Tips for Finding Help for an Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorders are well known for their damaging effects on a person’s health and overall well-being. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, as many as 18 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder in any given year.
For many people, finding help for an alcohol use disorder becomes the only way to break free of alcohol’s addictive effects. While alcohol affects the brain and body in the same way no matter the person, each person nonetheless has their own individual sets of treatment needs.
Fortunately, the alcohol addiction treatment field has decades of research and experience from which a wide range of treatment options has been made available. Understanding your individual treatment needs becomes key to finding the right type of help for you.
Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcohol Addiction
Both alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction expose drinkers to the damaging effects of alcohol in their lives. Poor work performance, legal problems and relationships conflicts can develop with either scenario. The two behaviors differ in that a person can abuse alcohol without necessarily being addicted to it.
Whenever drinking brings about negative consequences on a frequent basis, an alcohol use disorder is at work. In effect, long-term alcohol abuse behaviors place drinkers at increased risk of becoming addicted. Ultimately, an inability to control or manage drinking behavior becomes the dividing line between abuse and addiction.
Detox Treatment Needs
A person’s detox treatment needs depend on his or her ability to stop drinking at will. Someone who abuses alcohol may be able to detox on his or her own under the right conditions. Someone addicted to alcohol will likely require professional treatment help to make it through this initial stage.
Alcohol use disorders take root in the brain as alcohol’s cumulative effects weaken overall brain function. The more a person drinks and the more often a person drinks the more dependent the brain becomes on alcohol’s effects.
Ongoing Treatment Needs
While detox is a necessary first step, someone battling an alcohol use disorder will require ongoing treatment to maintain abstinence for any length of time. The more severe the drinking problem the more structured the treatment program should be.
Mild to moderate drinkers may only require outpatient treatment to stay on track. Heavy drinkers and/or alcoholics will likely require a residential treatment program.
For someone with a long history of alcohol use disorder, withdrawal effects and overwhelming cravings for alcohol can persist long after a person stops drinking. Medication therapies work to reduce withdrawal and cravings effects by supporting damaged brain functions. Buprenorphine, Vivitrol, Antabuse and Campral are just a few of the treatment medications available.
Many people turn to alcohol as a way to relax and/or escape from everyday pressures. Over time, alcohol becomes a means for coping with daily life. This process can quickly turn into a lifestyle that works to reinforce alcohol’s role in a person’s life.
For these reasons, most people in treatment for alcohol use disorder require some form of long-term treatment to keep them grounded in the recovery process. Aftercare supports, such as 12-Step support group meetings and individual psychotherapy can help those in recovering develop and maintain drug-free lifestyles.