What Happens in Alcohol Treatment?
As with treatment for most substance abuse problems, there are two angles to treating an alcohol problem. The first step is to break the physical dependence on alcohol. As mentioned above, cutting off alcohol after developing an addiction to it can cause withdrawal symptoms that could be severe enough to drive a patient back to drinking. For that reason, the detoxification process of treatment often involves the careful administration of drugs like anti-anxiety drugs to help wean the patient off their dependence on alcohol and through the process of acclimatizing to life without alcohol.
Upon exiting treatment, a patient may be prescribed a drug like disulfiram, which prevents the body from chemically processing alcohol, causing an unpleasant reaction if the patient relapses or attempts to relapse. Because of disulfiram’s toxicity, it has to be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as unregulated usage can cause strong, even fatal reactions.
After the physical detoxification process, the next stage of alcohol treatment involves treating the mental health of the patient with counseling and therapy. A psychologist or psychotherapist will work closely with the patient to help identify the reasons that the patient turned to problem drinking. Once these reasons are understood, the next stage is to apply the understanding to the future, giving the patient the tools they need to make better choices and decisions. Part of the treatment process is to break associations with the people and environments that encouraged the patient to drink past healthy levels. Since alcohol is so prevalent in society and even everyday life, treatment will also involve learning how to resist the temptation to drink in socially acceptable situations, and how to deal with the thoughts and memories of the pleasure derived from drinking.