How to Help Patients (or Anyone) Struggling with Alcohol Addiction

Did you know that a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study found that one in eight American adults meets criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder? And that the incidence of problematic alcohol use is on the rise? This study also found that problematic drinking rose more sharply in particular groups, including women, racial minorities, and the elderly. With alcohol use disorder rates this high and rising, chances are great that we will all run into patients and friends who require assistance in changing their drinking behaviors.

Luckily, there is a wide range of treatment options available for those wanting to achieve and maintain sobriety. When I talk to my patients about treatment for alcohol addiction, I suggest a mix-and-match approach. None are mutually exclusive of the others; in fact, most experts in addiction treatment recommend that folks have more than one resource or treatment modality for the best chance of success. Here are the options:

Detoxification

“Detox” is a service offered by some psychiatric and chemical dependency facilities. It lasts three to seven days and is intended to help the patient safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol with medical support on site. At the end of the withdrawal period, patients are guided to other treatment programs to help sustain sobriety.

[ Read: Six Subspecialties for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners ]

Inpatient Treatment

Residential treatment for addiction is the most intensive (and, of course, most expensive) option for addiction treatment. This type of treatment can last one month or longer and includes individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, psychiatric services, and possibly family psychotherapy all under one roof.

Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient treatment is a popular approach in which the patient continues to live at home while attending treatment sessions three to four days per week, two to four hours at a time. Many programs encourage participants to continue to work, attend school or take care of family members as they normally do during the treatment period. This allows the patient to learn how to maintain sobriety while also completing their normal life tasks. Intensive outpatient programs can consist of psycho-educational and psychotherapy groups, family therapy groups, and individual psychotherapy.

Close-up of psychiatrist hands together holding palm of her patient

Individual Psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy is often recommended for folks wanting to become sober. It can offer the patient an opportunity to speak more specifically about their concerns and also allow the provider to assess for any underlying mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.) that may have been masked by the alcohol use.

Group Support

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known example of group support available to alcoholics. AA is a free, peer-led support group that has been around since 1939. AA’s twelve-step program has been used for a long time by many people and is very well established all across the world, making it easy to access for most people. There are other, similar groups that offer free, peer-led support, such as Life Ring and Women for Sobriety, which can be good options for those who do not feel AA is a good fit for them.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs combine pharmacology services together with psycho-educational and traditional counseling with the hope of achieving treatment success. Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram are some of the medications that might be considered to help patients manage withdrawal symptoms or cravings in the initial stages of sobriety.

When I refer patients to alcohol treatment services, I typically recommend they pick more than one option. For example, a patient could combine group support and intensive outpatient treatment, or MAT and individual psychotherapy. The more support and resources a patient has, the more tools they will acquire to manage a sober lifestyle—and that leads to a better chance for success.

 

Blog Source: HealtheCareers | Help for Patients (or Anyone) Struggling with Alcohol Addiction

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