Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehab

man drinking alcohol

Alcohol consumption is a staple of adult American life. We drink on holidays, special occasions, and even on weekends out with friends. Research from the CDC shows that over two-thirds of Americans over the age of 18 consume alcohol each year1.

But for some people, toasting at a wedding or having a glass of wine with dinner can be very dangerous. After all, alcohol is an addictive substance, and excessive drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD).

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are many people all over the world battling this condition — and many alcohol addiction treatment options that can help you recover.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

AUD (commonly known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction) is a chronic medical condition classified as a brain disorder. The condition is characterized by the compulsive consumption of alcohol.

Many who suffer from AUD don’t have complete control over their substance use.

Additionally, many people with AUD patients often feel negative emotions (as well as uncomfortable physical symptoms) when they aren’t consuming alcohol and may end up destructively acting upon those emotions. In this way, AUD can affect familial relationships, physical health, and social interactions.

Common signs and symptoms of AUD include:

  • Inability to stop drinking despite a strong desire to quit
  • Drinking even in dangerous or non-ideal situations
  • Gradual increase of the “required” amount of alcohol before becoming intoxicated
  • Frequent and intense cravings to drink
  • Neglecting responsibilities and social and recreational activities because of drinking
  • Nausea, seizures, tremors, and other physical withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol addiction in the U.S.

Sadly, alcoholism has become the most common form of addiction in the United States. Just over 14 million Americans over age 18 were struggling with AUD in 2019, which is likely even higher today2. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, a whopping 60% of drinking adults increased their alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic3.

With so many Americans battling this disease, people need accessible and available alcohol addiction treatment near them. Better Addiction Care can help you connect with a local treatment program that is right for you or your loved one.

Types of Treatment Programs

There are many rehab facilities across the United States that can help people with AUD overcome their addiction. These facilities are designed to meet patients where they are and provide the ideal level of treatment for their specific needs.

Of course, no two recovery journeys are exactly alike; therefore, different rehab centers treat alcoholism differently. This is why it’s essential to find the program that will offer the right treatment for you or your loved one.

Better Addiction Care can help you connect with various rehab types, including all of the following.

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient rehabilitation facilities allow patients the space and time to focus on their recovery. Patients cannot leave the facility during treatment (except for a few brief periods), although friends and loved ones are definitely encouraged to visit.

There are many privately-owned inpatient rehabs around the country (most of them take insurance), and qualifying individuals can get help from a free, state-funded rehab. Usually, an inpatient treatment program lasts for at least 30 days. The treatment supervisor may recommend further treatments and an extended stay based on the results.

Outpatient Alcohol Rehabilitation

Outpatient rehabilitation is similar to a regular hospital or clinic visits, as you only need to go to the facility when needed. Most patients attend treatment sessions about two to three times a week, where they receive support from their peers and addiction specialists. After this, the patients are free to go home until their next session.

Outpatient rehab is recommended for individuals who have already completed an inpatient program. This additional treatment can help you transition from treatment to “normal life,” and it can help you learn more coping skills to stay sober.

Sober Living

After leaving rehab, some people find that they need a little more time living in a structured environment while focusing on their alcoholism addiction treatment. These individuals can benefit from a sober living facility.

Sober living facilities provide group counseling, regular drug screening, and plenty of additional support to help you stay sober as you transition back into everyday life.

Faith-based Rehab

Some people want to participate in a rehab program that aligns with their faith. Many faith-based rehab programs combine treatment for alcoholism with religious doctrine to help patients overcome their AUD while developing their personal beliefs and convictions.

Rehab for Veterans

Research shows that about 11% of veterans have some form of substance use disorder4. The men and women who have served our country need addiction treatment — but they also need support from people who understand their unique life experiences. This is why many alcohol addiction treatment centers offer specialized programs just for veterans.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Recovering from an addiction can be particularly challenging if you have a co-occurring disorder like a mental health condition. About 9.2 million American adults have some kind of dual diagnosis, which means they require specialized treatment to overcome their AUD5.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Before a person can enter alcohol addiction treatment, they must go to alcohol detox to get all substances out of their system. Unfortunately, those who have been drinking heavily for a long time—be it a period of weeks, months, or years—may experience alcohol withdrawal during this process.

