Alcoholism is a disease that does not discriminate. Millions of people from all age groups and walks of life suffer from addiction to alcohol. Those who are unable to stop drinking on their own often suffer related consequences. These may include major physiological problems (such as liver disease/failure, heart disease, and damaged kidney) and social/interpersonal issues, as well as addictions to other substances or compulsive behaviors.
While no cure exists for alcoholism, evidence-based treatment can provide an effective source of healing. Chronic health problems related to alcohol may also be addressed during treatment. Psychotherapy is a key element in the process of healing from trauma or any other significant issues that occurred prior to or coincident with the onset and ongoing cycle of addiction to alcohol.
For most patients, the primary goal of treatment is sobriety. However, numerous attempts and failures may occur along the way before sufficient motivation and learned strategies are successfully mobilized, become a habit, and lay the foundation for a new, healthier lifestyle.1
What Are the Driving Forces Behind the Development of Alcoholism?
Each case of alcohol abuse is unique. The mix of factors that brought one patient to alcoholism may be unlike anyone else’s. An American Psychological Association report shares some of the most common causes of this disease.
- Genetics — Being raised with heavy drinker can play a big part in forming alcohol abuse. Many people begin drinking early in life. More and more is consumed until dependence is formed. Addiction soon follows.
- Environmental factors — If “fun” is shown to involve alcohol while growing up, then chances are that heavy drinking will likely be viewed as normal to such children. It may define what fun looks like for them as well. They will likely turn to it for many reasons. They may run to it for relaxation. They may use it to escape a problem. It may be their way of coping with stress. Whether from parents or peers, binge drinking often forms this way.
- Co-occurring mental health issues — Those who are living with significant mental health issues often seek to self-medicate with heavy drinking. Depression is one such illness that’s common. Anxiety disorders are another type. Bipolar disorder continues the list. Unfortunately, alcohol only serves to make such patients’ symptoms worse. Co-occurring mental health issues are now at play. It’s called a dual diagnosis.
- History of sexual trauma or physical abuse — Being a witness or victim to domestic violence can draw people to alcohol. Other abusive or sexual attacks can do this as well. Heaving drinking may be the way they combat all of their bad feelings.2
What Modes of Treatment Are Typically Used in Caring for Alcoholism?
The various alcohol rehab programs available today are each somewhat unique in how they treat alcoholism. However, there are certain elements found in nearly all alcohol rehabs.
According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, some of these basic strategies include:
- Detox — This is the process of cleansing the body of toxins. It is usually the first step toward recovery. It involves total abstinence from drinking. It is done under the watchful eye of doctors and counselors. Their guidance through the process is crucial to success. Patients typically suffer from withdrawal symptoms during this phase of treatment. They need much support and care to not lose hope and forge ahead with treatment. Since relapses are common, they need lots of accountability as well.
- Individual counseling — The psychological dependence on alcohol is, in many ways, stronger than the physical addiction to the drug. It is found best to have the patient address the crisis at its source. In this strategy, past issues are met head-on. The patients come to better understand what led to alcohol abuse. Then, and only then, can the patient begin to develop better life strategies and decision-making skills. Equipped with these tools for recovery, they can cope with stress in a much more productive way.
- Group counseling — Group sessions involve meeting with other recovering addicts in the program. They discuss past experiences. They work together to help one another find solutions to the challenges ahead. Oftentimes, patients will feel alone and isolated. They wonder if anyone else is dealing with the same issues they face. In this strategy, they find out that there are – many others. The support network formed between these peers can really help speed up the recovery process.
- Aftercare — Many people often wonder, “What happens when alcohol treatment is over?” 12-Step programs and follow-up counseling can do a lot of good. They help patients make the transition back into the “real world.” For many who have alcohol-abusing family and friends, this resource is invaluable.3
Which Is Better: Outpatient or Residential Rehab?
Alcohol treatment is available in both inpatient and outpatient programs. So, patients can choose the option that offers the intensity and level of care they need. Inpatient alcohol treatment (or residential rehab) provides “room and board” in addition to the customary menu of services.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some of the unique benefits associated with residential rehab include:
- A chance to focus solely on recovery. The outside world can be full of stresses and temptations that trigger a relapse. However, patients in residential programs can leave these environmental factors far behind them, in every sense of the word. At these special centers, the only concern is getting well again. They offer a place of peace and quiet. In this calm setting, patients can find a healthy balance in their lives.
- Around-the-clock supervision. Individuals with a serious alcohol problem may have reached a point where they can no longer function without drinking. For these individuals, the 24/7 supervision provided by the staff at a residential alcohol treatment facility can be crucial. The doctors and counselors on staff can help make sure that patients stay the course and don’t harm themselves or relapse back into drinking.
- Daily regimens. With outpatient care, patients go home at the end of the day. They are free to do whatever they wish. Residential treatment programs provide ongoing structure. Patients’ daily schedules are all laid out in advance. Since their lives had likely been turned upside down while addicted, this rigid format can actually bring them comfort.
- Programs that enhance wellness. In addition to detox and counseling, many residential alcohol treatment programs offer a chance to enhance the wellness of the mind, body, and spirit. These programs can be quite diverse. They may include yoga and meditation. Some may involve nutrition counseling. There are often exercise programs. Continuing education may be available as well.
- Peer group support. These group counseling sessions can be transforming for many patients. They share and listen to experiences with alcohol. They may talk about goals and dreams. These people may have lived in isolation (mentally and physically) for years and years. They are likely obsessed with drinking. And yet, they may have felt extreme shame for acting on their lust for alcohol.4
Short-Term Vs. Long-Term
The choice between short-term and long-term treatment should be based upon your needs and your rate of progress in recovery, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This is a highly individual decision. It is one that can be updated or changed, depending upon treatment progress.
Treatment Tailored for You
Michael’s House is a luxury treatment center located in Southern California. We provide alcohol detox and a wide range of physical and psychological treatment options. Whatever your course of treatment, we customize the program according to your specific needs and preferences. Do you need to structure a program for yourself or a loved one?
Contact us today at 760-548-4032 to find out more about our alcohol treatment philosophy that considers the “whole person” – not just the addiction itself.
1 “Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
2 “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorders and Their Treatment.” American Psychological Association.
3 “National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services: 2015.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, March 2017.
4 “Behavioral Health Treatments and Services.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, April 19, 2017.
5 “Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.