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Alternative Alcohol Abuse Treatment—You Have Options


Alternative Alcohol Abuse Treatment—You Have Options

With nearly 15 million people in the U.S. dealing with alcohol use disorders (AUD), it is clear that there is a tremendous need for effective treatments. But just as no two people are exactly alike, no two people suffering from AUD will take the exact same path to recovery. With different personalities, unique histories, and a variety of personal needs, it is easy to see why one type of therapy might not work for everyone. For this reason, most treatment centers have adopted a range of therapeutic interventions to help patients overcome their alcohol addiction and start on the path to recovery.

From the treatment setting to the length of stay to the center’s philosophy, there is wide variation in the therapeutic alternatives available. With complications like post-traumatic stress and the frequency of co-occurring conditions such as anxiety and bipolar disorder, treatments for alcohol abuse must be customized for each individual to optimize the chances of success. Fortunately, there are a variety of alternative alcohol abuse treatment options available—the key is finding the right sequence for you.  

What to Expect From Typical Treatments for Alcohol Abuse 

The typical course of treatment for alcohol use disorders begins with a medically-supervised period of detoxification. Detox takes place over several days when, without additional drinking, alcohol is slowly and completely cleared from the body. Supervision is necessary because withdrawal from alcohol may bring serious and even life-threatening symptoms that could include seizures, high blood pressure, and delirium tremens. These uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms are possible with short or long-term alcohol abuse. They occur as the body adjusts to the absence of a substance it has come to depend on.

Once the physical addiction is mitigated through detox stabilization, the next phase of treatment will focus on addressing the emotional issues that led you to abuse alcohol. This phase may involve inpatient treatment, outpatient therapy, or a combination of the two. Since AUD is a chronic, relapsing disorder, this phase is critically important.

Building emotional support is generally accomplished through individual and group counseling, along with evidence-based therapies. Participation in group therapy helps to build a strong, mutual support system and individual therapies give us tools and strategies to employ when the situation warrants. They also help us to reframe our thinking patterns as we retrain our brains. Healthy, positive behaviors and thought processes can be learned, and they can replace the unhealthy patterns that kept us mired in addiction.

Since alcohol use disorder is a chronic health problem, the final phase of your treatment protocol will involve making long-term plans for aftercare. This will include shoring up your family support system as well as ensuring that you have adequate sober living options. It will also include provisions for emotional support in the form of ongoing counseling, in addition to a 12-step or alternative mutual support group.

Exploring Alternative Alcohol Abuse Treatments

Though most treatment centers have aspects in common, there are also many options available to customize your AUD treatment. Ideally, you will be involved in shared decision-making with your health care practitioner when it comes to making these decisions and managing your recovery. For this reason, it is essential that you are informed about the most effective evidence-based therapies and alternative alcohol abuse treatments available.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Many people benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy, a goal-oriented method used by psychologists and therapists to help patients recognize how thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes influence their behavior. This can be especially helpful in the treatment of people for whom alcohol abuse has become a maladaptive coping mechanism. Specific treatments that fall under the CBT umbrella include motivational interventions, contingency management, and relapse prevention. 

CBT can help us overcome irrational thoughts, recognize negative emotions, and apply appropriate coping skills. This interactive therapy involves practicing strategies that put us in control of our behavior as we learn to manage our emotional responses. It requires active participation and practiced application to achieve success.

Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioral therapy is another evidence-based treatment used in alcohol abuse rehab. DBT has been found to benefit those who are suicidal or those suffering from co-occurring borderline personality or bipolar disorder. It may also be beneficial for those who are having trouble participating in residential treatment. Based on the scientific method, this treatment approach is flexible and adaptive, making it a good choice for patients with multiple diagnoses.

DBT is focused on the need to embrace the seemingly opposing forces of change and acceptance. This behavioral therapy takes a hierarchical approach to patients’ problems, helping them target life-threatening behaviors first before moving on to those that interfere with therapy, then those that affect quality of life. DBT helps patients develop the skills they need to live a substance-free life as they build distress tolerance skills and learn to regulate their emotions. These basics help to bolster self-confidence and empower an individual to overcome addiction. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment can be a very effective therapy for alcohol abuse disorder, beginning with the detox stage. This medically-supervised protocol applies pharmaceuticals judiciously to mitigate symptoms, increase retention in treatment, and prevent relapse. Though some fear that MAT trades dependence on one substance for dependence on another, it can substantially improve the chances of successful sobriety while preventing the dangerous consequences of alcohol abuse. In other words, MAT leverages the use of prescribed medication to improve quality of life and ability to function, as it replaces the practice of self-medicating with alcohol.

Several drugs may be useful for this application. Disulfiram serves as a deterrent to alcohol use when taken daily because it causes an uncomfortable physical reaction if alcohol is consumed. Naltrexone blocks the rewarding effects of alcohol consumption as well as eliminates cravings. Acamprosate helps reduce the desire to drink by addressing the changes to the brain caused by long-term alcohol use. Each of these medications supports AUD recovery when implemented as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Finding Alternative Alcohol Abuse Treatments

When it comes to selecting the most effective treatment for you, it really comes down to finding the right treatment center. If you have tried alcohol rehab programs in the past or are at all concerned about the appropriateness of specific protocols for your recovery, look for a treatment center that offers not one prescribed path but instead a continuum of treatment options.

A center with comprehensive treatment options will work with you to determine your specific strengths and weaknesses before helping you to select the most appropriate recovery path. They can help you to understand whether supervised or medically-assisted detox is in your best interest, then assist you in choosing the most beneficial course of behavioral therapies to aid in your recovery. Finding an appropriate partner program is the best way to ensure that you have the options to make a lasting difference in your recovery.

If you have previously attempted treatment for alcoholism and suffered a relapse, or you are looking for alternative alcohol abuse treatments, New Choices Treatment Centers can help. Contact our addiction specialists to chat online or by phone at (726) 888-7003 to hear about our treatment options.