Every person can have a drink from time to time but not each of us becomes addicted to alcohol. This condition is not a disease but a complicated disorder. Its development is usually slow and may go unnoticed. However, the treatment requires a lot of time and patience and here we are going to disclose the most important basics.
What is Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction literally means that a person cannot live a normal life without having a drink every day. Moreover, he or she is not able to control the craving or the amount of beverage consumed that leads to numerous health issues and social problems.
Risk factors and stages
There is no one common reason to become an alcoholic. Scientists claim that genetics plays a certain role and the risk to become an addict is higher for those who have a bad family history or grow up with addicted parents.
Still, different brain issues such as anxiety, stress and depression also often lead to dependence. We all suffer from time to time and the alcoholic beverage may seem a good counselor and reliever of emotional or physical pain. It does have such effects but later it makes life a terrible mess and becomes a problem itself.
The stages of the dependence formation are as follows:
- A person is at-risk. One can drink with friends for entertainment, to relieve stress or get pleasant feelings. When it starts to happen almost every day, a body becomes tolerant of alcohol and asks for more.
- Early disorder. At this stage, one experiences blackouts, drinks alone or in secret and often think about beverages.
- Mid-stage disorder. A person cannot control the intake of alcohol and has problems in social life, as well as certain health issues.
- End-stage disorder. Drinking becomes a sole interest in life, the health and social relationships are greatly damaged.
Effects of Alcoholism
It’s worth mentioning that persistent drinking affects badly all areas of life. Still, we can divide the consequences into three groups to investigate them more clearly.
The constant presence of alcohol in the body damages all organs and tissues. The most obvious and dangerous results are as follows:
- numerous accidents and injuries that happen while drinking;
- liver issues, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver;
- hypertension and strokes;
- different types of cancer;
- depression, anxiety and other mental disorders;
- damage to the brain.
The psychological area also experiences some changes mainly due to the depressive action of alcohol on the brain. The consequences include:
- obsession with alcohol;
- mood swings and irritability;
- choosing drinking over other activities;
- difficulties with relationships and the law;
- inability to change the situation and stop drinking.
When a person is badly addicted to alcohol, there is no way to do the work properly or to communicate with partners, family members and friends. The social life is usually ruined and an addict may remain alone or in the company of the same dependent people.
Furthermore, the problems with money and the law may follow making a person a real outcast. This worsens the situation even more because there may be no one to help.
Diagnosis of Alcoholism
One of the main dangers of alcohol dependence is problematic diagnostics, especially at the early stages. As we have already mentioned the majority of people consume alcohol from time to time and may be inaccurate with its amount. However, where is the red line and how to determine it?
Almost all alcoholics state that they do not have any problems with beverages. Still, there are amounts considered the norm. Thus, men who consume more than 4 drinks each day or above 14 drinks per week are considered addicts. For women, 3 drinks per day and 7 drinks per week are enough to become dependent.
In addition, diagnostics takes into account an overall health condition, presence of the diseases related to alcohol abuse, social relationships, etc.
Detoxification and Withdrawal
If a person decides to stop drinking, the first step is to detoxify the body from alcohol and live through the withdrawal syndrome. This is better done under the doctor’s control, especially if the addiction is already at the mid or end stage.
The doctor will provide a scheme that involves rehydration, restoring salts and glucose in the blood, pain relievers, etc. It will be needed to control blood pressure and sometimes brain activity.
The withdrawal period is the most dangerous for relapses. Therefore, an addict needs constant control, care and support to overcome this condition and continue the treatment.
Treatment Options for Alcoholism
After the detoxification stage, other treatment options follow. They involve certain medicines together with psychological approaches and therapy.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
One of the first medicines utilized for alcoholism treatment was disulfiram. It does not cure the disorder but an active substance interacts with alcohol and provides such unpleasant symptoms as headaches, flushing, nausea and vomiting. The idea of this treatment is to keep the patient at bay due to the perspective of feeling unwell. However, nowadays it is not very common.
Another medicine is naltrexone. It prevents heavy drinking and craving for alcohol while blocking the positive feelings that an addict is waiting for. Vivitrol is its version for injections. Acamprosate is another medicine with a similar mechanism of action. It is used to decrease the obsession with beverages.
