Best Treatment Plan For Alcohol Use Disorder
In 2015, over 15 million adults were reported to suffer from AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). This report is thought to be shortchanged, as the amount of alcoholics in America is estimated to be around 40-50 million. Among these statistics, some eighty thousand people are killed in alcohol-related incidents annually and alcohol abuse costs have taken billions from America’s bank account. It should be no surprise to you that alcoholism is a widespread problem—one tightly rooted in our very history.
Fortunately, today there are several alcoholism treatment methods and dedicated healthcare professionals that are working hard to reverse this issue. From the twelve-step program, medicated assistance, to alternative holistic methods, research and efforts are poured into combating this malicious disease every day. With our current understanding of the brain’s chemistry, the healthcare industry has improved their treatment programs, factoring in certain aspects of alcoholism never integrated. Know this: no matter what type of alcoholic, there is a treatment plan that can fix their condition, guiding them along the path to sobriety.
It may, however, boil down to a process of trial and error.
Does It Work?
When it comes to the efficacy of AUD treatment, it’s astounding. While there is no cure for alcoholism—given that any alcoholic will tell you it’s a lifelong struggle—treatment can, at a minimum, mitigate problems brought on by AUD. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains that “one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms one year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.’
Essentially, AUD treatment provides alcoholics with the tools they need to combat their disease. It’s up to them, once the defenses have been built, to massage their willpower and keep to the given path. Yet, when it comes to treatment metrics, it’s important to count success in increments. Simply deciding on a treatment plan is paramount for the alcoholic, as they have admitted there’s a problem. Even if treatment keeps an alcoholic away from substance abuse for a month, that’s a success. Treatment programs works—but it’s not a cure, it’s a lifestyle that must become law to the AUD sufferer.
The healthcare industry defaults to medicine. Yet in the rehabilitation industry, using medicine to combat addiction is a practice that sparks great controversy. Heroin, after all, was originally an FDA approved medication used to rectify Morphine addiction. Some of the common drugs used to assist those suffering from AUD are:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): this medicine works to make you sick if you drink
- Oral Naltrexone (Vivitrol): removes the ‘reward’ sensation from alcohol
- Acamprosate (Campral): mitigates cravings
Today, smoking cessation medications are being studied in hopes of replicating their effects with AUD. Thus, when it comes to alcohol use disorder, there are medicines that exist. However, there’s typically only one period of rehab that—universally—healthcare professionals agree requires the use of medicine.
When it comes to choosing a treatment plan for alcohol use disorder, detox needs to be considered. Tragically, AUD detox is one of the few types of withdrawals that can kill the sufferer. Similar to Benzodiazepine detox, if not monitored, the body can slow its respiratory system to a crawl and eventually wane the cardiovascular system, causing the heart to fail. The problem here is DT, or delirium tremens.
The risk for delirium tremens spurs from the heaviest, diehard type of alcoholics. These are the types that drink a high amount of hard alcohol daily, a lifestyle they’ve sustained for years on end. DT is what can slow the body down to a crawl, cause seizures and hallucinations, and ultimately lead to death. To mitigate these risks, healthcare professionals will use medication to assist with the withdrawals and keep the patient closely monitored throughout the detox phase.
Therapy, regarding alcohol use disorder treatment, was implemented in the 1980s, driving forward a new standard of treatment rooted in common practices today. What we are referring to here is behavioral therapy. The thesis is brilliantly simple; while healthcare professionals can target the addiction, often what led to the ailment comes from life factors outside of AUD.
Behavioral therapy works to identify areas in which the person(s) did not experience proper development, encouraging them to become self-aware in ways they were not originally. It creates the foundation for lifestyle changes and encourages them to set goals, monitor progress, an analyze the root of drinking patterns.
This then allows the sufferer to gain coping tools, improve their communication, and understand their reactionary tendencies. Essentially, treatment works to identify the symptoms of AUD and therapy asks the question: outside of dependency, why do you feel that need to drink? For what reason is alcohol a solution? Once these questions are answered, the AUD sufferer can than use other solutions to fill these voids, or cope, which then becomes part of their alcoholism treatment methods. It’s not just about treating the disease, it’s treating the person as a whole. Therapy helps:
- Identify Root Problems
- Establish Coping Mechanisms
- Treat the Person and the Condition
- Create Tools That Assist in All Facets of Life
- Establish Self-Awareness
- Set Future Goals
- Create A Self-Monitoring System
It would be a surprise if you are unfamiliar with inpatient rehab. From the struggles of the world’s favorite entertainment icons to friends, family, or the news, checking into rehab is an event we understand. Today, with the plethora of resources available to us, inpatient rehab—once reserved for those with thicker bank accounts—can be affordable.
From 30, 60, to 90 days or more, the inpatient rehab treatment method depends on the severity of the AUD sufferer and what they’re willing to pay for. If that patient has not already detoxed from their alcohol dependence, then there will be a detox period, an aftershock phase, and then inpatient living. The methodology behind inpatient rehab is to create a safe environment for the patient to curb their addiction.
