There’s a saying that goes, too much of anything is bad. This is one sobering truth, especially when it comes to alcohol. And if you’re recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD), the path to recovery means quitting alcohol (yes, including wine) entirely. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), AUD is “a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”

The impact of this disorder extends well beyond your physical health. It can also negatively affect your professional and social life — and your overall well-being.

In this blog, our goal is to remind you that treatment is available. We’ll provide a detailed overview of the different treatment options so you can manage this condition effectively.

alcoholism

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 28.8 million adults (18 years old and above) had an alcohol use disorder in the past year. This figure — equivalent to 11.2% of the said age group — highlights how rampant AUD is in the US. 

But how do you know if you have this disorder? Common symptoms include the following:

  • Drinking more or for more extended periods than intended
  • Repeated, unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop drinking
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining alcohol, drinking, or recovering from its effects
  • Experiencing a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol
  • Alcohol use already interferes with responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Continuing to drink despite it causing problems with family and friends
  • Reducing or giving up important activities in favor of drinking
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while or after drinking
  • Drinking despite it worsening mental health issues or other health problems, or experiencing alcohol-related memory blackouts
  • Needing to drink more to achieve the same effects or noticing that the usual amount has less effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, feeling uneasy or unhappy, a general sense of being unwell, feeling low, having a seizure, or sensing things that are not there when alcohol effects wear off
intensive outpatient program

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AUD can stem from a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition. Did you know that about 60% of the risk for AUD is attributed to genetics? However, like many chronic conditions, the likelihood of developing AUD involves both genetic factors and environmental influences. If you have a parent who drinks, you have a higher likelihood of developing AUD as well.

Apart from your familial background, social and cultural environments are also risk factors. 

Alcoholism is more common in settings where drinking is socially acceptable or encouraged, such as in colleges where binge drinking might be glorified. Holidays and other gatherings also often promote alcohol consumption. Such events challenge the fine line between social drinking and alcoholism.

Mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety, are also often linked with higher AUD risks. Research shows that over 40% of those with bipolar disorder and around 20% of those suffering from depression experience alcohol dependence. 

Treatment Options for AUD

Like other medical conditions, a tailored and structured approach to treat alcohol dependence. For this disorder, it begins with detoxification or, simply, detox. This process entails ridding your body of alcohol and the chemicals it contains. Done under the supervision of a medical professional, it also involves managing withdrawal symptoms to ensure safety and effectively set the foundation for further treatment.

Detox is essential for stabilizing your body before you can effectively engage in behavioral therapies.

Speaking of behavioral therapies, there are three major techniques used to address AUD. These can be employed in an inpatient or intensive outpatient program.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of therapy that helps you identify and modify problematic behaviors and thought patterns. By developing skills to manage triggers and cravings, you learn to prevent relapse. 

Undergoing this therapy means gaining access to effective coping strategies for dealing with situations that might lead to alcohol use. For example, your doctor may teach you how to properly say no to alcohol, especially during social gatherings.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI is a technique designed to boost your motivation to change your drinking behavior. Through MI, your therapist can help you explore and resolve ambivalence. 

This approach involves four key processes collectively aimed to facilitate change. Initially, your therapist will build a trusting relationship with you. Next, they will identify the specific behavior that you must change. The therapist will then help you express your motivations for change. Finally, the two of you will collaboratively create a detailed action plan.

Family Therapy

Family therapy plays a critical role in the recovery process by involving close family members in treatment. This approach addresses systemic issues within family dynamics that may contribute to alcohol use. Keep in mind that engaging your family can provide a support system that is crucial for long-term recovery.

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Medications

Managing alcohol use disorder also usually involves the use of medications that target different aspects of the addiction. 

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication used to treat both AUD and opioid use disorder (OUD). By binding to your body’s endorphin receptors, it effectively blocks the sensations and pleasure derived from alcohol. This ultimately helps reduce cravings.

Acamprosate

Doctors prescribe acamprosate to people who have ceased heavy alcohol consumption, and its goal is to help maintain sobriety. Long-term alcohol use alters brain function, and acamprosate restores normal brain activity and stabilizes chemical imbalances. However, take note that acamprosate does not alleviate withdrawal symptoms experienced when quitting alcohol.  

Disulfiram

Disulfiram is one of three medications that the FDA has approved for treating alcohol dependence. It’s generally used as a second-line treatment after acamprosate and naltrexone. 

Disulfiram is effective for both short-term and long-term use under clinical supervision. It blocks the metabolic process that converts acetaldehyde into acetic acid when you consume alcohol. This blockage leads to a buildup of acetaldehyde, a toxic substance, causing unpleasant reactions that deter the individual from consuming alcohol.

Support Groups

Support groups are vital. They offer the encouragement and understanding you need to overcome the challenges that come with a yearning for sobriety.

A popular program is the so-called 12-Step Program, and Alcoholics Anonymous is a notable example. The goal here is to create a strong community and peer support network critical for recovery. If you will join, you will follow a set of recovery steps to help you battle addiction. The communal aspect fosters a shared experience that encourages persistence.

An alternative to this one is SMART Recovery. It emphasizes self-empowerment and self-reliance. 

This program uses a science-based approach to help you deal with addiction recovery. It’s all about building motivation, managing cravings, and developing a balanced life. It encourages personal responsibility and utilizes therapeutic methods to support recovery.

treat alcohol dependence

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Embrace the Path to Recovery

Alcohol use disorder refers to when you have an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite knowing or experiencing its consequences. 

Overcoming this condition requires a comprehensive approach. This encompasses medical treatments, behavioral therapies, and strong support networks. Before undergoing any therapy or taking any medication, it’s best to detoxify first to prepare your body effectively.

Struggling with AUD but aiming for sobriety? We’re here to lead you to the future you want. At Oregon Trail Recovery, we offer tailored professional services so you can regain control and enjoy an alcohol-free life. Embrace the path to recovery, and reach us today.