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Alcoholism Treatment Options

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

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Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

While 14.5 million adults in the US satisfy the criteria for alcohol use disorder according to 2019 NSDUH data, only 7% of these people explore the pros and cons of various alcohol treatment options and then seek specialized treatment. 

All alcohol addictions are slightly different, but they all stem from alcohol abuse. The CDC characterizes alcohol abuse as a pattern of drinking alcohol that triggers damage to health, relationships, and the ability to work. Heavy drinking and binge drinking both qualify as alcohol abuse and so does the unsafe use of alcohol by pregnant women and under-21s. 

Alcohol abuse is destructive regardless of the form it takes. Drinking to excess harms your health and wellbeing. The best way you can help yourself or loved one is to find ways to prevent alcohol abuse in your life through treatment.

The following negative outcomes are likely in the event of alcohol abuse: 

  •     Financial problems
  •     Withdrawing from friends and family
  •     Missing school or work
  •     Depression
  •     Violent outburst
  •     Uncontrollable anger
  •     Engaging in risky behaviors
  •     Legal problems 

If you are abusing alcohol, this doesn’t necessarily translate to alcohol addiction, though. That said, abusive drinking typically leads to an addiction to alcohol. This is a state unlikely to improve without engaging with appropriate treatment programs.

When is the Best Time to Research Alcohol Treatment Options?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction as a disease. Most experts today agree with this view of addiction. 

While not everyone who abuses alcohol develops alcohol use disorder, for many it’s a short, sharp slope downhill. 

Sometimes, situational triggers lead to alcoholism, and other times it manifests gradually as tolerance builds and the abuse continues unchecked. 

Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed based on criteria laid down in DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the industry-standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

You’ll be assessed on your responses to a variation of the following questions concerning the past year: 

  1. Have you ended up drinking more alcohol than you intended, or drinking for longer than you intended?
  2. Have you tried to stop or cut down drinking without success?
  3. Do you spend an inordinate amount of time drinking or recovering from drinking?
  4. Do you sometimes want a drink so badly that you can think of nothing else?
  5. Have you cut back on hobbies and activities to make more time for drinking?
  6. Is your alcohol consumption causing problems at home, work, or school?
  7. Have you engaged in risky behaviors after drinking alcohol?
  8. Have you continued drinking despite feeling depressed or anxious?
  9. Is your tolerance to alcohol building so you need more to achieve the same effect?
  10. Do you continue to drink alcohol in spite of these consequences?
  11. Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol started to wear off? 

The severity of alcohol use disorder is based on how many criteria your symptoms satisfy: 

  •     Mild alcohol use disorder: 2 to 3 criteria
  •     Moderate alcohol use disorder: 4 to 5 criteria
  •     Severe alcohol use disorder: 6+ criteria 

By far the best time to seek treatment for alcohol abuse is before being diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. If you feel you drink compulsively, and if your alcohol intake is creating problems in all areas of your life, you should think seriously about investigating treatment options. 

The good news? If you’re panicking about needing to pack your bags and head off to residential rehab for a month or more, that might well not be necessary.

Alcoholism Addiction Treatment Options

While there are many different types of treatment programs for alcohol use disorder, everything starts with detoxification and withdrawal.

Alcohol Detox

Before you think about engaging with alcohol addiction treatment, you should be aware that recovery is an ongoing process rather than a single event. 

Alcohol detoxification, commonly abbreviated to alcohol detox, does little more than purge your body of toxins. FDA-approved medications can be used if your alcoholism is more severe – more on those below.

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab 

Most short-term residential rehabs for alcohol offer a 30 to 90-day program based on a modified version of 12-step methodology. 

These programs were first designed to treat alcohol use disorder. It wasn’t until crack and cocaine ravaged the United States in the 1980s that rehab centers started tailoring these programs to treat substance use disorder more fully. 

The original model for residential rehab was hospital-based treatment for up to 6 weeks followed by ongoing outpatient treatment and engagement with 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous

For the vast bulk of cases of an alcohol use disorder, residential rehab is unnecessary.

IOP for Alcoholism

There are many forms of outpatient treatment for alcohol use disorder, including intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). 

