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Alcoholism, or alcohol abuse, refers to a severe addiction to consuming alcohol. It can have debilitating effects on your social, mental, and physical health. (1)
A lot of stigma is associated with substance abuse that discourages addicts from seeking help. (2) However, alcoholism is a legit medical condition and should be treated as one.
Several professionals are involved in helping people overcome alcohol addictions and regain control over their lives. (3)
If you or anyone you know is suffering from alcoholism, read on to know a few helpful tips you can use to overcome the addiction.
Things to Know Before Starting Treatment for Alcoholism
The first stage of treatment for alcoholism is acceptance. You have to acknowledge that you have a drinking problem and it is having a negative effect on your health and social life.
It is important for friends and family to intervene and help the addict understand this, in case they don’t.
Here are a few signs to watch out for:
- Frequent drinking or staying inebriated regularly
- Mood swings
- Decreased interest at work or school or in social activities
- Violent nature
- Neglecting responsibilities (2)
Alcohol Treatment Program
Here are a few popular de-addiction programs recommended by medical professionals:
1. Alcohol detoxification
The first step to overcoming addiction is stopping alcohol consumption completely. This leads to “withdrawal symptoms” such as restlessness, increased heartbeat, anxiety, and mood swings. The initial couple of days may be the worst to get through, but it gets easier to manage these symptoms with time.
Some physicians may advise the use of benzodiazepines or antipsychotic medications to reduce these symptoms. The effectiveness of benzodiazepines to treat withdrawal symptoms has been reported in many studies. (4)
2. Rehabilitation services
There are many rehabilitation services you can opt for to help treat alcoholism. Rehabs provide support and the resources needed for de-addiction. They help people stay focused on their goals and avoid temptation.
Outpatient rehabs and inpatient rehabs are available, depending on the needs of the patient.
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) – A partial hospitalization program is an intensive outpatient program that provides at least 10 hours of treatment at home for patients. It is a good option for people who require intensive care without hospitalization.
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) – An intensive outpatient program provides people with at least 3 hours of treatment or hospital visit every day. This number can be decreased with time.
- Standard outpatient treatment (OP) – A standard outpatient treatment is designed differently for each individual depending on their present condition. (5)
3. Counseling therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT helps a lot of individuals reflect on their personal behavior and how it affects them and others around them. It uses scientific methods to help a person quit alcoholism.
- Motivational enhancement therapy – Motivational enhancement therapy is a short-term therapy devised to motivate individuals to better their lives and quit drinking.
- Marital and family counseling – Marital and family counseling helps the entire family overcome the ill effects of an addiction problem.
- One-on-one counseling – One-on-one counseling can help people open up to their therapists and reduce their nervousness.
Proper psychological intervention is necessary to help addicts quit and recover. However, this remains inaccessible to many people. (6)
Natural Herbs to Treat Alcoholism
These herbs have been used by many to quit drinking alcohol.
- Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is an ancient Japanese remedy for a hangover. It has also been used to treat alcoholism in some males.
- St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) contains hyperforin, a neuroprotective compound that can help prevent addiction relapses.
- The extract of the dried roots of red sage (danshen; Salvia miltiorrhiza) can help decrease the urge to drink and help cure alcohol addiction. According to an NCBI study, it has been shown to have positive effects on alcohol de-addiction programs. (7)
Yoga and Meditation for Treating Alcoholism
Many research studies have suggested that meditation can help reduce withdrawal symptoms in recovering addicts.
Yoga is an excellent form of meditation that is great for your mental and physical health. Practice at least 20–30 minutes of yoga a day to decrease stress and anxiety. (8)
Additional Important Tips
- Put it in writing or make a diary. Writing down your goals makes them appear more realistic and helps keep you focused.
- Set a drinking goal. Start by setting small achievable goals for yourself. (For example, I am not going to have more than one drink tonight.)
- Don’t keep alcohol in your house. Throw out or give away any drinks you have at home.
- Drink slowly. Sipping your drink helps control the urge to drink lots of alcohol.
- Choose alcohol-free days. Start by taking small steps. Choose certain days of the week to avoid alcohol. Once you have achieved that, you can slowly raise it to a week of no alcohol, then a fortnight, etc.
