There are three major stages of treatment for alcohol addiction.
- Initial Treatment
- Ongoing Recovery
Detoxification is a step that is taken when a person’s nervous system has adapted to the alcohol to the extent that if he or she were to just stop drinking alcohol, the body would have a withdrawal syndrome which might involve:
- Shakes, morning dry heaves, and/or
- Seizures, and/or
- Delirium, Confusion and hallucinations
Detoxification is most effectively and safely treated by giving gradually reducing doses of sedative medication over the course of several days as the body adjusts to being off alcohol. The person may need other medical treatment to correct other physical problems related to the alcohol use at this time as well.
A physician is the best person to make the determination as to how much help a person might need with detoxification. At Recovery Road Medical Center we have board certified physicians who can assist the patient in getting the appropriate form of detoxification. After the patient has had an intake evaluation with the counselor, the physician is called to discuss the need for detoxification.
Detoxification may require a hospital or can be done in an outpatient setting with close medical monitoring. The physicians at Recovery Road Medical Center are able to assist with both inpatient and outpatient detoxification.
Alcohol Treatment is a retraining process. It is not just an educational process. It involves the development of new ways of reacting that need to become automatic. New reactions need to be developed in a variety of settings and situations. At present, there is no treatment that can return a person who has lost control over alcohol back into a controlled drinker. Instead, recovery involves changes in the following areas:
New ways of reacting include:
New social and recreational activities that do not involve drinking
New rewards in a person’s life
New ways of reacting to feelings that do not involve drinking
New coping skills that do not involve drinking
New roles in one’s family that do not involve drinking
New non-drinking friends
New ways of thinking about oneself that do not involve drinking.
We do not expect a person to have confidence in themselves when they start treatment. The only way to show motivation for treatment is to show up for treatment and do the exercises and follow the instructions for retraining that are provided. Overtime confidence in a new way of reacting will develop.
Alcoholism treatment is carried out in a variety of settings depending on how much structure is required to keep the addiction in check while the person is developing new skills. In some cases, treatment involves developing an aversion to the alcohol.
Medications are also used in alcoholism treatment. Antabuse(disulfiram) is used to prevent impulsive drinking, as the alcoholic knows that if they drink within 3 days of use of Antabuse they can get very sick. Campral(acamprosate) is used to help the nervous system restabilize when it has been used to being on alcohol chronically. Revia(naltrexone) is used to blunt the rewarding effects of alcohol, so that if a person does start to drink while in treatment it is less likely to turn into a larger binge. By themselves, however, medications do not bring on new ways of reacting. But, blocking the rewarding effects of alcohol can begin the brain to look elsewhere for reward and to break the hold that the alcohol has on the person’s thinking.
The physicians at Recovery Road are able to prescribe all these medications to assist with recovery.
Ongoing recovery is necessary for the maintenance of new ways of living and reacting. When athletes achieve a certain level of skill, they recognize that they need to continue to practice what they have learned or they will lose their skills. Because the disease of alcoholism involves a very primitive part of the brain that only learns through experience, the recovering person has to continue to practice the new recovery skills to maintain sobriety.
Patients generally maintain these skills by participating in ongoing recovery groups such as the 12 step programs. The Twelve Steps Programs are not affiliated with any treatment program. It is a self help group which has been guided by a series of principles since its founding in 1932. Its first step involves acknowledging that the person cannot control alcohol and that his or her life has become unmanageable. This is stated not as a criticism, but as a respectful acknowledgment of the power of the addiction and the awareness that future efforts to control the drug are doomed to failure. The next 11 steps focus on developing a new spiritual basis for recovery. Members are expected to get a sponsor who will help them go through the steps.
Intervention: is sometimes necessary when it is clear to those around the alcoholic that he or she needs help but the alcoholic is resistant. The process was developed by a minister named, Vernon Johnson in Minnesota who observed how some families were able to be successful in getting people into treatment, while other families who cared just as much, were not successful. There are specific professionals who are available to help families intervene successfully in getting their loved one into treatment.