In 2019, 14.5 million Americans older than 12 years old had alcohol use disorder (AUD). Our nation has a strong drinking culture, which facilitates experimentation at a young age. And as a result of party lifestyles, many adolescents go on to have a lifelong battle with both alcohol and drug addiction.
Being in the midst of addiction can feel hopeless. And sometimes, you might even not want help.
But if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, there’s hope. There are several treatment options available, so read on to find out what they are and if they can help you.
Before you can really start on recovery, you must detox first. Detox is the process where you rid the body of substances, both alcohol and drugs. But quitting cold turkey can be dangerous, especially for those who have heavy alcohol dependence.
For less serious cases, detox can be done at home. You might experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and headache, as well as increased blood pressure and heart rate. It’s wise to stay hydrated, take vitamins, eat well, and rest up during this phase.
In more serious cases, quitting alcohol can have additional symptoms like convulsions, seizures, delirium tremens, and even death. This is why it’s important to get into a detox program, as they’ll have medical professionals who can monitor your progress. And if needed, they can prescribe and give medications to make detoxing more comfortable and also safer.
Even for milder cases, seeking the help of a professional is a good choice. The effects of withdrawal can be so uncomfortable you’ll consider drinking again to alleviate them. But being in the presence of a medical team can prevent that from happening and increase your chances of success at detox.
It’s very common for people with alcohol use disorder to have a comorbid mental health issue. In fact, the most commonly seen comorbidities are AUD and major depressive disorder. Those with AUD are 4 times more likely to have this mental illness.
Because of this, it’s important to treat not just the physical side of addiction, but also the mental side. Psychological counseling can help with both since it addresses why you drink and also, how you can resolve past traumas.
Counseling can involve both individual and group settings.
In individual counseling, you’ll be able to learn how to set goals, achieve them, and change your behaviors to lead a healthier lifestyle. You’ll also learn how to identify triggers and find better ways to handle stress.
In group counseling, you’ll get to build a support network. Addiction can feel isolating at times, so group counseling can help you not feel so alone. Hearing others’ perspectives on addiction can also shine some light on your own struggles.
Many rehabilitation centers also offer family counseling. Alcohol and drug abuse can have a rippling effect on your loved ones, so this type of counseling can provide much-needed healing.
Earlier, we mentioned that medical professionals can prescribe medications to help with detox. Often, this is part of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.
In MAT, medications are also used to curb cravings and to stop alcohol use from feeling good. There are 2 types of medications: oral and injected. We’ll go into each in more detail below.
An often used oral medication for alcohol use disorder is disulfiram (brand name Antabuse). This is a way to prevent people from drinking alcohol. When disulfiram interacts with alcohol, it causes a wide variety of unpleasant reactions, such as nausea and vomiting, as well as flushing and headaches.
Do note that while disulfiram prevents you from drinking, it’s not considered a cure for AUD. It doesn’t eliminate alcohol cravings.
Another medication that’s commonly given is naltrexone. This drug reduces cravings and binge drinking since it prevents you from feeling good when intoxicated. However, naltrexone won’t make you feel sick.
Acamprosate is also prescribed to those with AUD. Like naltrexone, it reduces cravings and also doesn’t make the person feel sick if they do proceed with alcohol consumption.
These medications must be used in conjunction with other treatment options to be effective; namely, psychological counseling.
In addition to oral medications, injected ones can be prescribed as well.
While naltrexone comes in pill form, it’s also available in injection form as Vivitrol. Instead of taking it once per day as a pill, you’ll only need to be injected once a month with Vivitrol.
This offers a better solution for recovery since you won’t have to remember to take a pill once a month. However, you’ll have to visit a medical professional monthly, as they’ll have to be the one who gives the injections.
Again, injected medications aren’t intended to be used solely for recovery. They should be used in conjunction with other treatments on this list.
Rehabilitation programs are key for recovery. These immerse you in a positive and healing environment where you can truly focus on becoming healthier and stronger.
Most people may go to inpatient rehab, while others will choose outpatient services (more on these later). Today, there are also apps for peer support so you’re paired with people who have been in your shoes and can help you through tough times in case you’re not able to go to rehab just yet.
We touched upon psychological counseling in an earlier section and how it’s essential for recovery. It needs to be combined with some medications for maximum effectiveness.
Rehab facilities will use evidence-based therapies to give patients a fighting chance at sobriety. One such therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is effective for treating not just addiction, but also a number of mental health issues. This makes it ideal for those in recovery.
