In 2014, 22.5 million people needed treatment for substance abuse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Of this number, only 4.2 million actually sought out treatment help. People in need of treatment of alcohol addiction account for the largest number of those who go treated.
Different people enter rehab at different points along the addiction process. Personal circumstances and individual beliefs may also vary. Methods of treatment of alcohol addiction attempt to work with the various needs different people have in recovery.
Common methods of treatment of alcohol addiction address the alcoholic’s detox needs, the psychological effects of alcohol addiction as well as providing long-term, aftercare supports.
Alcohol’s effects on the brain leave most chronic drinkers unable to stop drinking at will. Attempts to reduce or stop drinking are typically met with uncomfortable withdrawal effects that hamper a person’s ability to stay the course.
Detox treatment of alcohol addiction uses medication therapies to help ease a person through the detox process. Medications like methadone work to reduce withdrawal effects and enable recovering alcoholics to take an active role in the treatment process. Antabuse, another treatment medication, causes a negative physical reaction should a person relapse or take a drink.
Long-time drinkers develop both a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Even in cases where the body is no longer dependent on alcohol’s effects, the “mental” desire or urge to drink remains. For this reason, treatment of alcohol addiction requires a psychological as well as a medical treatment component.
Psychological treatment of alcohol addiction entails individual psychotherapy to help a person work through the underlying motivations for alcohol addiction. Group therapy and support group work also help recovering alcoholics develop healthy interpersonal skills and relationships.
The 12-Step support group method has been in existence since the 1930s. As a long-term treatment approach, Alcoholics’ Anonymous or AA was the very first treatment of alcohol addiction program. Twelve-Step methods proved so effective that modifications of the original AA model now exist for narcotics addictions, food addictions and gambling addictions among others.
Twelve-Step methods base the treatment process on a series of steps designed to help recovering alcoholics work through different stages of the recovery process. Most detox programs, outpatient programs and aftercare programs incorporate the 12-Step method within their treatment models.
Alternative Treatment Methods
Alternative treatment methods take a non-12-Step approach to helping recovering alcoholics maintain abstinence. As traditional 12-Step methods place a heavy emphasis on Christian-based values, alternative methods tend to take a non-religious approach within the treatment process. Alternative methods of treatment of alcohol addiction include:
- SMART Recovery
- Women for Sobriety
- Rational Recovery
Rather than follow a set 12-Step structure, these programs use logic-based approaches to dealing with the challenges people face in recovery.
As with any addiction, recovery requires a person to apply the principles learned in treatment within their daily lives. For long-term purposes, aftercare supports, such as ongoing psychotherapy and support group work enable recovering alcoholics to be part of a support network. Aftercare supports provide the type of guidance and support needed to maintain abstinence on a long-term basis.