Abstinence is defined as completely avoiding the use of alcohol. Total abstinence and avoiding high-risk situations where alcohol is present are the ideal goals for people with alcoholism. A strong social network and family support are important in achieving this.
Some problem drinkers may be successful with simply reducing the amount they drink (moderation). If moderation succeeds, the problem is solved. If not, the person should try to achieve abstinence.
Completely stopping alcohol intake and then remaining abstinent is difficult for many alcoholics. Some professionals, but not all, choose to treat alcoholism as a chronic disease. In other words, patients should expect and accept relapse, but should aim for as long a period without drinking as possible.
Intervention Many people with alcohol problems don't recognize when their drinking gets out of hand. In the past, treatment providers believed that alcoholics should be confronted about their drinking problems. Now research has shown that compassion and empathy are more effective.
The ideal approach is to help people realize how much their alcohol use is harming their life, and the lives of those around them. They can aim for a personal goal of leading a more fulfilllling and sober life.
Studies find that more people enter treatment if their family members or employers are honest with them about their concerns, and try to help them see that drinking is preventing them from reaching their goals.
Withdrawal Withdrawal from alcohol is best done in a controlled, supervised setting in which medications relieve symptoms. This supervised withdrawal, also known as detoxification, usually takes 4 to 7 days.
Examination for other medical problems should be done. For example, liver and blood clotting problems are common in people with alcoholism.
Complications can occur with unsupervised alcohol withdrawal, such as delirium tremens (DT's), which could be fatal.
Depression or other mood or anxiety disorders may be revealed once the person is no longer on alcohol, and these should be promptly treated.
Long-term Recovery After detoxification, alcohol recovery or rehabilitation programs can help people stay off alcohol. These programs usually offer counseling, behavioral health support, nursing, and medical care. Therapy involves education about alcoholism and its effects.
Many of the staff members at rehabilitation centers are recovering alcoholics who serve as role models. Programs can be inpatient, where patients live in the facility during the treatment, or they can be outpatient, where patients attend the program while they live at home.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses a structured teaching approach and may help people with alcoholism. Patients are given instruction and homework assignments to improve their ability to cope with basic living situations, control their behavior, and change the way they think about drinking.
Medications are sometimes prescribed to prevent relapses. They are often used along with cognitive-behavioral therapy or an ongoing recovery program.
• Acamprosate is a drug that has been shown to lower relapse rates in those who are alcohol dependent.
• Disulfiram (Antabuse) produces very unpleasant side effects if you drink even a small amount of alcohol within 2 weeks after taking the drug.
• Naltrexone (Vivitrol) decreases alcohol cravings. It is available in an injectable form.
You cannot take these medications if you are pregnant or have certain medical conditions. Long-term treatment with counseling or support groups is often necessary. The effectiveness of medication and counseling varies.
It is important that the patient has a living situation that helps support them in staying sober. Some areas have housing that provides a supportive environment for those who are trying to stay sober.
Support Groups Support groups are available to help people who are dealing with alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous Australia is a self-help group of recovering alcoholics that offers emotional support and a model of abstinence for people recovering from alcohol dependence. There are local chapters throughout Australia.
Members of AA:
• Are given a model of recovery by seeing the accomplishments of sober members of the group
• Have help available 24 hours a day
• Learn that it is possible to participate in social functions without drinking
Because alcoholism can also affect those around the person with the alcohol problem, family members often need counseling. Al-Anon/Alateen Australia is a support group for spouses and others who are affected by someone else's alcoholism. Alateen provides support for teenage children of alcoholics.
There are several other support groups available for people who did not find AA helpful or were troubled by its involvement of a "Higher Power". For example, SMART recovery uses cognitive methods to help people with alcoholism recover. LifeRing recovery and SOS are two other nonreligious programs.
Women for Sobriety is a self-help group just for women -- many women with alcohol problems have different concerns than men. Moderation Management is a program for problem drinkers who want to moderate their drinking. It recommends abstinence for people who fail at moderation.
Only 15% of people with alcohol dependence seek treatment for this disease. Drinking again after treatment is common, so it is important to maintain support systems in order to cope with any slips and ensure that they don't turn into complete reversals.
Treatment programs have varying success rates, but many people with alcohol dependence are able to maintain abstinence.
Patients who achieve total abstinence have better survival rates, behavioral health, and marriages. They are also more responsible parents and employees than people who continue to drink or relapse.
Alcoholism is a major social, economic, and public health problem. Alcohol is involved in more than half of all accidental deaths and almost half of all traffic deaths. A high percentage of suicides involve the use of alcohol, along with other substances.
People who abuse or are dependent on alcohol are more likely to be unemployed, involved in domestic violence, and have problems with the law (such as drinking and driving).