Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, describes a wide range of problematic drinking behaviors. From binge drinking and alcohol abuse through to full-blown alcohol addiction, treatment centers deal with all aspects of alcoholism. Professional alcoholism treatment not only helps people get sober, it also addresses the precedents of abuse and addiction and supports the recovery process.
Alcoholism treatment centers can be found throughout the United States, with some providing medical detox clinics and others specializing in behavioral therapy programs. If you need to access alcoholism treatment, it’s important to reach out to a dedicated facility as soon as you can.
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Alcohol use disorder includes the old classifications of alcohol abuse and dependence, which were combined under a single classification in 2013. Alcohol abuse is defined by compulsive and uncontrolled drinking patterns, with dependence normally associated with tolerance and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.
Generally speaking, people are said to have an alcohol problem whenever alcohol is causing them problems and they continue to drink anyway. A physical addiction is accompanied by a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome, with psychological dependence associated with emotional and motivational symptoms. While psychological symptoms almost always accompany physical addictions, the opposite is not necessarily the case.
Alcohol is known to cause a number of health problems, with excessive and long-term drinking habits dangerous in more ways than one. Drinking too much can affect the brain, heart and liver, with the immune systems also weakened as a direct result of alcohol exposure. Alcohol interferes with certain communication pathways in the brain, with executive functioning and social skills severely affected by heavy drinking.
Long-term brain damage is possible from extended or excessive exposure, with short-term changes also affecting mood and coordination. Drinking too much can also affect the heart, with high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heart beat and cardiomyopathy all known to result from heavy drinking. The liver and pancreas are also affected, with excessive drinking also known to increase the risk of developing certain cancers.
A medical detox period is often needed to treat alcoholism, especially for physical addiction cases. Medical detox describes the process and experience of withdrawal under medical supervision, with benzodiazepine drugs often used to treat physical dependence. Long half-life drugs like Valium and Serax are generally preferred over short half-life drugs, with a gradual dose reduction often needed over a period of weeks or months.
Other medications may also be applied during and after detox, including two forms of the opioid antagonist naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate. These drugs should only ever be taken under strict medical supervision, with medications often available from residential and outpatient treatment centers.
Cognitive behavioral therapy forms the basis of many alcohol and drug treatment programs, both during residential care and aftercare support. This form of therapy aims to change unhealthy behavioral patterns by altering cognition and affect, with various techniques and strategies applied to help people in need.
Relapse prevention is also based on behavioral and cognitive methods, with recovering addicts given the psychological skills and support they need to avoid a relapse scenario. Moral reconation therapy is a particular implementation of cognitive behavioral therapy often used to treat alcoholics and drug addicts, with patients guided through seven distinct steps using homework assignments and exercises.
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