An IOP is a part-time form of outpatient treatment where you’ll attend therapy sessions at a treatment center for 9 to 15 hours weekly. At night, you’ll return home if you have a suitable living environment, or alternatively to a sober living home – more on those right below. 

If this doesn’t seem like an intensive enough program, we also offer partial hospitalization programs. These full-time outpatient programs bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient treatment, giving you the structure and support of residential rehab without the cost or the all-out commitment. 

You’ll need a stable home environment, a commitment to recovery, and a mild to moderate alcohol use disorder to get the most out of any form of outpatient treatment. 

We specialize in outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction here at Renaissance Recovery Center.

Alcohol Rehab at Renaissance Recovery Center, so reach out for more information about our intensive outpatient programs for alcoholism.

Sober Living

Structured sober living homes offer you a supportive environment surrounded by others undergoing alcohol addiction treatment. 

These substance-free settings help many people struggling with alcoholism but unable to commit to inpatient treatment the chance to engage with outpatient programs, even if their home environment is unsuitable. 

As well as providing a stress-free base for recovery, you’ll also have access to a ready-made network of sober friends.

Alcohol Counseling

While medication-assisted treatment can be useful for treating alcoholism, this is always most effective when delivered in combination with counseling and psychotherapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). 

Individual counseling sessions give you the chance to work closely with a therapist to explore the specifics and root causes of your addiction to alcohol. 

While group counseling sessions are unable to provide the same level of personal attention, you’ll benefit from exposure to a broad spread of opinions and views. You can also gain from the peer support of others undergoing a broadly similar experience. 

Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is a powerful tool in the recovery arsenal. CBT sessions will help you to identify what triggers you to abuse alcohol. The more familiar you are with the people, places, and things that tempt you to drink alcohol, the more easily you can avoid these and prevent relapse. Beyond this, you’ll learn how to use healthier coping strategies to more confidently navigate life’s everyday stressors.

Alcoholism Treatment Medication Options

The FDA approved the following medications for the treatment of alcoholism:

  • Disulfiram
  • Acamprosate
  • Naltrexone

These FDA-approved medications do not provide a cure for alcohol use disorder, but they can play a vital role in recovery for many people suffering from severe alcoholism.

Disulfiram

Disulfiram interferes with the metabolic pathway used by alcohol. 

If you drink alcohol while taking this medication, it will cause an unpleasant reaction with acetaldehyde, a chemical present in alcohol as it metabolizes. Expect nausea, vomiting, and headaches if you drink on Disulfiram. 

The adverse outcome triggered means this medication can help to discourage alcoholics from drinking alcohol.

Acamprosate

For those already abstinent, acamprosate can help reduce the likelihood of relapse. 

This medication does nothing to stave off withdrawal symptoms if you have only just stopped drinking. You’ll need to be abstinent for a week or so before the effects of acamprosate manifest.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that’s effective for the treatment of alcohol use disorder as well as opioid use disorder.

The medication lessens the pleasurable feelings you get from drinking alcohol.

Best Treatment for Alcoholism at Renaissance

We are deeply experienced in treating alcoholism here at Renaissance Recovery Center. We personalize our addiction treatment to account for the scope and severity of your symptoms, using the medication as appropriate.

Whether you require an intensive outpatient program or a partial hospitalization program, or you would better benefit from a traditional outpatient program, we have a variety of suitable services. 

If you also suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition, our dual diagnosis treatment programs help you to squarely address both these issues.

To get started with an initial consultation without any further commitment, call the friendly Renaissance team at 866.330.9449.

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Pat C

“I owe my life and my happiness to these people. October 8th, 2019 marked two years of sobriety for me, and prior to finding Renaissance I hadn’t had 24 hours sober in nearly 20 years.”

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Paige R

“They truly cared for me and the other people that I served with! From this group, I have made 8 new brothers and friends for life! We have continued on, after the program, to take care of each other”

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Courtney S

“Great staff who took the time to get to know me. They have a lot of experience in this field and have first hand experience with what I was going through. IOP is outstanding and really built up a ton of great relationships and found this program to be a ‘breath of fresh air’.”

Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country