Alcohol Treatment and Alcoholism
Alcohol and Alcoholism
Alcoholism is addiction to alcohol. Alcoholism means compulsive drinking inspite of negative consequences due to the alcohol. Many people abuse alcohol to experience the euphoria from drinking in spite of being “hung-over.”
Many people look forward to drinking at the end of a stressful day to“relax.” Continuing to “reward” the brain with the pleasurable effects of alcohol over time leads to changes in brain wiring which are associated with the loss of control of drinking. This means that people who like to drink, and cope with their stress by drinking, are at significant risk for progressing to become an alcoholic.
Scientists understand that the disease of alcoholism is a medical brain disorder involving powerful brain chemistry changes that can quickly make the body dependent upon alcohol. The biology of the brain makes no moral judgments or distinctions. Many people are at risk for developing progressive loss of control over their drinking. This can occur if they continue to expose their brain to something that makes them feel good, and then require more alcohol to achieve the same effect. The reason has to do with how the brain changes due to repeated exposure to alcohol.
The use of alcohol leads to the release of dopamine in the brain, which is experienced by people as euphoric and pleasurable. For those who misuse and become dependent upon alcohol, the use of alcohol becomes habituated. This means that an individual stops feeling emotional pleasure unless they are using alcohol. In an attempt to feel better from alcohol, continued drinking actually causes depression, anxiety, memory impairment, and sleeplessness. Alcohol becomes increasingly toxic. This can lead to permanent injury to the brain.
An untreated alcoholic is at significant risk of dying from alcohol poisoning or liver failure associated with continued drinking. In addition, the family of the alcoholic is burdened with the emotional difficulties of living with someone who is chronically under the influence. They often experience the misery of seeing someone they love sink into despair, illness, even death.
Alcohol addiction is treatable
Doctors and scientists understand that the drive to drink is a biological urge for people who have lost control of their drinking. In conjunction with counseling support and newer medications, Hazelden doctors can help patients who have developed drinking problems.
The first step towards treatment for a person with an alcohol problem is to accept that they have lost control over their drinking.
Options Exist for Alcohol Detoxification
Unlike detoxification from opiates, detoxification from alcohol can be unsafe unless aggressive medical intervention is utilized. Alcohol withdrawal can cause symptoms of tremor, confusion, seizures, or death. The current community standard of care for alcohol-dependent patients is dangerously low. It often involves discharge from a clinic or emergency room with a small number of pills and instructions to “take care of themselves.” While hospital-based care is often required for patients who have a history of seizure, this does not represent the bulk of alcohol dependent patients trying to stop drinking.
Hazelden is proud to offer in-office assessment and in-office physician-supervised alcohol detoxification. Most patients are able to safely detoxify over a period of two to three days with close medical management and support. They receive treatment during the day, and instructions for the evening. Doctors are on-call 24/7. Patients who are not able to safely detoxify in the clinic are referred for admission to an inpatient detoxification facility or hospital. This is usually not necessary, but we are prepared for the possibility, always placing safety first.