What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also called alcohol use disorder (AUD), falls under an umbrella of wide-ranging distinctions and patterns that can come to define a mental and physical dependence on the regular ingestion of alcohol. The condition can range from mild to severe, and its diagnosis is based primarily on the types of behavior an individual exhibits that can illustrate the scope of the problem. Drinking alone, being unable to cut back on drinking, skipping events with family and friends in favor of alcohol, consistent alcohol cravings and generally interfering with one's day-to-day life are all common signs of an underlying issue with alcohol that needs to be addressed.
Alcohol abuse is one of the most significant public health issues in the U.S., and some 17 million adults 18 and older have AUD. However, with the wide breadth of treatments and support groups now available, overcoming alcohol addiction is certainly not easy, but it is possible with the right support systems in place.
What are the most common alcoholism treatment options?
Depending on the severity of a patient's alcohol issues, treatment methods can vary greatly but often work best in tandem with one another to increase an individual's chances of success. The most common alcoholism treatments include:
- Behavioral Therapies: These therapeutic methods aim to find the root cause of an individual's addiction, which they can use to modify their habits and live a healthier lifestyle moving forward. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is one such option - this refers to a therapeutic technique that allows people to examine their choices and behaviors that have contributed to the development of the addiction, and establish a path forward to regain control of their life choices. The 12-Step Program run by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), is another form of this therapy.
- Detox and Withdrawal: In severe cases, some patients will require inpatient care for detoxification to medically manage the process of clearing the body of alcohol and managing the subsequent withdrawal symptoms. This process is usually accented with sessions with alcohol treatment specialists to develop a plan moving forward.
- Residential Treatment: These centers provide a multidisciplinary approach to alcoholism recovery, and typically follow detox and withdrawal inpatient care. Patients will participate in individual/group counseling, physical activities, stress reduction, vocational training, relapse prevention support and a well-rounded program to address the root causes of addiction, maintain their sobriety and build life skills that will support their recovery.
- Support Groups: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the most recognizable public support groups available where individuals with alcohol issues come together to share their stories and provide a support network to increase others' chances of staying sober. Additionally, there are other forms of psychological counseling, including family and couple’s therapy that can prove pivotal in the recovery process.
- Medications: In some cases, physicians may prescribe medications that can make drinking alcohol less desirable or create a negative physiological reaction in the body. One of the most common is Naltrexone, which reduces the urge to drink and makes drinking less enjoyable by making a subject feel ill after taking a drink. Lastly, medications like Acamprosate have been known to limit alcohol cravings and increase chances of maintaining sobriety.