Alcohol Rehabilitation


Alcohol addiction is widespread with the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reporting that 700,000 are treated for the problem daily. Though more and more for the problem every day, the effectiveness of treatment is not entirely understood.  Many of the current techniques for alcohol addiction were developed from intuition or clinical experience, not nationwide validation.  Recent studies from the NIAA have been released revealing the effectiveness of the various methods of treatment used in achieving and maintaining abstinence.

It has been shown through many successful and effective problems that alcohol rehabilitation is two tiered. The first step is getting the person to stop drinking alcohol and handling the acute withdrawal symptoms associated with use. The second step is to fully rehabilitate the individual to stop future alcohol cravings and give him life skills education so that alcohol use does not creep back into daily life decisions.

Types of Alcohol Rehab Programs

There are many types of alcohol rehab programs set up for those addicted. Perhaps the oldest is the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program that was set up in the 1930’s and was based on a book that included the 12 steps of recovery. Since then a variety of other types of programs as well as traditional 12 step and AA options have been set up to help alcoholics. Some of those include:

Self-Help Programs

Self-help groups are some of the most common alcohol treatment programs out there.  One of the most well-known programs is Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as AA.  This program involves twelve steps or milestones for alcoholics to achieve on the path to full sobriety.  AA may be used alone, or before, during or after professional treatment.

Studies show that AA is very effective when combined with professional treatment and inpatient treatment.  Participants of the twelve-step program reached much higher levels of long-term abstinence and employment than other programs.  Experts believe that self-help programs like AA act to replace social networks of drinking friends, and to provide support and motivation to cope with cravings and other difficult parts of recovery.

Brief Interventions

Brief intervention is the term for counseling from primary care physicians or nursing staff in a few standard office visits (five or less).  The counseling generally involves clinical information on the consequences of alcohol consumption, as well as advice on strategies for abstinence.  Such interventions are typically used for those at risk of alcoholism as a means to decrease alcohol consumption.  Brief interventions are successful but are not usually recommended for alcoholics, as they should enter professional treatment in order to reach the objective of complete abstinence.

Brief intervention can also be used outside a standard doctor’s office.  Patients admitted to the emergency room for alcohol-related trauma, illness and injuries are very receptive to brief interventions.  Statistics show that those who receive advice on alcoholism before being discharged have a much lower risk of getting involved in alcohol-related problems again.

Couples Therapy

Studies show that the participation of a non-alcoholic partner in treatment is very effective in motivating someone struggling with alcohol addiction.  It also vastly increases the chances of continued abstinence.  There are a number of effective programs which address alcoholism as well as marriage.  Such programs strengthen the marital relationship through communication exercises, conflict evaluation and other shared activities.

Medication Therapy

For years, medication has been used to treat alcoholism in the hopes that it will block alcohol-brain interactions that might cause addiction.  For example, the drug naltrexone (ReVia) has been used since 1995 in the treatment of recovering alcoholics.  However, more rigorous studies have shown recently that naltrexone has a high rate of side effects and does not prove very effective.  Other medication is slightly more effective, but only with certain patients.  Further studies are required to determine which patients would be most likely to benefit from such medication.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) involves a close relationship between therapist and patient to explore the benefits of abstinence, review treatment options, and design a treatment program.  The basic premise of MET is that the responsibility and ability to change lie within the patient.  This method of treatment has proven more effective in overcoming patients’ resistance to professional treatment.

Clinical Studies

While some treatment programs such as twelve-step self-help groups have been around for a long time, other programs are relatively new.  This does not mean they are any less effective, however.  With today’s more rigorous clinical studies, it is easier to see with precision which programs are most effective in the treatment of alcoholism.

Effectively Treating Alcoholism

As previously stated there are several components to successful recovery with alcohol rehabilitation. They include:

  1. Handling the acute withdrawal symptoms with the goal of starting treatment without any type of prescription or substitute drugs.
  2. Using successful and natural detox to stop alcohol cravings.
  3. Giving an alcohol user the skills to successfully face problems, use good communication and control in handling issues alcohol free.
  4. Allowing an alcoholic to take a look at his associates.
  5. Giving him or her the tools to be able to face and take responsibility for past transgressions.
  6. Allowing an alcohol user to take steps to improve his condition in life.
  7. Giving him or her a new moral code to live by that does not include excessive alcohol use.

Alcohol recovery, like drug recovery is entirely possible with the right treatment. The program must also be long term (lasting 3 months or more) to really achieve a successful result.