Alcoholism is a national concern that gets overshadowed by other substance abuse problems, most likely because drinking alcohol is not a crime in and of itself. However, the issues that can arise from drinking alcohol such as liver disease, cancer and death are serious and affect millions of people across the country. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism branch, 15.1 million people, about 6.2 percent, over the age of 18 suffer from alcohol abuse disorder in 2015 and about 88,000 people die from drinking annually in the United States. Similarly, a 2017 study published in JAMA Psychiatry said that increases in drinking and alcohol use disorder among subgroups like women, minorities and the economically disadvantaged constitute a public health crisis.
But, quitting cold turkey can be hard. Many people elect to go through a treatment program and transition to group counseling, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, following the initial recovery period. However, there are many support networks and treatment options for those looking to enter a life of sobriety.
Beginning Alcohol Rehab
Starting the recovery process for alcoholism can be one of the hardest parts of the process. Recognizing the problem can be one of the most significant steps in seeking treatment. The National Institutes of Health recommend asking some questions to see if your drinking may be getting in the way of your life. Some of these questions include:
- Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- Do you experience a craving or a strong urge to drink?
- Have you tried to cut down or stop drinking more than once but couldn’t?
- Have you had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks has had much eff of an effect than before?
Answering yes to these, and other questions, may be a sign that you are experiencing alcohol use disorder.
A few things that you or a loved one can do if you are thinking about cutting back or quitting drinking would be to keep track of how much you drink, set goals for yourself and find alternatives.
Keeping track of how much you drink is one simple thing you can do to open your eyes to a potential problem in your life. Setting a goal for how many drinks you will have on a specific night can also be helpful. If you have trouble staying with that goal and not over drinking, you may want to think about how alcohol may be affecting your life. Finding alternatives for drinking could be beneficial if you think you're spending too much time drinking. Spending time doing hobbies or being with people who don’t influence drinking behavior may help before a problem spirals out of control.
Many people experience problems with alcohol abuse and some of these tips may not help or the problem may be too far down the road. If this is the case, as it is with many, treatment is always an option.
“[Alcohol Use Disorder] is a medical diagnosis that ranges from moderate to severe, with the severity based on several criteria. But, briefly, alcohol becomes a problem when it impacts your life in a negative way.”, writes NIAAA Director George Koob. ”If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, it’s time to rethink the role that alcohol plays in your life.”
Research shows that about one third of people who receive treatment have no further symptoms one year later while many others reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.
Getting over the initial nerves of seeking out help for the problem can be a burden, but it is necessary if you or a loved one wishes to get on the right track. For anyone that is considering treatment, talking to a physician or your primary care doctor is an important first step. They can be a good source for referrals and medication treatments. Similarly, they will be able to evaluate your drinking habits and risks more accurately, help craft a treatment plan, look for other health risks related to alcohol and assess if medication is needed.
One of the common types of medications that is used in some alcohol treatment facilities is benzodiazepines. Xanax and Valium are two common types of benzodiazepines that allow an individual to detox from alcohol while ensuring that his or her body isn’t put through shock due to the change from alcohol withdrawals.
Antidepressants such as Zoloft or Prozac are also used at times until the brain begins producing happiness-inducing chemicals on its own again.
Medication is one option that is available for some people struggling with alcoholism but, again, depends on the physician’s recommendation and will not be an option for everyone depending on a patient’s individual situation.
Starting at an alcohol rehab facilities can be a new and frightening experience, however, understanding that the employees are trained and there for your benefit can help process the change. Also, there will likely be a number of other individuals going through similar experiences that you are as they struggle with the early stages of sobriety.
What Happens During Alcohol Rehab
Depending on the facility and your personal situation, alcohol rehab can go a number of different ways. However, most facilities tend to go through three distinct processes: detox, inpatient care, and outpatient care.
Generally the first step in the rehab process is going through a detox. Detoxification deals with the physical aspect of addiction, helping to get through the initial physical signs of alcoholism to get over the withdrawal symptoms that most people suffering from alcohol abuse will go through. While the issue is not just a physical one, before any mental or psychological treatment can begin, the physical process needs to be taken care of so that the patient is not dealing with both withdrawal and counseling at the same time.
