Alcohol Treatment and Detoxification
Alcoholism is Addiction to Alcohol.
Alcoholism means compulsive drinking in spite 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. Meaning, people who like to drink, and cope with their stress by drinking are at significant risk for continuing to progress to becoming alcoholic.
Scientists understand the disease of alcoholism is a medical brain disorder involving powerful brain chemistry changes that can quickly make the body dependent on 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 if they continue to expose their brain to something that makes them feel good then requires more alcohol to achieve the same effect. The reason this occurs has to do with the way 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 mildly euphoric and pleasurable. For patients who misuse, abuse 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 return to experiencing pleasure from alcohol, continued drinking actually causes severe depression, anxiety, memory impairment and sleeplessness. Alcohol becomes increasingly toxic leading 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 usually burdened with the emotional difficulties of living with someone who is chronically under the influence.
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, abstinence from drinking, and newer medications our 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 and delirium, seizure or death. The current community standard of care for non-delirious, alcohol dependent patients is discharge from an Emergency Room, Immediate Care or clinic with a small number of pills and instructions to “take care of themselves.” Hospital-Based detoxification is required in patients who have a history of seizure, but 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 and nurse supervised alcohol detoxification. Many patients are able to safely detoxify over a period of two to three days with close medical management and support. Patients who are not able to safely detoxify in an ambulatory setting are referred for admission to an inpatient detoxification facility or hospital.