Withdrawal symptoms happen because continuous exposure to alcohol changes one’s brain chemistry. To compensate for the sedative effects of alcohol, the brain ramps up the production of stimulating chemicals like serotonin.

As a result, people with AUD can feel overstimulated once they stop drinking. This leads to physical and mental symptoms, the most common of which are:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

People typically feel these symptoms as quickly as six hours after they stop drinking. In more severe cases, the patient can experience hallucinations within 24 hours or seizures within two days of stopping. The symptoms often start to wane after five days, though some people can continue to experience alcohol withdrawal for weeks.

Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can lead to delirium tremens, a serious condition characterized by dehydration, rapid heartbeats, reduced blood flow to the brain, and high blood pressure, among other symptoms. Delirium tremens only happens to 5% of those undergoing alcohol withdrawal, but it can be fatal to one of 20 people who suffer from it.

Detox from Alcohol in a Safe Environment

Due to the potentially dangerous nature of alcohol detox, it’s crucial that people seek professional help while they go through this process. Even patients experiencing mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can benefit from the guidance of an expert.

Doctors, therapists, counselors, and other types of professionals trained and experienced in dealing with addiction disorders can offer patients medical care and treatment options that are most suited to their particular needs. This can provide them with the best chance of successfully completing their treatment program.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Medications

There are medications that have been proven to help patients who are recovering from alcohol use disorder. Medicines can be taken to alleviate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. They can also be prescribed to allow the patient to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and ease psychological changes that can help the person consume considerably less alcohol or stop drinking alcoholic beverages altogether.

These are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for patients who are recovering from alcohol use disorder:

Acamprosate

Paired with counseling and supportive treatments, acamprosate is a medication that’s used specifically to manage alcohol use disorder. It’s one of the most commonly recommended medications for the treatment of AUD in the United States and in other countries. The mechanism by which the medication affects the brain is not yet fully understood, but studies have shown that it impacts the glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid systems.

Acamprosate works by restoring the imbalance in the brain brought about by prolonged alcohol consumption. It does this by decreasing the patient’s craving for alcohol, making it easier for the person to actively lower their alcohol consumption and quit drinking entirely. However, the medication is not used to treat or manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. It’s also not shown to work on patients who continue to drink alcohol or use and abuse other addictive substances.

Compared to other medications, acamprosate has less severe side effects, a fact that contributes to its popular use. By itself, though, it still has a number of potentially serious unwanted effects such as hypersensitivity, diarrhea, insomnia, nausea, renal impairment, irritability, loss of appetite, and extreme feelings of sadness or emptiness.

Acamprosate is a prescribed medication that is only taken after the patient has gone through the initial detox and has stopped drinking alcohol. It often comes in the form of a tablet, which is taken 3 times daily. It can also be taken in conjunction with other medications that are used to address AUD.

Naltrexone

A man-made drug that blocks the effects of other narcotics, naltrexone is often used as a component of comprehensive treatment plans for alcohol use disorder as well as opioid use disorder. When used for the treatment of AUD, the medicine works by binding with the endorphin receptors in the body and blocking the effects that one usually experiences due to drinking alcohol. As a result, the patient can find it easier to control their cravings for alcoholic substances. Once the patient stops drinking, taking naltrexone can help them maintain their sobriety.

Alcohol addiction rehab may include this medicine which is not addictive, and it’s not an opiate. It belongs to a class of drugs known as opiate antagonists. This is why it is not recommended for patients who are younger than 18 years of age as well as those who are experiencing other health conditions. Naltrexone is associated with side effects that commonly include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, sleepiness or trouble sleeping, decreased appetite, painful joints, muscle cramps, cold symptoms, and headache.

Typically, naltrexone is administered once the patient is no longer dependent on addictive substances or after completing the detoxification process. It is given in pill form and taken daily for the treatment of AUD, while it’s injected intravenously if used to treat opioid use disorder. Vivitrol is one of the brand names under which naltrexone is sold. This particular brand comes in a liquid solution and is injected into the patient by a medical professional once every 4 weeks.

Disulfiram

An alcohol antagonistic drug, disulfiram comes in tablet form and is taken once a day. This medicine works best among patients who have completed the detoxification process and are undergoing appropriate supportive and psychotherapeutic treatments.

