking problem. Alcoholism can be mild, moderate, or severe, and each level requires different techniques.
The provider also has to conduct a psychological evaluation to pinpoint any co-occurring mental conditions.
Quitting drinking comes with its own set of frustrating, irritating, and painful withdrawal symptoms.
Medications are typically used to alleviate the pain and suppress the urges.
Therapy and Counseling
Any effective treatment program must include a form of therapy. Examples include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Support groups
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Mindfulness-based therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
FDA-approved medications can be a part of alcoholism treatment options, particularly in severe cases, to relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
Examples include Naltrexone, Disulfiram, and Acamprosate.
Aftercare and Relapse Prevention
Alcohol problem treatment programs extend beyond the initial sobriety period to include life after quitting. Aftercare in the form of regular check-ins and support is crucial for developing coping mechanisms to prevent relapse.
TYPES OF ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT PROGRAMS
Now that you’re familiar with the components of an effective substance abuse treatment approach, here’s a breakdown of the types of alcoholism treatment programs you can find:
Ideal for severe cases of alcoholism, inpatient treatment or residential programs involve patients living in supervised establishments for the duration of their substance use disorder treatment in the alcohol treatment center.
The staff are professionally trained to handle addiction patients, and the therapy sessions are provided in-house. Patients don’t leave the facility, and they may receive medical intervention if needed.
In-patient programs feature a structured, controlled environment to support recovery better.
This type of intensive outpatient treatment program is meant for mild cases level of care of alcoholism or for patients who completed residential treatment and no longer need to live in a controlled treatment center.
It offers flexibility for the patient to fulfill any social, educational, or professional obligation while reporting back to the establishment and checking in to receive continuous support.
Sober Living Homes
These are supportive facilities where the patient lives during the transition from in-patient to outpatient treatment and before they can go back home.
12-Step Programs and Support Groups
These programs provide peer support as patients share their experiences, struggles, emotions, and thoughts throughout the recovery journey. Examples include AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), LifeRing, and SMART Recovery.
PERSONALIZED TREATMENT AND HOLISTIC APPROACHES
Every patient is a unique case. The factors that contribute to developing alcoholism, the lifestyle, the surrounding trauma/issues, and even the severity of the alcoholism differ from patient to patient.
As such, treatment plans need to be personalized after following the main alcoholism treatment guidelines.
Holistic approaches such as meditation, nutrition plans, physical activity, mindfulness practices, expressive arts, and spiritual sessions may also be integrated into treatment programs to address the recovery of the patient as a whole person.
CHALLENGES IN ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT
Despite the availability of various types of alcoholism treatment strategies and programs, certain challenges can disrupt the recovery process.
Identifying and Overcoming Potential Obstacles
The first challenge in alcoholism treatment relates to the barriers that can get in the way of starting recovery. These potential obstacles include:
- Stigma: the disgrace associated with alcoholism can prevent many individuals from admitting they’re suffering from it.
- Denial: some people have a hard time accepting the fact that they’ve descended into alcohol addiction.
- Financial limitations: many people turn away from organizations that offer professional help because they’re unable to afford treatment costs.
Accepting That Recovery Is a Lifelong Journey
Recovery from addiction is a lifelong battle, and alcoholism is no exception. People entering alcoholism recovery often fail to realize that relapse is a possible –and often expected– bump in the road.
Those who seek help, however, are less likely to relapse than those who don’t.
The stereotyping and social toll of alcoholism can make it difficult for recovering alcoholics to get necessary support throughout their journey. Family members, friends, and the community are all integral parts of successful sobriety.
SUCCESS STORIES AND TESTIMONIALS
Life doesn’t stop with alcoholism. There’s life after becoming addicted to alcohol, but it’s up to you how that life looks and feels.
You can live in pain–physical, mental, and emotional–or you can be healthy. You can live in a distorted world of lies and illusions, or you can give yourself the honesty and happiness you deserve.
It all depends on your decision to get better. Starting the journey is tough, but that’s the most difficult part of recovery.
And you’re not alone.
Nothing is stopping you from joining them and writing your own success story. Reach out today, and you’ll find a treatment program waiting for you.
No matter how bad your or your loved one’s alcohol addiction is, recovery is always a possibility.
Recovery is the only way you can save your body and mind from the potentially fatal health consequences of alcoholism, as well as save those you care about from the pain and tragedy that follow addiction.
Fortunately, treatment programs are available in various forms to ensure tailored help depending on each patient’s condition.
Seeking help demands courage, and the road is filled with challenges.
As a society, it’s our humanitarian duty to support recovering alcoholics throughout their journey. From correcting stigmas on alcoholism treatment to accepting recovering individuals back into the community, we each have a part that we can do.