Alcoholism affects millions of adults in the United States, where people of all ages can easily access alcohol. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 14.5 million people aged 12 years and older struggle with alcoholism in the U.S.
When left untreated, alcohol abuse can spiral out of control and cause serious health or employment problems. Fortunately, alcohol addiction treatment is widely available to those who need help overcoming alcoholism and changing their lives for the better.
Here’s more about alcoholism, how this condition is treated, and how our team at Haven New England can help people receive safe, effective alcohol addiction treatment.
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, is a chronic disease characterized by physical dependence and psychological addiction to alcohol. This condition usually develops after a long period of regular, heavy alcohol use and after a person has developed a tolerance.
Alcoholism generally begins with alcohol misuse, which is defined as drinking in a way that causes harm to the person and those around them. Binge drinking is a form of alcohol misuse, as is drinking during pregnancy or drinking while under the legal drinking age.
Many people who suffer from alcohol addiction need professional treatment to recover from this disease and achieve long-term recovery safely. Without professional treatment, these individuals face a high risk of relapse, complications from alcohol withdrawal, and life hardships, including financial losses, legal trouble, and broken relationships.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
People with alcoholism often prioritize alcohol use above all other important obligations and responsibilities. For instance, they may neglect family, miss work, and stop attending social events.
Other signs of alcohol addiction include:
- Drinking for a longer period than intended
- Difficulty with cutting down or stopping drinking
- Engaging in risky behaviors while drinking or after drinking
- Drinking higher amounts of alcohol to feel the effects
- Continuing to drink despite knowing alcohol use is causing health problems
- Devoting more time to drinking than to long-held hobbies and interests
- Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off
- Spending more time alone or with new friends who drink
- Finding excuses to drink regularly
- Sudden mood swings and irritability
- Slurred speech
- Poor balance and coordination
- Blackouts and memory loss after periods of drinking
Health Risks Associated With Alcohol Addiction
Over time, alcohol addiction can lead to several serious health conditions, many of which may require years of intensive treatment and many of which can lead to death.
Common health risks associated with alcoholism include liver disease, cirrhosis, dementia, mental health disorders, weakened immunity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The NIH reports that of the 85,688 liver disease deaths in the U.S. in 2019, more than 43% involved alcohol. Furthermore, 49.5% of all cirrhosis deaths that occurred in 2015 were also alcohol-related.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
People with alcoholism who abruptly stop drinking experience a set of symptoms known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Symptoms usually begin within eight hours after the last drink, peak between 24 and 72 hours, and may last for several days or weeks.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Shaking and tremors
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings and irritability
- Rapid heart rate
Of the people who experience alcohol withdrawal, 3% to 5% experience a severe form of withdrawal called delirium tremens, reports the National Library of Medicine. Delirium tremens are a medical emergency and may lead to death when not treated.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Seizures, including grand mal seizures
Alcohol detox is the first stage of treatment for alcoholism and helps patients safely withdraw from alcohol while closely monitored by our trained and highly experienced nurses and doctors. Alcohol detox takes place in our comfortable residential environment where patients can relax and recover for the duration of withdrawal. We provide our patients with medications that reduce symptoms — including seizures — and with highly nutritious meals that strengthen the immune system and restore nutrients lost from heavy alcohol use.
According to the World Health Organization, alcohol withdrawal and detox may last between 2 and 10 days. We encourage our patients to drink plenty of water during detox to stay hydrated and to take vitamin supplements, including vitamin B1, to prevent cognitive problems. We may use medications including diazepam to treat specific symptoms, especially those with moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome who are at risk for experiencing seizures.
Behavioral Therapy for Alcohol Addiction
After recovering from acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, many patients begin receiving behavioral therapy in one of our alcohol rehab programs. Behavioral therapy focuses on reprogramming patients to live healthier, more productive lives without the need for drugs or alcohol.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are two of the most common behavioral therapies used in alcoholism treatment. CBT helps patients change harmful behaviors and attitudes contributing to their addiction, while DBT is typically used to reduce self-harm behaviors and treat co-occurring mood disorders. For instance, DBT is effective at treating borderline personality disorder, which is a mental health disorder commonly diagnosed in those with alcohol addiction.
Behavioral therapy includes individual and group sessions and can be customized for each patient based on the unique root causes of their alcohol addiction. Behavioral therapy may also include 12-step peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Levels of Care
At Haven New England, we offer several levels of care to allow patients to transition from one program to the next based on their recovery progress, motivation to stay sober, and whether they also have families and careers to manage.
Residential care is the highest level of care and allows patients to live at our treatment facility as they complete detox and receive behavioral therapy. Our residential programs can last from 30 to 120 days and are ideal for patients who need a safe environment away from daily stressors, negative influences, and access to alcohol. Our treatment facility provides patients with a variety of amenities and healthy meals and helps them develop new productive daily routines.
After completing their residential programs, many of our patients transition to a lower level of care in an outpatient setting. Outpatient treatment includes partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), which offer many of the same services as residential care, but on a less frequent basis so patients can manage outside responsibilities related to work, school, and family.
Our outpatient programs are often ideal for patients who have completed alcohol detox and do not need 24-hour monitoring and supervision. Outpatient care is also ideal for those highly motivated to stay sober and ready to resume their lives outside of a residential treatment setting.
Alcoholism Treatment at Haven New England
Alcohol detox symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual’s level of alcohol dependence. Common symptoms include tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headaches, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Severe symptoms like seizures, delirium tremens, and high blood pressure may also occur during detox. It is important to seek medical supervision during detox as withdrawal from alcohol can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
If you need help fighting and recovering from alcoholism, contact Haven New England at (844) 933-4145 to learn more about your available treatment options. Our medical staff will work closely with you to ensure you experience a safe, comfortable detox and develop a customized treatment plan that helps you achieve long-term recovery from addiction.
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