An alcohol use disorder impacts every part of the drinker’s life: his health, his mental stability, his family relationships, his prospects at work, and his prospects for the future. Whether your loved one struggles with binge drinking, chronic alcohol abuse, or full-blown alcoholism, it also significantly – and negatively – impacts you and everyone in your family.

The good news is that help is available. Just as there is a range of issues that can define a person’s problem with alcohol, there is also a range of treatment measures that may be appropriate in addressing those issues. The right combination of alternative, holistic, and traditional therapies and medical support will vary based on the needs of your loved one, and these will be chosen based on your family member’s:

  • Past experience in treatment for the alcohol use disorder
  • Severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Existence of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Goals for the treatment experience and future in recovery

Benefits of Attending an Inpatient Treatment Center

In general, the more comprehensive the treatment program, the more effective it will be at providing a patient new to sobriety with everything necessary to make a strong start. Inpatient treatment programs are the most comprehensive option because they offer 24-hour care and supervision, ensuring that a patient is never without the support needed to avoid relapse and manage any physical or mental health issues that may arise.

Well-rounded inpatient treatment programs provide:

  • Initial stabilization, if necessary
  • Medical detox, if needed
  • Medication support and adjustment, if needed
  • Medical supervision and assistance in the case of complications or acute issues, if needed
  • 24-hour therapeutic and/or peer support
  • Amenities that provide for basic needs so the patient can focus on treatment and recovery
  • Chef-created nutritional meals designed to promote detox as well as overall health and wellness
  • A personalized treatment plan, utilizing all the resources at the program that will aid the patient in growth and recovery
  • Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders that may be underlying or exacerbating the alcohol use disorder
  • The ability to adjust the treatment plan as needed to meet or change treatment goals
  • Intensive support to family members as they begin their own recovery journey and work to rebuild relationships with the addicted person
  • Assistance in addressing other issues that may adversely affect the person’s ability to stay sober, including legal problems, career issues, family and parenting concerns, and more
  • Round-the-clock assistance in managing other associated health problems (e.g., weight loss or gain, emotional stability, self-esteem, etc.)
  • Aftercare plan, support, and/or services to aid in ongoing recovery after treatment is over

Comparatively, outpatient treatment programs, no matter how intensive, do not have the ability to provide the all-encompassing treatment offered by inpatient programs. Patients are provided with no more than eight hours of treatment, therapeutic support, and supervision per day at the most intensive facilities. At night and on the weekends, they are without anyone to help them avoid relapse, often when they need it most.

Outpatient treatment centers are also limited in the type of treatments and therapies that they can offer. Most therapies are group-based only and chosen based on their ability to help the largest number of people. At inpatient programs, these options are available but personalized treatment plans mean that patients may be able to take advantage of one-on-one therapy options if it will be helpful to their ability to heal.

Additionally, because outpatients are forced to live at home or remain in their current living situations during treatment, they are often continually exposed to the same stressors and circumstances that informed their lives in alcohol addiction. This makes it more difficult to stay focused on recovery and avoid relapse during those crucial first weeks in treatment.

There is also the benefit of space and time dedicated to nothing but recovery. A patient who lives at the program dedicated to providing him with healing resources will be able to take a break from bills, problematic relationships, and other issues at home and in the neighborhood with the gift of focusing just on his own health and wellness. Taking 30 days or more to focus just on addiction treatment allows the patient to truly alter behaviors, perspectives, and other choices that may be hindering his ability to stay focused on recovery and make the most progress toward long-term stability in sobriety.

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Addiction treatment works best when it’s personalized


Aftercare: Crucial Support After Treatment

Though the period spent in drug rehab is essential to building a strong foundation in recovery, long-term success will only occur if there is continued care and support in place for the patient after she returns home. An aftercare plan should be mapped out in advance of leaving the inpatient program, allowing the patient to get the necessary referrals in place and ask questions and make changes as needed before transitioning into a more independent phase of recovery.

