Alcoholism treatment comes in many forms, but for someone who’s prone to long-term binge drinking, the only cure may be quitting cold turkey and getting counseling that teaches alternate coping mechanisms and life skills. Some people who only drink socially on occasion but over-do it each time and then react with violence or out-of-control behavior may be ok with attending a few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or abstaining.
For people who drink on a daily basis or over-indulge every weekend to the extent that it impedes their life, then long term recovery from alcoholism is needed. While the waiting lists can span 1-4 weeks, a facility with other recovering alcoholics can be extremely effective.
The most common alcoholism treatment is the 12-step program advocated by Alcoholics Anonymous. This approach emphasizes self-help, focusing on mental, physical and spiritual recovery from alcoholism.
The first step is admitting that alcohol has rendered the drinker powerless over his or her own life. The alcoholic comes to understand a higher power and sense of purpose. The drinker takes a moral inventory and assesses the nature of his or her own defects.
The person will make amends to those wronged or hurt by alcoholism. The 12-step programs aim to change one’s way of thinking so alcohol abusers become more honest with themselves, more spiritual, more introspective and more outwardly giving. Recent studies from the Department of Veteran Affairs indicate that as many as 45% of the inpatients were abstinent one year after being discharged from the 12-step AA treatment.
For very severe alcoholism treatment, there are a variety of pharmacotherapy options. The FDA approved Naltrxone (ReViaTM) to treat recovering alcoholics who are also undergoing counseling. The most common side effects include nausea, difficulty sleeping, muscle pain and nervousness.
Another drug, called Acamprosate, has proven to be twice as effective alongside therapy sessions, as just therapy alone in European trials of over 3,000 patients. Early onset drinkers can increase their number of abstinent days and decrease alcohol consumption with Ondansetron (Zofran) or Prozac, whereas later onset drinkers find Sertraline (Zoloft) to be more effective. Most drugs are only effective if taken regularly and in conjunction with psychosocial therapy.
Alcoholism treatment must be taken seriously in order for it to be effective. Patients who come in begrudgingly because “someone made them” will generally not see success.
The initial counseling session is crucial because that’s when the person seeking recovery from alcoholism articulates the problem, the need for a solution and selects the most appropriate, individualized method to achieve that recovery. Adherence to the program can be assisted by the support and encouragement of friends and family, but ultimately it’s the individual who must overcome this debilitating disorder.