Alcohol is one of the most widely used and abused intoxicating substances in the world. In the United States, it is legal for adults ages 21 and older to purchase and drink alcohol, and millions of people every day enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail after work without issue. However, for about 16 million adults and adolescents in this country, alcohol is a dangerous drug that is abused to the point of sickness, brain changes, and harm to the body. Even when they want to stop drinking, they are not able to do so.
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These are signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD), an addiction to alcohol commonly called alcoholism. If you worry about how much you drink, feeling like you cannot stop, or you have a loved one who exhibits signs of alcohol use disorder, you may consider finding a rehabilitation program to overcome these compulsive behaviors.
But how do you choose an alcohol rehab center? Start with getting a diagnosis. Then learn more about the basic, evidence-based course used to treat AUD, and finally, ask personal questions about the program.
Diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder
It may be tempting to quit alcohol cold turkey, or all of a sudden, but without help to manage withdrawal symptoms and social support to stay away from alcohol after detoxing, it will be difficult for you to avoid relapse. Instead, consider the first step to be an appointment with a physician for a diagnosis. A doctor or therapist will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to determine if you have AUD, based on 11 criteria:
- Do you drink more than you intend to/longer than you intend?
- Have you wanted to cut down or stop but been unsuccessful?
- Do you spend a lot of time drinking/sick from drinking?
- Do you experience cravings or strong urges to drink?
- Does drinking get in the way of obligations?
- Do you continue to drink even if it has hurt your relationships?
- Have you given up activities in order to drink more?
- Have you been in a situation where drinking put you in danger?
- Have you experienced other mental/emotional issues from drinking?
- Do you feel like you need more alcohol now to get intoxicated?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when not drinking?
If you experience two or three of these criteria for at least one year, you have an alcohol use disorder. Two or three symptoms is considered mild, four to five is considered moderate, and six or more is deemed severe. Your clinician can recommend a course of treatment, starting with detox, based on how severe your AUD is.
Rehabilitation is the main focus of the long-term recovery process. This starts with detox, but rehabilitation also involves behavioral therapy to change your thoughts and behaviors around alcohol. It is crucial to have medical support during detox and to find an evidence-based rehabilitation program. There are many options available to personalize your alcohol rehab experience.
What Should You Look for in an Alcohol Rehab Center?
In many cases, the same organization or facility offers detox and rehabilitation, so you have continued care in a familiar environment or location. It is important to choose an alcohol rehab center that is comfortable for you, which means you should feel financially secure, emotionally supported, and physically stable.
There are some criteria you should look for in treatment programs geared toward your needs.
- The program understands the medical complications of alcohol abuse and has a doctor on staff to monitor for these issues and refer you to treatment.
- The alcohol rehab center has state licenses, nonprofit accreditation, and even awards. Basically, they have many standards of safety and excellence that they meet.
- Programs costs can be covered by insurance, scholarships, or a payment plan.
- The program drug tests clients regularly and has specific policies on medication. Some programs do not allow any medication while others allow prescriptions for certain treatments, like naltrexone to reduce cravings.
- If there is a waiting list, the average wait time is not extensive.
- Their policy about communicating with the outside world fits your needs. If you’d like to communicate regularly with your loved ones, they allow for this.
- They offer complementary treatments that appeal to you, such as art therapy, nutritional support, exercise classes, music therapy, spiritual guidance, religious services, or therapy for co-occurring disorders.
- They feature peer support meetings on their premises or easy access to 12-step or similar meetings.
- The program offers cognitive-behavioral approaches that appeal to you.
- Social workers, case managers, or therapists are on staff to help create an aftercare plan.
- Follow-up care is provided once the program is complete.
Approaches to Therapy Focused on Alcohol Abuse
The main focus of alcohol rehab programs is therapy. There are a few therapeutic approaches for groups and individuals that have been found to work well to change behaviors related to alcohol.
Clients discuss problematic behaviors, work to understand the triggers of these behaviors and find better-coping mechanisms for stress.
This therapy works to increase motivation to stay in the program and make behavioral changes by rewarding positive behaviors.
This approach works for people who are ambivalent about seeking or being in treatment by helping the person understand ways that their compulsive behaviors and alcohol abuse have been detrimental.
Based on Alcoholics Anonymous, the original program to help people struggling with addiction to alcohol, these groups use the 12-step model and peer assistance to support those in recovery.
These involve one-on-one counseling in a short amount of time, mainly intended to encourage the person to enroll in a long-term rehab program.
This therapy brings in spouses, children, and other close family members to understand how the family structure has been affected by alcohol abuse, and to make positive changes to support the person in recovery and keep the family unit healthy.
Make a list of your personal needs for a rehabilitation program, including things like a flexible schedule, family visitation hours, and amenities. You can then ask any rehabilitation program you are looking at if they can meet these needs at the same time you ask the questions listed above about accreditation, therapy approaches, medical staff and prescription access, and more.
START RECOVERY TODAY
Addiction is a serious chronic disease that has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. Whether you have become dependent on legitimately acquired prescriptions of illicit street drugs, it’s important to seek help immediately. Even though addiction is chronic and difficult to overcome, it is treatable. Through treatment options tailored to your needs and a variety of therapies, you can become addiction-free and start on your road to recovery.
Though there are thousands of people struggling with addiction, countless people achieve long-lasting sobriety and go on to live productive lives.
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(January 2018) Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine). National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-2
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