- Watch out for peer pressure. A lot of addicts find it difficult to say no when offered a drink. Make it clear to all your acquaintances that you are trying to quit drinking and request them to avoid drinking around you (if that triggers you).
- Keep busy. Try to find new hobbies or activities to keep yourself busy. Working out is a great way to help combat addictions.
- Ask for support. It is ok to ask for help or support when needed. Confide to close friends or family to help you get through. You can even ask your doctor or therapist for professional help.
- Guard against temptation. Try to avoid people, places, or circumstances that may trigger you to drink.
- Be persistent. Many people who quit drinking suffer from relapses initially. It is okay if you have failed to control your urge to drink once or twice – but remain persistent in wanting to quit and you will get there one day.
- Set up follow-up appointments with your therapist or counselor. This helps you check your progress and also provides motivation.
- Seek support from your family. Their contribution can help a lot in providing the extra push needed to make it through.
What Are FDA-Approved Medications for Alcoholism?
Some of the medications physicians prescribe to their patients include the following:
- Naltrexone helps reduce the urge to drink alcohol by blocking certain receptors in the brain.
- Acamprosate (Campral) also works similarly to naltrexone.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) helps block alcohol metabolism in the body so people feel sick or nauseous when they drink. This helps them want to quit drinking. (9)
Can Acupuncture Be Used to Treat Alcoholism?
Some studies suggest that acupuncture may help treat alcoholism, but there is no concrete evidence for it yet. (10)
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms for Heavy Drinkers?
Alcohol withdrawal is the delirium and other symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker tries to quit alcohol.
Here are some common withdrawal symptoms alcoholics can have while quitting:
- Cold sweats
- Increased heart rate
- Blood pressure fluctuations
- Stomach pain or diarrhea
- Heart palpitations
- Severe vomiting
- Blurred vision
What Are the Other Things That One Must Know About Alcoholism?
Chronic alcohol consumption can have a number of ill effects on the body. Some of them include:
- Gastric ulcers and digestive issues
- Vitamin B deficiencies that may lead to nerve problems
- Heart diseases
- Memory loss
- Wernicke encephalopathy: confusion, eye movement issues, muscle control issues, etc.
Most-Asked Questions About Alcoholism
Is medication for alcoholism the same for everyone or personalized?
No, medication for alcoholism is usually given by a physician according to each person’s individual needs.
What must be the attitude of family members toward the patient?
Family members must not abuse the patient and must be supportive of their quitting journey.
What is the most effective therapy for alcoholism?
Ask your friends and family for mental and emotional support.
Why is alcohol enjoyable at the start?
Alcohol consumption causes feelings of euphoria and happiness due to the release of dopamine. Over time, your body starts craving increased levels of dopamine and this can cause alcohol addiction.
Addiction may occur slowly and only become apparent when alcohol dependency starts affecting the patient’s social life or health.
What are the two groups of alcoholics?
There are two types of alcohol addicts:
- Type 1: Those who become addicts as adults. This category makes up the majority of alcoholics.
- Type 2: Alcohol addicts from teenage or adolescent years. This group may be heavily influenced by family and hereditary factors.
An estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. (11) More than 80,000 people in the United States die every year due to alcohol addiction.
What questions should be asked to an alcoholic?
- Do you feel you are drinking too much?
- Do you feel annoyed when people criticize your drinking?
- Do you feel guilty when you drink?
- Do you crave a drink as soon as you wake up?
What to expect from alcoholism treatment?
Your doctor will determine the course of your treatment and what it may include. You can expect the following:
- Outpatient programs to help you seek appointments with specialists
- Therapy sessions conducted individually or in a group
- A rehabilitation program where you may need to reside for a while to help you curb your addiction
What biological markers detect alcoholism?
Chronic drinking causes elevated levels of serum gamma-glutamyl transferase in the blood. It also elevates RBC MCV levels.
Alcohol addiction is a serious disease and affects a lot of people around the world. It is important to take it seriously and seek treatment as soon as you can.
Each person responds differently to de-addiction programs, and your doctor or therapist will help you find a plan that works for you.