Alcohol detoxification can take up to five days and sometimes even a week while the patient experiences the withdrawal symptoms related to their degree of alcohol dependency. Some of these symptoms may include:
During this time, patients are told to relax while their body undergoes the difficult side effects of withdrawal. A detox team of professionals will monitor the patient’s body functions to ensure their safety during the process.
Alcohol detox is not a simple process and should only be done with professional supervision or under strict guidelines and instructions from a professional.
Following the detox, patients will move on to an inpatient, or residential, recovery plan that is personalized for their situation. Depending on the care facility a patient will stay at the facility for 30 to 90 days, although it is sometimes longer.
Similarly, treatment depends on the rehab treatment center you attend. Inpatient care is generally characterized by therapy and group counseling to help individuals struggling from substance use disorders continue their recovery process in a social setting, helping them get prepared for life following inpatient care. Many rehab clinics offer alternative forms of therapy including massage therapies, neurofeedback therapy, yoga and other options. You will be helped by a number of licensed care providers during this time who are trained to help you through a difficult recovery process.
One-on-one therapy provides time for therapists and counselors to examine each individual patient to learn more about the personal care they will need and the best way to go about that.
It allows the therapist and patient to build a trust and rapport with one another. Individual therapy can help the patient by looking into personality traits, past experiences and current behaviors that may be impeding or inhibiting a patient’s ability to fully break free from the struggle of addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one type of individualized counseling that can help to prevent relapses. It asks the patient to address specific triggers that may lead to substance abuse. It is a very personal session that may be painful but will be helpful in developing coping strategies.
Group Therapy has patients convene in a group setting with one or more therapists or counselors present to speak about the recovery process. There are a number of different types of group therapy including the 12-Step process or SMART Recovery and other broader topics can include things such as the nature of addiction and family dynamics. Because patients are going through a similar experience it allows them to open up about their problems and past, sharing stories or points-of-view that other patients can relate to.
Many treatment centers recognize the influence and importance that family can have over an individual. Genetics or a dysfunctional family setting may be an instigator for the problem many patients face. Facing and resolving these issues in a family therapy setting can be an important step in the recovery process and can help patients get past problems that may be contributing to their addiction.
Neurofeedback training is one type of therapy that is not available at all rehabilitation facilities but can be helpful for a patient’s journey. This type of treatment allows clinicians to look at the neurological activities and brain waves and gather information on those who are struggling with addiction. It helps professionals provide necessary instruction for how to help guide their patients along during inpatient care
Following the 24-hour supervision of inpatient care and constant presence of trained personnel, outpatient care sends the individuals back to their home or back to their loved ones to continue the path of recovery in a more independent setting. Outpatient care costs less money than inpatient treatment but takes longer. Outpatient care takes about 10 weeks but can vary depending on personal situations. Specific outpatient care depends on what recovery center the patient is going to for treatment. Outpatient care may continue some features of the inpatient care such as individual and family therapy, but these will occur less frequently as the patient now tries to get adjusted back to regular living.
Life After Rehabilitation
After graduating from outpatient treatment, the first step in the recovery process is finished; however, sobriety is a lifelong battle and the struggle will continue throughout the patient’s lifetime. Relapse is always a risk for those who have looked for alcohol treatment. Luckily, there are programs and steps people can take and participate in in order to make their journey easier.
There are a number of support groups that patients flock to after the rehab process. One of the most well known is Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization’s popularity allows them to have a presence around the United States and in many other countries.
Focusing on sobriety milestones helps individuals keep track of the progress that they have worked hard for. Some milestones include 30 days, three months, six months and one year of sobriety with more down the line.
After experiencing many successful years of sobriety, some people choose to become a sponsor to help others who are beginning the process. A sponsor does everything possible to help others get and stay sober. Sponsors help give newcomers a sense of mentorship for those who need help and may struggle down the road.
If you believe your loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse, our facilities at Landmark. Our alcohol treatment centers have various programs designed to move our patients along on the road to recovery. Along with our programs, we also have blog content that can help with motivation and education about the sobriety. With Landmark Recovery's alcohol rehab, we can help you or a loved one get back to living a healthy lifestyle.