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Alcoholism Cure

Alcoholism is a chronic disease than can be managed successfully. How? A detailed guide here.

8
minute read

ARTICLE SUMMARY:Technically, there is no cure for alcoholism. However,it can be managed successfully when treated as a chronic disease. Learn more about medications, relapse prevention, and treatment strategies here.


TABLE OF CONTENTS:


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The Alcoholism Cure Rate

About 16 million people in the United States have an alcohol use disorder. However, less than 10% of them receive any type of treatment. [1]But, have you ever wondered about the success rate of this treatment?

Research has shown that only one-third of people who are treated for alcoholism have no further symptoms 1 year later, while many others claim that they reduced their drinking. [2]

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The first reason for this it that alcoholism is a relapsing disease. As a chronic, relapsing disease, alcoholism is a condition where chances for relapsing are enormous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of people diagnosed with addiction may relapse after treatment. [3]

Second, there are no biological signs that can be measured to determine whether an individual is cured, or not. However, complete abstinence can to long term benefits. So, if a cure for alcoholism means reaching and maintaining sobriety…that cure is possible.

Indeed, many people with chronic diseases live normal, healthy lives by managing their diseases. So, even though there is no proven “cure” for alcoholism, and no guarantee against relapse, you can live alcohol-free life by developing a sober lifestyle.


Alcoholism is and should be treated as a medical condition.


Treating Alcoholism as a Chronic Disease

Alcoholism is a complex disease. This is because alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease that causes changes in how the brain functions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction, including alcoholism, as:

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“A chronic disease characterized by substance seeking and use that is compulsive or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.” [4]

However, scientists and addiction specialists have only recently started to see alcoholism as a brain disease. The new perspective of alcohol addiction as a chronic, relapsing condition has prompted new evidence-based treatments. [5]

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Why?

Mainly, drinking alcohol hijacks the brain by changing its functions. The brain of the person who drinks heavily changes over time. Chronic drinking makes self-control and the ability to resist craving very difficult.

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Further, alcohol affects the reward circuit in the brain by releasing dopamine. This part of the brain controls the ability to feel pleasure, and motivates the person to repeat the action that cause pleasure.

In sum, viewing alcohol as a psychoactive drug that causes long-term changes in brain function helps us develop effective treatments. Alcoholism is NOT a moral issue. It is a medical one. And, as such, it can be treated medically.


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Treating Alcoholism with Medication

There are several medications that have been proven useful in treating alcohol dependence, withdrawal, and craving. Some of the most commonly used medications include the following.

Acamprosate
This medication helps relieve cravings for alcohol by helping the brain function normally. It can help prevent relapse and is often prescribed in early addiction treatment.

Baclofen
This drug reduces severe symptoms of withdrawal such as tremors and seizure.

Barbiturates
Therapy with barbiturates has now been more or less replaced with benzodiazepine treatment. This can be especially helpful during withdrawal in order to slow down the central nervous system.

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Beta blockers
These medications are used to manage high blood pressure and rapid heart rate that occur in alcohol-dependent drinkers.

Benzodiazepines
Therapy with benzos in one of the most common used therapy for managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The therapy consists of using long-acting benzodiazepine on a fixed schedule for a period of 3 days. The most used drugs include:

  • Ativan, lorazepam
  • Librium, chlordiazepoxide
  • Valium, diazepam

Carbamazepine
This anti-convulsant medication prevents seizures.

Disulfiram
This medication produces an unpleasant reaction of vomiting and sickness if a person drinks. It is prescribed for daily use in order to deter people from drinking. In this way, it can help promote a non-drinking lifestyle.

Gabapentin
This medication is used to addresses some withdrawal symptoms experienced during alcohol detox such as hot flashes and seizures.

Naltrexone
This medication acts directly on the rewarding receptors in the brain by blocking the pleasure that alcohol gives you.

Sodium oxybate
This medicine can be used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and maintains abstinence.

Topiramate
An anticonvulsant drug that affects the neurotransmitters involved in alcohol dependence.

Valproate
Prescribed when necessary, this medication helps manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms.


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A Pill to Cure Alcoholism?

Is there a pill to cure alcoholism?

Yes, and no. While there is no magic formula, there are pills that can help you manage your drinking disorder. For now, the FDA has approved three medications for treating alcoholism, and a fourth is showing promising results in clinical trials [6]The three anti-alcohol pills currently in use are:

PILL 1: Antabuse, disulfiram

This medication interferes with the breakdown of alcohol. Acetaldehyde stores in the body, and causes unpleasant reactions if the patient continues to drink.

