The Most Successful Treatments For Alcoholism
Medically reviewed byDavid Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC
February 20, 2019
Individuals struggling with alcohol addiction have a variety of options when it comes to recovery. There are plenty of programs offered allowing individuals to choose the one that is best suited to their needs.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) “16.3 million adults ages 18 and older (6.8 percent of this age group) had an AUD in 2014.” Of this, only “about 1.5 million adults received treatment for an AUD at a specialized facility.” This number is unfortunately very low. Today, there exists treatment, programs, and approaches that are tailored to help a wide variety of people get the help that they need to battle their struggles with alcohol and obtain sobriety. Here, we outline those that have proven to be most successful.
In certain circumstances, a person may benefit from entering into a treatment program. These programs are offered one of two ways:
Outpatient Treatment: This may be beneficial for those that are unable to leave the demands or commitments of their life behind. In this way, after they receive treatment, they are able to return home and to any obligations they may have. During treatment, they receive the benefit of support groups, education, and therapy while being able to enjoy the privacy and support that returning to their own home offers.
Inpatient Treatment: Residential programs typically last a minimum of 28 days, though many last longer. The time varies depending on the level of treatment that you require. Inpatient programs can assist with detox and withdrawal and are often successful for those who faltered within an outpatient treatment setting. A residential facility offers a structured schedule that offers safety, education, support, and therapy along with the supervision of a highly-trained staff.
Facilities vary in their format and approach. Today, there are a wide variety of programs available that are designed to complement the unique facets of your personality and life. For this reason it is important to take your time to research your options before deciding which treatment program is best for you.
Within each program, certain approaches will be utilized to help you gain and maintain your sobriety. The following methods and practices may be used within a treatment program, independently, or in conjunction with one or more of the other approaches for recovery.
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Mutual-Help Groups (MHGs)
NIAAA defines a MHG as “groups of two or more people who share a problem and come together to provide problem-specific help and support to one another.” These groups offer a person struggling with an addiction a venue by which to be honest, while feeling accepted and supported.
These can vary in the group of people that they reach out to—some like Women for Sobriety may be tailored to certain demographics of people. The format may also vary, some are 12-step modules—with perhaps the most well-known example of this being Alcoholic’s Anonymous—while others, like SMART Recovery, follow a cognitive behavioral approach. Some people favor these models for the following reasons:
- Level of responsiveness from peers
- Cost (typically MHGs are free)
Treatment For Co-Occurring Disorders
Oftentimes, alcoholism doesn’t stand alone. For many people it is accompanied by a co-occurring disorder or health concern. The accompanying issue may be related to either their mental or physical health. Presence of either of these factors may precipitate the alcohol use or result because of it, and in both cases it may further aggravate it.
An article published in the journal Biological Psychiatry spoke of a study that pursued this issue. It stated that of the individuals surveyed for the US National Comorbidity Survey “42.7% of respondents with an alcohol-drug disorder also had a mental disorder.” These mental disorders may include depression, anxiety, or PTSD, to name a few.
As you seek sobriety, it is imperative that you also seek to treat and alleviate these conditions as their presence can hinder your pursuit of sobriety or your recovery. You should integrate these situations and concerns into the conversations with your medical or treatment support team in order to help them help you in developing a planned approach that will best serve your needs as you pursue your recovery.
Treatment may occur in several ways, depending on how you’ve chosen to receive care. You may have several trained professionals working with you, or you may have only one. Either way, it is in your best interest to divulge any and all factors that pertain to your health concerns and addiction.
Therapy can be an important tool for helping a person to reflect on the behaviors, expectations, and circumstances that their alcohol use derives itself from. It may be offered in an individual, family, or group setting and also integrated within inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs. According to NIAAA, behavioral therapies may employ the following techniques to help a person work towards and maintain their sobriety.
