Treating Alcoholism As A Chronic Disease

Unlike bacterial infections or common colds, there are no biological signs of alcoholism that can be measured to determine if a person has been “cured.” But if a cure means achieving and maintaining sobriety, then a cure is possible.

Anyone can beat alcoholism with the proper support and treatment.

Although there is no guarantee against relapse, people can overcome alcohol addiction and manage long-term recovery. There are many people with chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma that live normal, healthy lives by managing their disease. The same can be accomplished by those with an alcohol use disorder. If you or someone you care about is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, there are treatment options available.

Medications For Treating Alcoholism

There are several medications used to treat the physical effects of alcoholism, such as cravings and withdrawal, during the recovery process.

Medications used to treat alcoholism include:

  • Acamprosate

    This drug, taken as a tablet three times a day, helps relieve cravings for alcohol. Acamprosate works by helping the addicted brain function normally without alcohol. It does not relieve withdrawal symptoms.

  • Naltrexone

    Similar to acamprosate, naltrexone helps relieve cravings for alcohol. It is a tablet typically taken once a day. Naltrexone is not recommended for people with liver problems.

  • Vivitrol

    Vivitrol is an extended release, injectable version of Naltrexone. In some studies, the longer-lasting drug has been shown to be more effective at fighting addiction.

  • Benzodiazepines

    Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Klonopin may be used to moderate withdrawal symptoms. These drugs can reduce anxiety and irritability during detox. Benzodiazepines work particularly well for those detoxing from alcohol because both substances act on the GABA receptors in the brain.

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

    SSRIs such as Prozac and Zoloft are non-habit-forming drugs that could help treat depression, a common problem for those recovering from heavy alcohol use.

  • Baclofen

    Those with severe alcohol addictions experience the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including tremors and seizures. Baclofen, an anticonvulsant medication, has shown some success in reducing muscle spasms and could even mitigate cravings.

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Counseling For Alcoholism

In addition to medical treatments, most professionals agree alcoholism must be treated through counseling and a strong support structure. Therapy attempts to address the feelings and thoughts that led to chronic alcohol abuse in the first place. With the help of a counselor, individuals with an alcohol addiction can learn how to cope with cravings and other difficulties in life.

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In the beginning of recovery, counseling may take place daily. As time goes on, counseling sessions will likely be less frequent; continued visits can help those in recovery prevent relapse.

Alcohol Relapse Prevention Tips

Recovery is a process, and staying sober takes motivation, determination and self-control. To help stick to your recovery, check out the following tips for avoiding a relapse:

  • Keep going to therapy.

    Many alcoholics drink to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings. These are the same issues that therapy can help address. Now many people think therapy is unnecessary once they get out of rehab or make it a few months without alcohol. But problems can unexpectedly arise, and therapy can be a good buffer in those situations.

  • Know your feelings are normal.

    In the early stages of alcohol recovery, people are likely to feel sad or sick. It’s important to remember that these feelings are temporary.

  • Stay away from bars and drinking.

    Even though you may intend on not drinking, seeing other people consume alcohol can trigger massive cravings. Although it can be difficult to control cravings, you can prevent them by avoiding bars. It’s also important to have a backup plan for other events where alcohol may be present.

  • Learn to recognize and manage cravings.

    Triggers can be managed. This is especially true for psychological triggers, but it is also true for physical triggers as well. This can be done by utilizing healthy coping strategies, such as calling sponsors, attending 12-step meetings, exercise, meditation, engaging in spirituality, and having strong relapse prevention plans.

  • Develop a hobby.

    When newly recovering alcoholics get their life back on track, some have complaints about boredom. They don’t know what to do in a sober life. Finding sober hobbies, and people to share them with, can help people in recovery maintain their sobriety. Some hobbies may include: going to the movies, bowling, painting, and more.

Getting Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcoholism is a disease and should be treated as such. Thankfully over the last 30 years, the number of treatment techniques and tools to address alcohol use disorders have multiplied. If you or someone you love is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, contact a treatment provider to learn about different rehabilitation options today.

Published:

Author

Jeffrey Juergens

Photo of Jeffrey Juergens
  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

Photo of Theresa Parisi
  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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Sources

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Recovery Unplugged – Harrison House of Northern Virginia

Annandale , VA

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Cove Forge Behavioral Health Center

Williamsburg , PA

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Bowling Green Brandywine

Kennett Square , PA

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MeadowWood Behavioral Health

New Castle , DE

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Banyan Treatment Centers – Delaware

Milford , DE

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Harmony Healing Center

Cherry Hill , NJ

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White Deer Run

Allenwood , PA

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Banyan Treatment Centers – Philadelphia

Philadelphia , PA

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Boca Recovery Center – New Jersey

Galloway , NJ

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Huntington Creek Recovery Center

Shickshinny , PA

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Clearbrook Treatment Centers

Laurel , PA

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Princeton Detox & Recovery Center

Monmouth Junction , NJ

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Pocono Mountain Recovery Center

Henryville , PA

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Mount Regis Center

Salem , VA

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Guardian IOP – New Brunswick

New Brunswick , NJ

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SOBA New Jersey

New Brunswick , NJ

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