Aftercare plans can include any or all of the following:

  • Sober living: For those who do not have a safe, alcohol-free home to return to, sober living is a solid choice. Here, patients have the freedom to find a job, enroll in school, and take their time in finding the right new living situation while enjoying the 24-hour support of a sober living environment as well as the support of on-site staff and sober peers.
  • Relapse prevention: Attention should be paid to maintaining an active engagement in therapies and treatments that were working during rehab that will continue the patient’s ability to grow and progress in recovery. Group sessions dedicated to helping patients address acute challenges to their ability to remain sober are particularly helpful and can aid in relapse prevention as well.
  • Therapeutic growth: Any alternative and holistic treatments that were helpful during inpatient rehab will continue to be helpful in aftercare and provide the support of continuity to the transition process. Yoga, meditation, nutritional therapy, life coaching, and more can all aid the patient in creating a positive community in recovery and remaining connected to the principles of sobriety.
  • Family support: If the patient is returning home, it is important that his family be given the opportunity to play a positive role in his recovery. Too often, family relationships become codependent relationships during addiction, and family members will need to learn more about how to avoid behaviors that can enable relapse and a return to addiction. Additionally, all can benefit from improving methods of communication and learning how to get their needs met healthfully as they work through issues that are left over from the addiction period and create a new, healthier home environment in the future.

The more intensive the aftercare plan initially, the more likely it is that the patient will be able to stay on track in recovery after leaving the rehabilitation program. Over time, as responsibilities grow and the patient becomes more grounded in life after treatment, the aftercare plan may be less intensive, allowing the patient to spend more time with family, at work, or in pursuit of hobbies that are beneficial to his health and wellness as well as non-threatening to his sobriety.

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Statistics and Research

  • An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is diagnosed when any amount of problem drinking becomes severe enough to be intrusive in the person’s life. Treatment services are recommended when the patient is unable to stop drinking or moderate her drinking habits despite the negative consequences.
  • About 17 million Americans over the age of 18 – or 7.2 percent of the population – were living with an alcohol use disorder in 2012. About 11.2 million of this number were men, and about 5.7 million were women.
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    • Young people can also be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. In 2012, about 855,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 were living with an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA).
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  • The NIAAA also reports that a relative few people living with an alcohol use disorder receive the treatment they need. Only about 1.4 million Americans over the age of 18 received alcohol treatment services in 2012 – that’s only 8.4 percent of the adults in need of help.
  • Women were less likely to receive treatment, says the NIAAA. They report that only 7.3 percent of women struggling with an alcohol use disorder got help in 2012, while 8.9 percent of men with an AUD received treatment.
    • There are 11 diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) that can signify the existence of an alcohol use disorder. Only two of these must be an ongoing issue for a period of at least a year for an AUD diagnosis. The more criteria that are met, the more severe the disorder.
    • In addition to alcoholism, heavy drinking and binge drinking are also classified as alcohol use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that almost 25 percent of Americans survey respondents over the age of 18 in the US reported engaging in binge drinking in the month prior to the survey. Additionally, another 6.8 percent said that they had drank heavily in the month prior.
    • Alcohol use problems of any kind are deadly. Almost 88,000 Americans die of alcohol-related issues every year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the country. Of these deaths, more than 10,000 are car-related fatalities caused by alcohol, which adds up to about 30 percent of all car accident fatalities.
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    • The impact of alcohol abuse on others in the family is significant as well, especially when family members are children. SAMHSA reports that about 10 percent of children in the US in 2012 were living with a parent who had an alcohol use disorder.
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  • Alcohol use disorders are not only expensive to the patient and her family; they also cost the community at large quite a bit in health costs, law enforcement, and more. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the US spent more than $223 billion on issues associated with alcohol abuse in 2006; an estimated 75 percent of that cost is caused by issues related to binge drinking.

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A New Hope for Tomorrow

If alcohol use disorders damage every aspect of a patient’s life, alcohol addiction treatment services can benefit every part of the patient’s life. One phone call to an admissions coordinator can connect you with a wealth of information and resources that will enable you to help yourself or your loved one take the first step down the road to recovery. Learn more about what you can expect from treatment at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake when you call the number above now. Your new hope for tomorrow can start today.

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Is binge drinking a sign of addiction?

Binge drinking can be symptomatic of a chronic issue with alcohol, or it can be an alcohol use disorder unto itself. Defined as drinking more than four drinks within a two-hour period for women or more than five drinks within a two-hour period for men – or any amount of drinking that causes the drinker’s blood alcohol content to rise above 0.08 – binge drinking significantly increases the risks of:

  • Getting into an alcohol-related accident
  • Falling victim to a physical or sexual assault
  • Perpetrating a physical or sexual assault
  • Making poor decisions that could be life-altering (e.g., having unprotected sex with strangers or getting in the car with an intoxicated driver)

Additionally, chronic binge drinking behaviors can increase the chances of experiencing serious health problems down the road, including liver disease, sexual dysfunction, and cardiovascular problems, such as stroke, neurological problems, and more.

