The goal of alcohol addiction treatment is maintaining abstinence. There is no known way to allow someone who has been addicted to alcohol to become a normal social drinker. This is why alcoholism is said to be a life-long disease.
Detoxification is the first stage of the treatment process. The objective is to remove all alcohol from the system in as safe a manner as possible. Because withdrawal for the alcoholic can have serious, even life threatening medical consequences, withdrawal usually requires professional supervision and is usually done in an inpatient facility.
While there are medications which combat many of the symptoms of withdrawal, it is advised that nursing or other trained staff be available 24 hours. Blood pressure, fluid status, and mental state are just a few of the physiological items tracked. Staff will also make sure that medications are taken as directed.
Detox will last from five to seven days, depending on how dependant on alcohol a patient is at the time of admission. therapy sessions may start along with detox in some programs. It is less effective at this time because a patient’s main concern is their physical health issues. They may also not have the mental acuity to benefit from therapy during detox.
Initial treatment after detox
Treatment at this stage involves keeping the alcoholic from alcohol and dealing with general and individual issues. Gradually, the recovering person will start to look and feel better. They will regain some of their previous color on health. Unfortunately, feeling better can mislead them into thinking it might be OK to have “just one”.
Alcohol rehab centers will usually follow up detox with a structured, supervised program meant to educate about alcohol abuse and the dangers.
What to look for in an alcoholism treatment program:
- Free time and freedom of action is a danger at this point. Cravings and alcohol seeking behaviors arise easiest when there is opportunity – either freedom of movement or downtime filled with anxiety and negative thinking. Structure keeps the newly sober protected from themselves. It is also a chance to start building new habits. The experience of withdrawal is still fresh and powerful.
- A personally tailored program
- Each of us has our own set of problems and circumstances. Alcoholism is a psychosocial disease with many underlying motivations. Good treatment will allow enough customization to meet individual needs.
- Professional management
- Addiction is a skilled sub-specialty. There is a great deal of technical and practical knowledge counselors have to learn and there is a value when it is applied.
- Long-term follow through
- This stage usually comes after several weeks to months. It consists of monitoring by concerned loved ones, friends and sponsors, coupled with regular up-keep. Alcoholics are encouraged to commit to regular AA meetings or equivalent group sessions. The primary goal is to remain abstinent for the long haul. Family members may also be invited to participate and to learn about the disease and their role in helping the alcoholic stay sober.
The focus continues to be addressing life’s circumstances, dealing with problems, gaining and keeping employment, and continued repair of the damage alcohol has done. The rule is that more sobriety is better and that time will help the process. Alcoholics may be at risk for relapse whenever there is a trigger event, but with attention and care, this can be minimized.
It is important to realize that the disease itself still exists, even with years of sobriety. Alcoholics who relapse do not slowly spiral back into old habits – they fall almost immediately back to previous levels of consumption. This, along with a phenomenon called kindling, makes future treatment and withdrawal much harder.
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