Paired with others suffering from the same ailment, they work with therapists, healthcare professionals, and counselors to dive deep into self-exploration. Ultimately, this alcoholism treatment method provides a haven for the patient and works to gift them the tools they will need once returning to their ‘outside lives.’ Inpatient rehab does not end when the patient leaves the center, aftercare must be exercised—to a degree—for the rest of their lives.
Outpatient rehab takes many forms. Dependent on the case, a patient may only check into a center during the detox period, whereupon they are released after the healthcare professionals have deemed they received a healthy detox. A structure is then created, in which the patient may have to check into the rehab center 3-4 times a week.
During these visits, the patient will interact with others suffering from AUD, counselors, and groups that work to establish tools which combat addiction. The patient is then monitored by a given facility, often assigned a specific counselor. In extreme and rarer cases, this healthcare professional might move into their home, or visit them weekly to analyze progress, mitigate relapse, and help enforce their initial goals.
Although outpatient rehab is cheaper and less rigorous than inpatient, for those struggling with AUD it is not always recommended. If they are left to their own, they remain in an environment which prompted them to drink in the first place—one that can symbolize chaos, brokenness, or pose a host of triggers they must overcome. In some ways, you could reckon this strengthens their resolve; they are being tested daily. Unfortunately, the sad story of relapse is all-too-common with AUD sufferers, rendering this line of thinking difficult to justify.
While support groups are usually integrated heavily in the aftercare process of sobriety, they can also be the primary and only form of treatment. Plenty of AUD sufferers have found their Zen, purpose, and strength within groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)—being that they are paired with those in the same plight, and they find motivation via their sponsor’s encouragement, fostering their willpower alongside others.
These groups are as rewarding as they are encouraging. From addicts currently in the throes of alcoholism to seasoned veterans that have been sober for years, people from all walks of life sit down to support one another. The 12-Step program, created by AA, establishes a great structure that is coupled with a reward system for those trying to achieve sobriety.
From tools to mitigate the symptoms of AUD, a platform in which sufferers can speak on their struggles with those who understand firsthand, to an accountability system, AA is often enough to lead an alcoholic towards a better, healthier, sober life. When it comes to rehab, normally a patient will be paired with a support group and visiting this group is integrated into their aftercare plan.
The Best Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment for You
The issue with AUD is that it takes many forms. There is no single miracle pill that can cure the disease outright. It is often a co-occurring disorder, mixed with either mental illness or a place in which the patient is lacking. Thus, the best alcohol use disorder treatment that cured and changed the life of a given patient may not have the same effect on you.
It is paramount that you address your circumstances, needs, and the goals you have for yourself before choosing a treatment method. We will talk on some of the obvious limitations but ultimately, no matter what you do, treating your alcohol dependence should be your number one priority. The rest of your life can wait, as the rest of your life could be tainted by the issues you are currently facing.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself before choosing a treatment mode for your substance abuse:
- Do you have health insurance? If so, what sort of treatment can you realistically afford? Is there anyone that can help you fund the endeavor?
- What is the severity of your condition? What is your current alcohol intake?
- Do you think, if left in your environment, that you would be able to handle triggers?
- If you have tried to kick your addiction in the past, what worked? What didn’t?
- What are your primary goals in treating AUD?
- Are these goals attainable given a specific type of alcohol use disorder treatment?
The reality is that everyone values sobriety. If you have forces (people) in your life that react negatively to your goals (an example would be an employer not keen on the idea of you gone in rehab for 30 days), then they should no longer be a part of your life. Overcoming AUD and obtaining a skill set which helps you cope in your everyday life is not an easy task. If it were, sufferers across the world would have an easier time righting their disease. As it stands, alcoholism is merciless, powerful, and difficult to control.
What you are doing takes courage and we commend you for it. That is why it is important you know that there is a treatment which complements you, your circumstances, and the goals you wish to achieve. Research alternative or traditional methods, then reach out to a professional for advice—at the very least, someone will provide information to point you in the right direction.
While speaking on relapse can be difficult, it is paramount in regards to recovery. Statistically, when an AUD sufferer attempts to break their chains, they have a higher likelihood of relapse than not. Similar to smoking, it often takes several attempts before a patient can manage their AUD, then continue on the route of sobriety afterward.
If you happen to be reading this because you tried quitting cold turkey—and you relapsed—then rest assured that this is not an end-all, nor is it indicative of your capacity for recovery. It is merely a part of the process—another hurdle you must overcome in order to find long-term treatment.
Thus, we encourage you to identify your needs, speak to a professional, and research alternate methods that may compliment you perfectly. We commend you for your courage and want to reiterate, as we hope you know, you are not alone. You will beat this.
The best treatment plan for alcohol use disorder is a question you and you alone must answer. We are simply here to guide you to the best option for your individual case.