A Full Spectrum Guide to Treating Alcoholism


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Most health care professionals view alcoholism as a controllable disease. It is defined as an addiction when alcohol becomes an obsession for the user. Comprehensive treatment for alcoholism includes professional individual, group and/or family counseling, medical support and lifestyle changes.

Steps to Recovery from Alcoholism

The goal of alcoholism treatment is complete abstinence from drinking for duration of time. After treatment, about 50-60 percent of alcoholics remain sober for at least one year. The majority of those people continue to stay sober forever.

If you are exploring treatment options for alcohol addiction, this article will inform you of all the possible types of alcohol treatment programs available and help you determine the best option for you.

The steps to successful alcoholism treatment include:

  1. The alcoholic must first admit that they have a drinking problem.
  2. Joining a support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps the addict to manage recovery. Peer support and accountability to the AA group are beneficial in this regard.
  3. Assessing current relationships, including relationships with family members who act as enablers, is important. Disassociating from active drinkers and/or addicts will benefit recovery.
  4. Avoiding temptations like clubs, parties or other social scenes that involve alcohol and other substance use during the vulnerable acute recovery phase--and perhaps forever--is advised.
  5. Seek medical advice and support from a trusted health care provider. Being honest with a medical provider will reap the most effective and successful recovery plan.

Alcoholism Treatment Phases

Most importantly, the alcoholic must first admit that he or she has a drinking problem and then agree to stop drinking.

Alcoholism treatment has three main phases:

  • Detoxification or detox: the time immediately after an alcoholic stops drinking alcohol, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms and serious medical issues like seizures, delirium tremors (DTs) and, possibly, death. Because withdrawal can be dangerous for some, it is advised you do it under medical supervision.

It is important to note that 95 percent of alcoholics experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms during detox.

  • Rehabilitation: following detox, this is a period of recovery that involves counseling and, in some cases, medications to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

  • Sobriety maintenance: this is the long-term plan for successful sobriety and involves a support system, including A.A. attendance and an individual A.A. program sponsor.

Options for Treating Alcoholism

The detox and rehabilitation phases of alcoholism treatment can take place in several different modes or settings including:

  • Outpatient
  • Inpatient
  • Residential
  • At home

The treatment choice is based on an individual case-by-case basis in relation to alcohol history, medical and psychological history, and ability to pay for each type of program.

Regardless of the type of treatment chosen, may people being treated for alcoholism take physician-prescribed medications to help navigate the withdrawal symptoms of the detox phase including: anxiety, insomnia, seizures and delirium.

There are also medications that can be prescribed to maintain abstinence from drinking. Drugs like disulfiram or Antabuse can cause nausea, vomiting, confusion and trouble breathing, if taken while drinking. These drugs are somewhat controversial and their use should be discussed with a medical professional.

Outpatient Alcohol Treatment Programs

In an outpatient treatment program, the alcoholic attends individual and group therapy sessions, educational classes and medical appointments during the day or evening hours. The participant returns to their home setting to sleep at night.

Medical support from a qualified physician is important to keep the person safe and comfortable, especially during the detox phase.

This treatment option works if the home situation is supportive and free of temptation.

Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Programs

Inpatient alcoholism treatment offers individual and group therapy sessions with added support, both physical and psychological, 24-hours a day. The alcoholic stays in the facility 24-hours a day for 30 to 90 days, depending upon the selected program.

Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs

This treatment option usually follows the completion of an inpatient or outpatient program. In a residential program, the alcoholic commits to living in a protected, substance free house for several months.

There is a less structured program and basic support available in this safe, sober living environment. Support meetings like A.A. and counseling are available in a residential program.

At Home Alcohol Treatment

Detoxing at home can be difficult and unsafe if medical complications ensue. This choice requires strong personal commitment, a strong family support system, supportive friends, and an environment without the previous abuse temptations.

Alternative Medicine Choices

As an adjunct to an alcoholism treatment program, some people choose to add some alternative medicine therapies into their recovery plan. These alternatives primarily treat the stress and anxiety associated with recovery from alcoholism and include: yoga, mediation and acupuncture.

Statistically, the most successful alcoholism treatment program is an inpatient setting. Those who choose to remain in an inpatient program for at least 30 days have the best long-term sobriety results.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to start the path to recovery today.

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