Disulfiram works by increasing the patient’s sensitivity to alcohol, leading to highly unpleasant reactions should the patient drink while also taking the medication. Within 10 minutes of consuming alcohol, the patient can experience nausea, headache, vomiting, sweating, weakness, flushing, blurred vision, and confusion, and these reactions can last for more than an hour.

The intensity of an episode depends on the amount of disulfiram and alcohol that the patient has ingested. This experience, in conjunction with counseling and other types of AUD treatments, can help patients control the urge to consume alcohol.

It should be noted that people who take disulfiram should not drink or use products with alcohol within 12 hours of their first dosage, as even just a small amount of alcohol can trigger unpleasant symptoms. These products include mouthwash, cough syrup, vinegar variants, and sauces. At the same time, the medication can also increase the side effects of caffeine. Patients should also exercise care when consuming coffee or large amounts of chocolate while also taking disulfiram.

Topiramate

Primarily used to treat certain types of seizures, topiramate is an anticonvulsant that decreases abnormal activity in the brain. At the same time, this medication shows promise in managing AUD as a part of a well-rounded treatment program.

While topiramate is not currently approved by the FDA for this specific use, the medication is used in open-label studies to demonstrate how it can help improve drinking behavior and abstinence from alcohol.

There are studies that show that low doses of topiramate can be effective in reducing a patient’s craving for alcohol and abating symptoms of anxiety and depression. It has even been determined to be more effective when taken in conjunction with psychotherapeutic treatment. For these reasons, topiramate is considered one of the most likely to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of AUD.

The medication comes in tablet form, a capsule that can be sprinkled on food, and a long-acting capsule that’s taken orally. Among the possible side effects of topiramate are drowsiness, dizziness, loss of coordination, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and tingling of the hands and feet.

There are limited options when it comes to pharmacological interventions for AUD. In the US, only acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are approved by the FDA for the treatment of this condition. Many others, such as topiramate, are undergoing further investigation to see how they can be used and incorporated into treatment programs to benefit those with alcohol use disorder.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, refer to man-made drugs that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves and drowsiness. It’s not fully understood how benzodiazepines work, but they are thought to enhance the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of the nerves in the brain. This class of medication is often used to treat illnesses and disorders that are caused by excessive brain activity, such as anxiety and seizures. In addition, benzodiazepines are also used to induce sedation in patients prior to surgery.

When it comes to treating alcohol use disorder, benzodiazepines are used during detoxification to manage severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. This class of medicine can be used to treat panic, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, irritability, restlessness, pain, vomiting, chills and sweats, and seizures.

Benzodiazepines come in different forms, as the medicine can be taken orally or injected. There are also several types of benzodiazepines used in AUD treatment settings, such as diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, oxazepam, and lorazepam. However, among the common side effects associated with benzodiazepines are sedation, lightheadedness, drowsiness, confusion, and memory impairment.

All benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence. Using them for a long time can increase tolerance, while stopping abruptly can cause agitation, insomnia, and a feeling of loss of self-worth. As such, the dosage for this type of medication must be tapered slowly.

Alcohol Addiction Therapies, Counseling, and Training Sessions

In addition to taking medications to curb their cravings for alcohol, patients who are recovering from AUD also undergo different types of psychosocial interventions and lifestyle changes that will allow them to break free from their destructive habits. As part of the treatment process, the patient and their support system may have to attend one or more of the following activities so that they can maximize their chances of successfully overcoming AUD:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

A common type of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to allow the patient to become more aware of the inaccurate and negative thinking processes that prevent them from effectively responding to challenging situations.

CBT, by itself or combined with other therapies, is used to address a wide range of issues, such as managing symptoms of mental illness, finding ways to cope with stressful situations, overcoming grief, and resolving relationship conflicts. While emotionally uncomfortable at times, CBT sessions come with very few risks. This type of therapy is typically structured by a mental health counselor and can take multiple sessions.

A session can help a patient who is recovering from AUD to identify and change the behaviors that can lead them to drink alcohol excessively. This often involves examining feelings, situations, and other internal and external factors that make it easy for the person to turn to alcohol.

