Alcohol Dependence Treatment


Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a severe form of alcohol use disorder, that first manifests when a person develops alcohol withdrawal symptoms after he or she stops drinking. It’s a common misconception among regular drinkers that quitting drinking causes more problems than continuing to drink. This may be partly true in those who have developed alcohol dependence as they may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including irregular heartbeat, hyperventilation, nausea, hallucinations, seizures or delirium tremens (DT).


Alcohol Detoxification

Alcohol detoxification is the process of weaning a person from alcohol in a safe and effective manner by substituting it with pharmacological agents and then tapering off. This process minimizes alcohol withdrawal, prevents complications and hastens the process of abstinence in a more humane way.

  • Medically Managing Withdrawal

History shows that improperly treated alcohol withdrawal may develop into higher gradient health problems such as hypertension, dehydration, seizures or worse. Medically Managed Alcohol Detox also offers hope and the expectation of recovery. The spectrum of alcohol withdrawal symptoms ranges from such minor symptoms as insomnia and tremulousness to severe complications such as withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens. Although the medical history and physician examination usually are sufficient to diagnose alcohol withdrawal syndrome, other conditions may also present with similar symptoms. Most patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal can be treated safely and effectively with pharmacologic treatment, such as benzodiazepines, the agents of choice. They may be administered on a fixed or symptom-triggered schedule. Medications such as haloperidol, beta blockers, clonidine, and phenytoin may be used as adjuncts to a benzodiazepine in the treatment of complications of withdrawal. Treatment of alcohol withdrawal should also be followed by treatment for alcohol dependence.

  • Benzodiazepines

The scientific evidence strongly favors the use of benzodiazepines to treat alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines reduce the risk of severe alcohol withdrawal syndromes, such as seizures or Delirium Tremens (DT’s). Among the benzodiazepines, chlordiazepoxide has a slight advantage over the other benzodiazepines or anticonvulsants. Anticonvulsants have not been proven to be better than benzodiazepines. They may be considered in mild withdrawal due to their advantages of lower sedation and lower chances of dependence or abuse potential. However, anti-convulsants may not have the advantage of preventing seizures or DT’s and their use is not recommended in severe withdrawal states.

  • Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient alcohol detoxification treatment provides one of the safest settings to overcome alcohol dependence. Inpatient medically monitored treatment ensures that recovering alcoholics are carefully monitored and appropriately supported. It also provides better continuity of care especially patients who begin treatment with Med Detox. Furthermore, inpatient medically monitored treatment separates the drinker from alcohol-related social and environmental stimuli that might otherwise increase the risk of relapse.

  • Magnesium

Chronic alcohol use is associated with abnormal magnesium metabolism. The result is often that those with alcoholic neuropathy and presenting with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are more likely to show low serum magnesium levels. Oral magnesium supplementation may benefit such patients by reducing the severity and duration of alcohol withdrawal.

  • Thiamine

All patients in alcohol withdrawal should receive at least 250 mg thiamine once a day for the first 3-5 days whereas for those with suspected severe alcohol withdrawals, thiamine 500 mg/day for 3-5 days is advised. If there is clinical improvement the supplementation is continued for a total of 2 weeks.


Alcoholism Counseling

Alcohol counseling, also known as behavioral treatment, is aimed at changing drinking behaviors through therapeutic counseling. Counseling is led by healthcare professionals and supported by scientific studies that show they can be beneficial. Alcohol counseling share certain features, which may include:

  1. Coping with or avoiding the triggers that might cause relapse
  2. Helping to build a strong social support system
  3. Developing the skills needed to stay stopped
  4. Working to set reachable goals

Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Mutual-support groups may offer a valuable added layer of support especially when combined with treatment led by health professionals. However, since peer led supports groups are anonymous, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals. For anyone thinking about treatment, talking to a primary care physician is an important first step — he or she can be a good source for treatment referrals and medications.


Alcohol Dangers

Drinking alcohol can cause major health problems including alcohol dependence, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis and injuries from accidents. But if you think these are the only health risks posed by alcohol-consumption, think again.

Signs of an Alcohol Problem

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild to severe and is diagnosed when a patient answers “yes” to two or more of the following questions.

In the past year, have you:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  1. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  1. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
  1. Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  1. Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  1. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  1. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  1. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  1. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  1. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  1. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

If you indicated that you had any of these 11 symptoms, your drinking career may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change.

Alcohol Risks

Short-Term Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following:

  • Motor vehicle crash, injuries, falling, drowning and burning.
  • Violence, including murder, suicide, sexual battery, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.


Long-Term health risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, heart disease and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the liver, breast, mouth, throat, esophagus and colon.
  • Memory and learning problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.


Get Help

If you or someone you know is physically dependent to alcohol and wants to stop drinking, it’s not wise to detoxify yourself. By letting healthcare professionals handle the detoxification process you can mitigate many of the risks associated with alcohol withdrawals.