What are the different options for treating alcohol use disorders?

Collection of empty bottles

Alcoholism can be a devastating condition that has the potential to cause severe damage to your health and your mental wellbeing, as well as affecting relationships, job performance and overall quality of life. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism, it is important to understand how long recovery can take and what factors may influence this process.

Is alcohol use disorder a disease?

Recent medical research has suggested that alcoholism is more than a bad habit; it is a biological illness marked by an inability to quit drinking despite serious consequences. It manifests in the form of physical dependence and an uncontrollable craving for alcohol which can lead to destructive behaviors in personal and professional lives.

A consensus among medical professionals and researchers is now emerging that alcohol use disorder should be regarded as an actual disease, rather than just being seen as a lack of self-control or moral failings. With the increasing awareness of this condition, the chances are good that better treatment options will become available so those afflicted can live a normal life without fear of relapse.

Signs of an Alcohol Problem

There are plenty of signs that a person might have an alcohol problem. One of the key indicators is if a person's drinking routinely interferes with their life and commitments. If they find themselves struggling to keep up with responsibilities at work, school, or home because of drinking, this could be a sign that they are not managing their alcohol usage properly.

Furthermore, signs such as frequently blacking out after drinking or needing more and more drinks to reach the same level of intoxication should serve as red flags for potential alcohol problems.

Those who experience anxiety when unable to drink or drink even when it's harmful to their health may also be displaying signs of an alcohol misuse. At any rate, it's important to look for these warning signs before the situation escalates further.

What Are the Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder?

There are several treatments available for alcohol use disorder.

  • Psychotherapy. This can include individual therapy, group therapy or family therapy and can help people with alcohol dependence to understand the underlying problems that contribute to their alcohol use and develop the ability to cope with stress and triggers.
  • Medications. There are several medications that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, including disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate.
  • Support groups. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can provide a supportive environment for individuals with Alcohol use disorder to share their experiences and receive support from others in recovery.
  • Inpatient treatment. For those with more severe Alcohol use disorder, inpatient treatment at a rehabilitation center may be necessary. This can provide a structured environment with around-the-clock support to help individuals through the detox and recovery process.
  • Holistic approaches. Some people with Alcohol use disorder may find it helpful to incorporate complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, or herbal remedies, into their treatment plan.

It's important to note that the most effective treatment for Alcohol use disorder will vary depending on the individual and the severity of their disorder. It may take some attempts to find the right combination of treatments that work best for you.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant

The effects of drinking alcohol while pregnant can be serious and even catastrophic for the unborn baby. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the leading known cause of mental retardation due to preventable causes, caused by a pregnant woman's excessive intakes of alcoholic beverages.

Those who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can have a range of physical, behavioral and learning difficulties throughout their life. In some cases, pregnant women can cause stillbirth or miscarriages because of heavy alcohol intake as well.

It's clear that alcohol consumption should be highly avoided before and during pregnancy for the safety of the unborn child. The safest option if expecting a baby is always abstaining from drinking any kind of alcoholic drink in order to ensure the best outcome for the mother and child involved.

Written by Angela Mosel Angela Mosel is a substance abuse social worker with a Bachelor of Social Work from Spring Arbor University.

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