Behavioral Therapies for Alcoholism
An addict should take care of his or her mental state. It is crucial to find out the main reasons or so-called triggers for drinking and learn to cope with them without alcohol. Moreover, this bad habit must be replaced with healthier alternatives and that is why dependent people require behavioral therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This type of therapy is organized individually or in small groups. The specialist helps the patient to identify the feelings that lead to drinking and learn how to manage stress and avoid relapse.
The therapy changes the thought processes and attitude toward alcohol misuse. In addition, the patient develops the skills that help to cope with triggers and challenging situations without alcoholic beverages.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
This is a short boosting therapy aimed at building and strengthening motivation to stick to healthy drinking behavior. Its main stages are as follows:
- Identification of the pros and cons of treatment.
- Creation of a plan for changing drinking habits.
- Building up confidence.
- Development of new skills that help to stick to the plan.
When clear goals are set, it becomes much easier to pursue the main aim of quitting heavy drinking.
Support Groups and 12-Step Programs
There are many free groups in every city that are willing to help those with alcohol dependence. They include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, Celebrate! Recovery Rational Recovery, Recovery Dharma, Women for Sobriety, etc.
As it is crucial to be surrounded by like-minded people, such groups are perfect for addicts. Moreover, one can find new friends here and restore communication skills while attending the meetings.
Holistic and Alternative Treatments
Furthermore, the period of addiction treatment is a great time to think about one’s life in general and find a more balanced and healthier style. This can be done via the following practices.
A healthy diet is necessary for all addictive. To help the body cope with dependence and restore health, give preferences to low-fat foods and eat more protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids like fish are recommended. Vitamin C and group B, magnesium and calcium should be replenished with the help of supplements.
Exercise and physical wellness
It may be challenging to go to the gym or do some active exercises. Still, one requires some regular movement like running, yoga, swimming, dancing, etc. Such activities not only contribute to better physical health and mood but also help to find new friends and moments of pleasure in daily life.
Mindfulness and meditation
One more psychological issue is practicing mindfulness and meditation. These habits are useful to relieve stress and anxiety, learn to identify triggers and avoid reacting to them. In addition, it is just interesting to try to observe one’s mind and influence its state through different breathing techniques.
Art and music therapy
The brain that struggles with addiction requires new emotions and impressions. Art and music therapy is one of the easiest and most readily available ways for this. One can select any art type that is of interest and try to learn something new. Again, it brings a new company together with pleasant experiences and novel ideas. Thus, it becomes possible to understand your own feelings better and more deeply.
Role of Family and Friends
At last, family and friends should give an addicted person as much love, care and support as they can. It’s worth remembering that the person must acknowledge the dependence, so the pressure and scandals will not help with it. At the stage of diagnostics, intimate people should be very accurate.
However, when the treatment starts, loved ones have to be fully aware of the plan and help an addicted person stick to it. Support is needed to avoid triggers and exclude relapses. Family and friends may provide additional motivation, praise each small step and donate confidence.
The treatment period is more than challenging but both sides should learn the basics of effective communication and stay honest and determined.
Modern medicine can treat almost everything but the case of addiction requires a lot of strength and willpower from the dependent person. The recovery process is slow, prone to relapses and painful. Therefore, one has to understand clearly the main goal and the small steps that lead to it. Do not hesitate to consult a specialist and be careful with alcoholic beverages as they can trick everyone.
What is the most effective treatment for alcohol dependence?
An effective treatment should include a complex of measures including detoxification and withdrawal management, proper medication treatment and psychological help. Social support is one of the key elements.
What are the 7 steps to overcome alcoholism?
One has to compare the pros and cons of drinking and firmly decide to stop. Then, the goals must be set and a plan created. A person needs to find support and start building a new life while managing cravings and controlling relapses.
What is the first line of treatment for alcoholism?
Acamprosate and naltrexone are utilized as first-line options. They influence the brain and help to ruin the obsession and cravings for alcohol.
What are 3 interventions or treatments for alcoholism?
At first, one requires detox and withdrawal management. Then, the treatment itself must be started. It includes medicines and psychological counseling. An addict has not only to stay sober but also to create a plan for a meaningful life and follow it.