There are many factors to effective alcoholism recovery and treatment typically requiring intensive approaches to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the disease. Effective treatment commonly includes intervention to get the individual into treatment, treatment at a residential facility, and later on treatment as an outpatient, psychosocial therapy, and support in peer groups and medication.
Medication is used to complement the other treatment factors and to help achieve treatment objectives quicker. The role of medication is not to cure alcoholism but to ease symptoms including withdrawal symptoms of the disease. Three drugs in particular are commonly used during the course of treatment for alcoholism and include acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone.
There is no medication that can be given that will help a person to stop drinking alcohol. The medication is only prescribed after the individual has been in a period of abstinence from alcohol and are currently in a treatment program that includes therapy.
Staying sober is paramount to the success of the medication to be effective in alleviating the symptoms experienced by the individual.
Acamproste helps to reduce the physical signs as well as the emotional discomfort that occur when the individual goes through the process of detoxification. Common physical distress and emotional discomfort includes anxiety, sweating, tremors and sleep disturbances.
Disulfiram is used as a deterrent for alcohol usage. If they drink while on the drug they will experience severe reactions including increase in blood pressure, facial flushing, increased heart rate, nausea, throbbing headache, and vomiting.
Naltrexone reduces the craving to drink alcohol by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain so that the person does not feel intoxicated or “high” while drinking alcohol.
Residential treatment programs include a detoxification in which the person will experience symptoms of withdrawal. This period usually lasts for 4 to 7 days. Medications may be used to prevent withdrawal seizures or delirium tremors. After the detoxification period comes the medical assessment and treatment phase.
The individual suffering from alcoholism may have medical problems that are related to their alcohol consumption or non-alcohol related medical conditions. The most common medical problems are elevated blood sugar levels, heart and liver disease, and alcohol related high blood pressure.
Psychological support and psychiatric treatment is typically an essential part of the treatment program and continues through as part of the support for recovery. Many of the treatment programs in the larger communities also include therapy for couples and families because the support of the family is a critical part of successful recovery from alcoholism. When a spouse or other significant family member is involved in therapy and supports the individual in a positive manner it increases the chances for a successful recovery from alcoholism.
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