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Treatment for Alcoholism


Alcoholism is a disabling addictive disorder characterized by compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol despite its negative effects on the drinker’s health, relationships, and social standing. Alcoholism is medically defined as a treatable disease. According to the DSM-IV, an alcohol dependence diagnosis is: “...maladaptive alcohol use with clinically significant impairment as manifested by at least three of the following within any one-year period: tolerance; withdrawal; taken in greater amounts or over longer time course than intended; desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use; great deal of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from use; social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced; continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological sequelae”. Long-term alcohol abuse produces physiological changes in the brain such as tolerance and physical dependence, which triggers alcohol withdrawal syndrome when the drinker discontinues alcohol consumption. Alcoholism treatment can include detoxification and withdrawal, learning skills and establishing a treatment plan, psychological counseling, continuing support, treatment for psychological problems, and medical treatment for other conditions.

For those chemically dependent on alcohol, detoxification may be necessary, depending on the individual’s history of alcohol intake. Alcohol detoxification is the abrupt cessation of alcohol intake. As part of the detoxification process, medications may be prescribed to prevent medical complications and relieve withdrawal symptoms. Individuals who are only at risk of mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms can be detoxified as outpatients. Detoxification does not actually treat alcoholism, and it is necessary to follow-up detox with an appropriate treatment program for alcohol dependence or abuse in order to reduce the risk of relapse.

There are a number of alcohol treatment programs available. Most offer a variety of services, but some programs specialize. Types of alcohol treatment programs include inpatient or residential alcohol treatment, where patients are kept under surveillance and taught new coping mechanisms to adopt to new situations and prevent relapse. In residential treatment, patients are strictly supervised by trained medical professionals. Outpatient alcohol treatment is for patients will less severe alcohol addiction or for those coming out of an inpatient facility needing more care. Outpatient does not require overnight stays and usually includes alcohol education, individual and group counseling, family support, case management, and applying the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. Christian alcohol treatment is for patients participating in a christian or faith based program offers additional benefits and allows them to draw strength from their faith. Adolescent alcohol treatment is offered to young alcoholics between the ages of 13 to 18. These programs are tailored to adolescents; they differ from adults in their unique developmental issues, differences in their values and belief systems, and environmental considerations, such as peer pressure.

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