- Enhancing social support
- Working with the patient to develop goals and to provide ideas for obtaining those goals
- Self-monitoring of drinking
- Analyzing drinking situations
- Reviewing ways to cope with the triggers that lead to drinking
- Learning alternative coping skills
- Modeling and rewarding good behavior
In addition to therapy that is aimed at the individual, NIAAA speaks of couples and family therapies as a means to:
- Improve relationship factors
- Improve communication
- Avoid conflicts, and
- Learn to solve problems that might lead to drinking
Family therapy may include Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). An excerpt from an article published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment defines CRAFT as “a unilateral family treatment approach specifically designed to aid family members or concerned significant others (CSOs) in modifying the behavior of initially unmotivated adult drug and alcohol abusers and engaging them in treatment.” This support can be very successful in aiding individuals with alcoholism as it helps their loved ones become more thoroughly well-versed in ways that allow them to take an active role in the treatment process.
Medically-Assisted Treatment or Therapy (MAT) is becoming increasingly touted as one of the best ways to treat alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Instead of employing a singular treatment or method, this approach integrates the use of pharmaceuticals with therapy. The therapy or counseling may be delivered by numerous techniques and helps to ensure that you are not only being supported on a physiological level, but also on a physical, mental, and emotional one.
Medications Used To Treat Alcoholism
For some, the thought of utilizing a substance during the treatment of an addiction seems counterproductive; however, current research heavily suggests that using a medication to support your pursuit of sobriety can greatly enhance your chances of success. What follows are the medications that are most commonly prescribed to treat alcoholism.
Naltrexone: This medication is an opioid antagonist. SAMHSA explains its function as “reduces both the rewarding effects of alcohol and craving for it.” This medication may be useful in preventing the occurrence of relapse in certain individuals. It does require a measure of commitment as a person in typical circumstances takes the medication on a daily basis. In order to provide continuing treatment for those who may struggle with compliance, the FDA has approved Vivitrol, which is an injection administered monthly that delivers naltrexone in an extended release.
Acamprosate: This medication helps to both relieve the symptoms of withdrawal and support people with alcohol dependence in retaining their abstinence. It is best used in conjunction with social support or therapy and the majority of studies that illustrate its effectiveness are those that have paired it with the aforementioned supportive measures.
It may be more suitable and have better results in those who have, according to NIDA “severe dependence.” It is also a preferable treatment for certain people with this level of dependence as studies show that it does not foster negative side effects on the liver, meaning that it can be used on individuals who may suffer liver disease or other issues caused by their drinking.
Disulfiram: This medication’s main purpose is to inhibit a person from drinking by creating a very unpleasant reaction that occurs when the consumption of alcohol reacts with it. The success of this medication may again be reduced by the person’s adherence to taking it on a regular basis. NIDA suggests that this approach is effective for those who “are highly motivated” or for those who need it “episodically for high-risk situations, such as social occasions where alcohol is present.” It does carry more notable side effects than some of the other treatments.
Topiramate: Though not yet FDA approved for alcohol addiction, it is used as NIDA suggests off-label for this purpose after detox and withdrawal to support a person’s pursuit of abstinence. Scientists are still working out exactly why this medicine works in this capacity for use, but a study published by BMC Psychiatry noted that for those who used topiramate during treatment showed, “a marked improvement in depressive, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive drinking symptoms,” with greater success with both inpatient treatment and relapse rates.
These medications may either be used alone or in a combination with therapy. In the case of a concurrent mental health condition, certain other medications may be administered, such as those used to treat anxiety or depression. In all instances, you should not take a medication unless it was prescribed by a licensed individual that is keenly aware of your circumstances and has a knowledge of your health, medical, and addiction history.
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It is important to remember that every person facing an addiction is unique. For this reason it is imperative that you seek the care and support of individuals who take the time to understand you and the demands that are specific to your life. This will ensure that you receive the care that is best for you. Please contact us today at RehabCenter.net so that we might help you find the care you deserve.