Treatment for Alcoholism
Alcoholism is treatable, and every individual is capable of a full and lasting recovery if he or she is ready to seek and accept the right help.
Contrary to popular belief, treatment of alcoholism — as with other substance addictions — is not accomplished simply by the absence of alcohol use. Rather, the underlying biological, physical, mental, social causes and effects of the addiction must be addressed. These considerations are the basis of the biopsychosocial approach to addiction treatment, which is the treatment approach that is overwhelmingly supported by experience and research evidence.
(1) Intake Assessment
The assessment phase of addiction treatment is crucial. People with alcoholism are often by nature secretive about their drinking, often to the point of outright denial. A level of trust is required between the individual and the therapist so that the extent of alcohol use, other substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders can be identified.
(2) Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Treatment of alcoholism should include treatment of comorbid mental health disorders, or treatment is less likely to succeed. Likewise, people with mental health disorders should have substance use disorders identified and treated, or treatment will be less likely to succeed.
Following assessment, people with chronic alcohol use pass through the process of ridding their body of alcohol and its toxic metabolites, a process known as detoxification (detox). As the body clears these substances, the unpleasant experience of withdrawal occurs. It may surprise some people to know that of all the drugs of abuse, alcohol is by far the most dangerous one to withdraw from; it can even be life-threatening. By participating in a medical detox program, individuals can pass through the withdrawal period safely, with the guidance of medical professionals.
(4) Transition to Further Treatment
The next phase of treatment is usually inpatient, or residential treatment, which may be followed by partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programming. During rehab is when the issues that underlie the alcohol addiction are addressed. Rehab for alcohol addiction is a multidisciplinary effort, and is designed to be comprehensive, including:
There are different types of rehab programs available, including:
- Inpatient (residential)
- Outpatient (community-based)
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP): mid-way between inpatient and outpatient
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)
- Long-term residential: this involves extended treatment (usually 3-12 months) using the therapeutic community treatment approach.
(5) Aftercare Planning
An important part of rehab is planning for what happens after discharge. Recovery from alcoholism requires ongoing effort to prevent the return of the conditions that caused the alcohol use, and to prevent relapse. Aftercare planning involves ensuring that these ongoing supports are in place.