PILL 2:Campral, acamprosate

This medication is used to reduce long-lasting symptoms of withdrawal such as insomnia, anxiety, and dysphoria.

PILL 3:ReVia, naltrexone

This medication blocks brain receptors involved in the rewarding effects of drinking. It can help reduce the risk of relapse.

But medications alone cannot help you overcome alcoholism. A combination of talk therapy with medicine is best. This combined approach has beenclinically proven to increaseyour chances of beating alcoholism… and for maintaining sobriety in the long-term.


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Counseling for Alcoholism

Most addiction specialists agree that drinking problems should be treated through both counseling andmedications. Counseling helps decrease the chances of relapse and resolve psychological or emotional issues that drive you to drinking. Counseling will address the feelings and thoughts that led to alcohol abuse in the first place.

Moreover, talk therapy provide you with a better understanding of yourself. This way, you’ll learn how to cope with craving, how to avoid relapse, and how to deal with hard times in life.

Counseling usually takes place every day in the beginning of the treatment. Over time, as you learn how to deal with life on your own, these session will be less frequent.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes many therapies that can help you manage the disorder, and learn how to maintain sobriety. [7] The most common counseling therapies for treating alcoholism include:

12-Step groups

Mutual help is critical to alcoholism treatment. Support from other that have similar drinking problems can help you extremely during this period in life. These groups provide resources and coaching to help a person follow their path to long-lasting recovery.

Behavioral therapy

This type of therapy teaches you how to recognize situations that trigger cravings for alcohol use, as well as deal with those triggering situation without drinking. Moreover, behavioral therapy can include sessions to improve motivation to stay sober.

Dual diagnosis treatment

In some cases, mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, are underlying causes for alcohol abuse. Addressing both disorder simultaneously can help the person maintain healthy life.

Family therapy

Alcoholism is a problem for the whole family. It has a negative impact on every member. So, involving family in therapy sessions will help each member deal with alcohol-related issues or dysfunctional relationship.

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Alcoholism Treatment Options

The best way to treat alcoholism is by enrolling into evidence-based treatment center that offers an individualized treatment program to fit your needs.There are two types of treatment programs to choose from: inpatient or outpatient.

Inpatient programs offer medical care 24/7 with licensed medical staff. Patients reside in the facility. These programs are designed to help patients with moderate to severe levels of alcoholism. The most common services provided in this option include:

  • Educational session for recovery.
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medical detoxification services.
  • Family therapy
  • Pharmacotherapy

Outpatient programs offer similar services. The only difference is that patients do not live at the facility. They come and go to the center for few hours, several days weekly. These programs are created for patients with mild levels of addiction. Moreover, these people have a supporting environment from loved ones.


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Alcohol Relapse Prevention Tips

Recovery is a long process, and maintaining sobriety take a lot of work, motivation, and self-control. Prepare yourself for getting through thoughts times in life once you get sober. Here are some useful relapse prevention tips that can guide you to your long path of recovery.

1. Accept and recognize your triggers.

Relapse is part of recovery, and the sooner you accept as normal experience in your life, the better. Relapse is the opportunity of learning how to avoid future mistakes. Learn your triggers by developing self-awareness and self-control. Start paying attention to the things around you, and identify what puts you on. Once you learn your triggers, you will be able to avoid them.

2. Go to therapy.

Counseling therapy helps people maintain sobriety. It can help you find out why you started drinking in the first place, and help you resolve the negative feelings and thoughts that hold you down.

3. Create relapse prevention managing plan.

With help from your therapist, you can build a healthy plan that can help you manage your recovery, as well as cope with triggers. Create a plan that will keep you on track.

4. Do not repress your urges alone.

Understand that your feelings are normal, and don’t repress them. When you repress them, they become stronger. Urges usually are more dominant in early recovery. Learn how to take control of your thoughts in your hands.

5. Develop coping mechanisms to avoid triggers.

High risk situations are better to avoid with use of alternative strategies. Here’s a list of some useful tools for relapse preventions:

  • Develop a hobby, sport or other activity
  • Encourage yourself with positive self-talk.
  • Use meditation as a healthy way to cope with stress and relax.
  • Learn anger and depression management.
  • Reduce your list of daily responsibilities.

Still got questions?

Please leave your questions in the comments section below. We love to hear from our readers. And we’ll try to respond to all real life questions personally.


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Reference Sources: [1] NIAAA: Alcohol Use Disorder
[2]NIAAA: Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help
[3]NIDA: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
[4]NIDA: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction
[5]NCBI: Treating Alcoholism as a Chronic Disease
[6]NIDA: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
[7] NIAAA: Exploring Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorders
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

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