Many of these evidence-based therapies focus on the causes and effects between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The idea is that if you can change one or all of these, you’ll be better able to regulate your emotions and actions. And as a result, you’ll be able to conquer addiction.
Some other evidence-based therapies used in rehabilitation include dialectical-behavior therapy (DBT) and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT).
To truly be in recovery, not only do you need to heal your body and mind, but also your soul. This is why many rehabilitation centers have alternative therapies.
These allow patients to heal on a holistic level. In addition, many of these therapies can be used as a way to avoid and handle triggers, so it’s a win-win situation.
Alternative therapies include art therapy, music therapy, yoga, massage, meditation, nutrition therapy, Reiki, acupuncture, herbal medicines, and biofeedback therapy.
While all of the above can be beneficial for recovery, these shouldn’t be the sole treatment methods for AUD. Any rehab facility that claims these therapies are effective in replacing conventional medical treatment should be avoided, as this isn’t true at all.
Inpatient vs Outpatient Services
In inpatient and outpatient rehab, you’ll receive the same services, such as individual and group counseling, alternative therapies, and medical treatment if necessary. Both have their pros and cons, so you’ll have to weigh them carefully to determine which one’s better for you.
Inpatient rehab means you’ll be at a facility 24/7 for the duration of your treatment, so you won’t have distractions from recovery. For many, this gives them the best chance at sobriety since they can focus all their energy and time on just one thing. Also, there’s a strict schedule; this can be just what you need to get your life in order.
However, inpatient rehab is much more expensive. This is because you need to pay for food and lodging. Also, some people find it jarring and difficult to transition from being in this environment 24/7 to normal life.
Outpatient treatment is a good alternative if you aren’t able to afford inpatient services and/or have commitments you can’t get out of, such as childcare or a career job. You’ll just have to make several trips a week to take medications and attend therapy sessions.
As we’ve mentioned, transitioning from rehab to normal life can be challenging. This is why so many people relapse; they don’t have a positive environment anymore, nor do they have restrictions.
Aftercare programs can be just what you need. These are basically a light version of rehab. You won’t have to go several times a week, but you’ll still receive counseling and support from professionals.
You can also join support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). At these meetings, you’ll meet others who are in the same situation and you can help one another talk through temptations. Outside of the support groups, you can also call one another when you’re struggling so you can keep relapse at bay.
Apps for peer support can also be used as a form of aftercare.
For example, the one from Beat Addiction Recovery has live, 24/7 support where you can opt in for geotracking if you wish. Whenever you feel the urge to drink, you can use the in-app texting, calling, or video calling capabilities to speak to a peer, who can then provide support in your hours of need.
The app can also connect you with remote drug testing, which can test for over 100 different substances. The results are DNA-matched to you so you’re held accountable.
Support is vital in recovery, and you’re able to get it from counseling sessions and support groups. If you need even more assistance, turning to your spiritual practice of choice can be life-changing.
When you believe in a higher being and its plans for the universe, that belief can help keep you on a sober path. And all religions have followings, which means you’ll be able to find a group to belong to. Some of these members might’ve even struggled with alcohol addiction themselves, so they can both support and guide you in recovery.
In addition to all the above, it’s essential that you make lifestyle changes. Otherwise, relapse may be just around the corner.
It can be beneficial to distance yourself from friends and family who are still into the partying lifestyle. Don’t associate with people who encourage you to drink and discourage sobriety.
Start eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. And occupy your time with things that don’t involve alcohol so you’re not tempted. It can be useful to get together with friends from your support religious groups.
Medical Treatment for Health Issues
For many who abuse alcohol, other health issues can arise. These can involve both mental and physical health problems, such as depression or cirrhosis of the liver.
Naturally, if you make efforts to become sober, this can have a profound effect on your health. It’s not uncommon to see some conditions become better or even go away completely.
But depending on the degree of your alcohol addiction and what health conditions you had, you might need to keep seeing your doctor for treatments and follow-up appointments, even if you’ve been sober for a while. This can help keep you on track with optimal health and motivate you to not relapse.
Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder Today
Dealing with alcohol use disorder can feel like a major hurdle in life, especially since you can’t avoid alcohol in certain social situations. But if you’re given the proper tools to get sober and cope with triggers, it can be a huge turning point.
Taking the first step toward recovery can be scary. However, once you see that you’re not alone and that everyone’s there to support you, you’ll be able to breathe easier and focus on getting better. And from there, you’ll be able to lead a healthy life free of alcohol and other substances.
If you’d like to get treatment for your alcohol addiction, then find a provider through us today.