Group and Individual Counseling

Individual counseling refers to one-on-one discussions between a patient and a counselor. This type of activity is designed to allow the patient to explore their feelings, beliefs, behaviors, and other factors that may be affecting their immediate or near-future concerns. The counselor provides a safe, caring, and confidential environment where the patient can better understand themselves and initiate changes that will allow them to pursue the goals they want to achieve.

Group counseling, on the other hand, is often conducted by 1 or more counselors and a group of 3 to 15 patients who share the same concerns. This activity is designed to achieve the same goals as individual counseling, but with the added benefit of social interaction with the members of the group. Through group counseling sessions, the members can learn from each other, give and receive support, and share their thoughts and perspectives.

Individual and group therapy sessions can take place in private practice, mental health clinics, rehabilitation and treatment centers, and hospitals, among other locations.

Health and Nutrition Training

Alcohol use disorder can lead to poor nutrition and take a heavy toll on one’s physical health as well. This, in turn, can cause anxiety, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, dental issues, skin problems, and a long list of other health concerns.

Nutritional therapy offers those who are recovering from AUD a well-balanced approach to rebuilding their physical health. This is done by educating the patient about proper nutrition, changing one’s diet, and using supplements. There are ongoing studies to see exactly how nutrition training can improve a patient’s chances of recovering from AUD. However, it’s apparent that this activity leads to improved mental and physical health, helps improve one’s mood, and reduces stress levels.

There is no single cure for alcohol use disorder. People who are recovering from this condition may require different treatment methods to effectively address all the issues that stem from and cause their unhealthy relationship with alcohol. They may also have to work with experts to come up with an individualized recovery program that meets all their needs and requirements.

Cost of Alcohol Rehab Treatment

Medicaid and Medicare are some of the most accessible and commonly used payment methods for AUD treatment and rehabilitation programs in the United States. Medicaid is an insurance program designed to cater to low-income families’ health and medical needs. Patients younger than 19 years old and older than 65 years old, parents, pregnant people, and those within a specific income bracket are eligible for this program. On the other hand, Medicare is available to anyone over 65 years of age and those with disabilities. Patients can qualify for both programs.

Patients or their family members can also find financial incentives and discounted options for treatment by checking out managed health care and insurance providers. This group refers to providers and facilities that offer healthcare services to their members at reduced costs. Managed care plans often come in the form of a health maintenance organization (HMO), preferred provider organization (PPO), and point of service (POS).

There are also non-profit centers that specialize in understanding, treating, managing, and preventing substance abuse disorders. These non-profit treatment centers are often funded by the state, faith-based organizations, or 12-step groups. Due to their non-profit status, they can claim exemptions for income and property taxes, and they can also apply for grants. As such, they are capable of offering their services and facilities at a much lower price point compared to their for-profit counterparts.

The Importance of Aftercare in Recovery

It is always important to develop a long-term plan for your recovery journey. People in recovery need continual support and care to prevent relapse and help them maintain the strength to continue their recovery journey. Support from your friends and loved ones is vital, as is encouragement from outpatient programs or other types of addiction care.

And no matter what kind of care you need, you can find help from Better Addiction Care.

Call Us to Find an Alcohol Rehab Near You

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, addiction treatment might be the key to turning things around and saving a life. The treatment advisors at Better Addiction Care are here to help you start your journey toward alcoholism recovery.

To get started on your recovery process, simply give us a call! Our team is available to speak with you 24/7, and calls are always free and confidential.

Call (800) 429-7690 to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment.

 

Resources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August.) Heavy Drinking Among U.S. Adults, 2018. CDC. Retrieved June 13, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db374.htm#.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021, April). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. NIAAA. Retrieved June 13, 2022 from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder
  3. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. (n.d.) Alcohol Abuse Statistics. NCDAS. Retrieved June 13, 2022 from https://drugabusestatistics.org/alcohol-abuse-statistics/
  4. Teeters, J. et al. (2017, August 30). “Substance use disorders in military veterans: prevalence and treatment challenges.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. Retrieved June 13, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5587184/#__ffn_sectitle
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022, April 21). Co-Occurring Disorders and Other Health Conditions. SAMHSA. Retrieved June 13, 2022 from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/co-occurring-disorders

 

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