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What is a functional alcoholic?

A functional alcoholic is defined as a person who lives with an active alcohol use disorder but who also maintains a job and family life with few outward signs of the problem. He may not be exceptionally successful in his interpersonal relationships or career as compared to his potential success level in sobriety, but he is able to hold things together to the point that only those who are closest to him are able to tell that his use of alcohol has reached a dangerous level.

In general, functional alcoholics often have more education and make more money than most alcoholics. They are most often men, the divorce rate is high, and they tend to drink heavily every other day, drinking five alcoholic drinks or more when they do imbibe.

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Why do people find the need to drink in social situations?

Many people feel uncomfortable in social situations. They may dread having to make small talk with strangers or worry about the impression that they will make on family members, their coworkers, or their spouse’s boss.

Alcohol is often called a “social lubricant” because people may loosen up and feel less inhibited in their ability to connect with others at social gatherings when they have one or two drinks. As a result, people who are uncomfortable being themselves in social situations may choose to drink in order to ease that discomfort.

Unfortunately, when one or two drinks over the course of an evening turns into multiple drinks, it can create an even more awkward social situation. People may say things under the influence that are far more embarrassing or damaging to their reputations than they would ever have said while sober – or they may behave erratically or lose control and pass out. When alcohol use becomes a chronic way to deal with social stress, it can lead to an alcohol abuse or addiction problem that makes social interactions far more difficult.

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Does alcoholism run in the family?

In some families, alcoholism is more commonly diagnosed among members and across generations than in other families. Genetics can play a large role in the development of alcoholism. That is, if a parent or sibling struggled with alcohol abuse or addiction – or addiction to any illicit substance – then an alcohol use disorder is more likely to develop.

However, genetics only amount to half of the issue when it does contribute to the development of alcoholism. There are other factors that can play just as big of a part, including environment, physiology, co-occurring mental health disorders, and more.

Ultimately, while alcoholism may run in families, it does not guarantee that someone will develop a problem with alcoholism. Simply avoiding alcohol use in the first place can guarantee that someone who has a predisposition to the disorder will never develop it.

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Is there a gene for alcoholism?

No, there is no such thing specifically as an “alcoholism gene.” While decades of research has been dedicated to an exploration of the genetic impact on the development of addiction, and there are a number of studies ongoing on various topics connecting genetics with addiction to any substance, it has only been determined that alcoholism may be more likely to develop among people who drink and also come from families with diagnosed alcoholic members.

A genetic connection to others who had or have an alcoholism or addiction diagnosis does not mean that the development of an alcohol use disorder is a foregone conclusion. As it stands, more than half of people who come from a family where alcoholism is common never develop the disorder – and many who do have a problem with alcohol are not genetically predisposed.

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What are the types of alcoholics?

According to WebMD, five different types of alcoholics have been identified in research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. They include:

  • Young adult alcoholic: An estimated 32 percent of alcoholics fall into this category. They are usually between the ages of 20 and 24 and rarely seek help for their alcohol problem. Though they drink less often as compared to other alcoholic types, they usually drink heavily – or binge drink – when they do imbibe.
  • Young antisocial alcoholic: About 21 percent of alcoholics are about 26 years old on average, having started drinking by age 15 with an onset of alcoholism around 18. About half of the people in this group are living with antisocial personality disorder. An interesting note: the young antisocial alcoholic group and the young adult alcoholic group do not overlap, according to research.
  • Functional alcoholic: About 19 percent of alcoholics are in this group, and they are usually highly educated, living in stable families, and working steadily. In general, they drink every other day and tend to drink more than five drinks when they imbibe.
  • Intermediate familial alcoholic: A little less than 19 percent of alcoholics are in this group, and about half of this number have close family members who are alcoholics as well. Usually, drinking begins by the age of 17 with the onset of alcoholism around the age of 30.
  • Chronic severe alcoholic: An estimated 9 percent of alcoholics have a serious alcohol use disorder that often includes use of illicit drugs as well and comes with a high divorce rate. Most who fall into this category are men.

All types of alcoholics will benefit from medical and psychotherapeutic treatment that addresses both the physical and psychological dependence upon alcohol. Additionally, if the alcoholic is also living with a co-occurring mental health disorder, healing will be most impactful when the patient receives treatment for both disorders at the same time.

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What is self-medicating behavior?

When someone uses alcohol in an attempt to manage or “medicate” other issues they are experiencing, then it is called “self-medicating behavior.”

For example, if someone is struggling with stress, grief, or depression, they may turn to alcohol in an attempt to forget their grief, relieve stress, or alter their mood. Though this may work initially and in small doses, when a tolerance for alcohol develops, the person will need to drink more and more in an attempt to experience those initial effects. Unfortunately, because alcohol is a depressant, in large amounts, it usually ends up making the person feel worse. Over time, it will additionally lead to an alcohol use problem that is just as intrusive and harmful as the original issue the person was seeking to remedy by drinking.

It is for this reason that patients who are diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder are advised to seek out a comprehensive addiction treatment program that will help them find more healthy coping mechanisms for the mental health symptoms they experience.

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What are the effects of mixing alcohol with medication?

Mixing alcohol with prescription medication or over-the-counter medications is never a good idea. In some cases, it can render the medication ineffective, and in others, it can cause a negative reaction or medical emergency in the user.

For example, if a patient is taking opiate painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin or a benzodiazepine like Valium and then drinks alcohol, the sedative effect of the medication would be amplified tremendously. More than just the effect of the alcohol plus the effect of the medication, the result can be overwhelming and cause overdose.

Similarly, alcohol in combination with other illicit substances can amplify the effects and cause the person to experience seizures, cardiac arrest, and other medical emergencies.

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Is alcoholism curable?

There is no cure for alcoholism or any substance dependence disorder. There are, however, a number of treatment and therapeutic options that are evidence-based and proven to be effective in helping people to stop drinking safely and to remain sober for the long-term. Some medications have been identified as effective in helping patients to stop drinking and to avoid relapse especially in the first few months of recovery when withdrawal symptoms are an issue. Additionally, there are a number of different therapeutic options that, in combination and over the long-term, have been shown to equip patients with the positive coping mechanisms that will help them to stay sober as they build a new life in recovery.

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How does therapy help treat alcoholism?

Though there is no “magic bullet” that will knock out alcoholism, a combination of traditional, alternative, and holistic treatment options chosen based on their unique abilities to support the patient in recovery will provide every opportunity for success in treatment.

Traditional options like personal therapy and group therapy provide the patient with a foundation in treatment. Building a community of support and having a place to voice concerns and share successes plays a huge part in helping a person to get engaged with treatment and stay engaged with recovery for the long-term.

Alternative therapies like art therapy and outdoor and adventure therapy can help to widen and deepen therapeutic growth as the patient explores underlying issues driving addiction as well as some of the personal perspectives, behaviors, and thought processes that may be hampering their growth in recovery. These often non-verbal forms of therapy offer new avenues of exploration that may increase the amount of progress made during treatment and provide more coping mechanisms for dealing with mental health symptoms and stress.

Holistic treatments, too, can enable growth in treatment and beyond. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage and bodywork, herbal supplements, life coaching, and nutritional therapy – there are a number of different options that may be beneficial to the patient. These offer new coping mechanisms that aid in mitigating symptoms of co-occurring disorders, dealing with triggers to drink effectively, and boosting overall health and wellness.

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What is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is the original 12-step organization based on the 12 steps and 12 traditions. There are meetings that are free to the public available at all times of the day and night around the world. The more metro the location, the more meetings there are to choose from. People attend meetings on their own schedule – many opt to do “90 in 90,” or attend 90 meetings in 90 days when they get started in the program – and begin the process of getting involved. They may share at meetings, learn something from the shares of others, engage a sponsor, and work the 12 steps as they learn to understand addiction, the role that their thoughts and behaviors played in the progress of that addiction, and how to stay sober with the support of a likeminded community.

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What are the 12 steps?

The 12 steps are essentially the philosophy upon which Alcoholics Anonymous is based. They are a list of 12 actions that a person undertakes in order to better understand how he can play an active role in avoiding relapse. In general, the steps focus on helping the person to:

  • Give up the illusion that he has control over alcohol
  • Recognize a Higher Power in his life
  • Allow that Higher Power to guide him in his choices
  • Take a moral inventory of himself
  • Get specific in admitting to someone out loud past harms done to oneself and others
  • Ask for assistance in removing the “character defects” and “shortcomings” that led to those harmful behaviors
  • Make a complete list of all the people harmed during addiction and commit to making amends for those wrongs done
  • Actually making amends when possible
  • Continually applying the concept of a “taking a personal inventory” as new situations, conflicts, or challenges arise
  • Actively seeking to improve spiritual growth and connection
  • Committing to sharing what was learned by working the 12 steps with others who may be interested in doing the same and giving back to the community at large

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