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COVID-19 and Rehab: Facts about drug and alcohol addiction treatments during pandemic.

dr-vorobjev

January 4, 2021

Alcohol is a substance that has been consumed by humans for centuries. Due to the fact it is legal, it is frequently not classified as a drug. However, pharmacologically speaking, alcohol is considered to be a depressant drug.

The legal status of alcohol makes it very easy to buy once of age, and easy to abuse. Alcohol is one of the first drugs that many people engage in, which is why it is considered to be a gateway for drugs. In fact, one study done in 2012 showed that alcohol was used more among young populations than cannabis.

This, paired with its easy access and addictive potential, constitutes an issue. This may lead many consumers to realize they have a problem and pushes them to look for help for alcoholism. This article discusses alcohol addiction, identifying it, and learning the steps to take to cope with its symptoms and treat it. Help for alcoholics is never too far.

What is alcohol addiction?

Alcohol addiction, commonly known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a dependence on alcohol. This dependence is typically physical and psychological. When dependent on a drug, the body essentially needs the substance for normal functioning. 

Developing a drink addiction is relatively easy compared to other drugs. This is not because of its addictive potential, but due to its widespread availability. The only restriction on alcohol purchasing is based on age. Once an individual is of age, there is no limit to the quantities of alcohol that they can purchase.

An infographic from the NIAAA showing alcohol abuse statistics among women, men, and adolescents.

Once a full-blown dependence has developed, attempting to stop alcohol abuse is hard. This is as the alcoholic begins to have cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop. The availability of the substance makes it easy to relapse at every turn. This is why treatment for alcoholism requires professional alcohol addiction services.

What are the symptoms and signs of alcohol addiction?

Alcoholism tends to present with certain features. These signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse can be used to tell when a person has a drinking problem. They can also help in self-diagnosis. These include the following:

  1. Craving alcohol frequently.
  2. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from alcohol.
  3. Spending large amounts of time and money using alcohol and recovering from its effects.
  4. Failure to perform responsibilities in the workplace, school, or at home due to alcohol abuse.
  5. Ending up drinking beyond the amount originally intended.
  6. Foregoing previously pleasurable activities to allow for alcohol use.
  7. Failing at stopping or reducing alcohol intake even after recognizing they need help with alcohol.
  8. Development of tolerance to alcohol.
  9. Continued use of alcohol even if it is noticeably worsening health.
  10. Continued use of alcohol even in the presence of relationship problems induced by it.
  11. Using alcohol in situations where it may pose a risk to the life and health of the addict and others.

These 11 signs are all part of the criteria outlined by psychologists. If at least 2 of them are present within 12 months, the individual can be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.

Get a free online consultation to learn how to manage these symptoms in you or your loved one >>>

What are the causes of alcoholism?

Frequent alcohol use causes a series of changes in the brain and its neurotransmitters. It changes how neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are released. These are important for reward circuits.

Several individuals can drink the same amount of alcohol, but not all of them will develop alcohol use disorder. This is because some factors predispose certain people to the condition. These include:

What are the effects of alcohol abuse?

Many of the effects of alcohol are desired by the individuals who drink it. However, beyond the notion of alcohol being safe, there are several short-term and long-term side effects that need attention. These side effects, particularly the long-term ones, show why they should receive alcohol help for themselves before it is too late.

Short-term side effects of alcohol abuse

The short-term effects of alcohol abuse are best seen in an individual who is intoxicated. However, the general extent of symptoms seen depends on the degree to which the person is intoxicated. These include the following effects:

  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Poor decision-making ability
  • Poor coordination of limbs
  • Slurred speech
  • Impairment in short-term memory formation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

At extremely high doses, alcohol can kill. It can also cause some very severe side effects. This once again underlines how getting help with alcohol is important when done as early as possible. These include:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Significantly decreased heart rate
  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Choking on the stomach contents
  • Death

Long-term side effects of alcohol abuse

When used for a long enough amount of time, the side effects of alcohol abuse reach unfortunate severity. It can damage several systems in the body irreversibly. Even after a drink addict gets help with alcoholism, some of these effects may already be present. These include:

  • Hepatic: Alcohol is popularly known to have significant effects on the liver.
    • Alcoholic liver disease. This disease includes alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver.
  • Central nervous system: This can result in conditions of significant harm to the brain. Brain damage, lesions, and other abnormalities tend to be noted.
  • Cardiovascular:
    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
    • Hypertension
  • Psychiatric:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Schizophrenia
  • Reproductive: Alcohol is what is known as a teratogen. This simply means it is likely to produce birth defects when used by a pregnant woman.
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Increased risk of some cancers, such as oropharyngeal and esophageal cancer

Alcoholism treatment and help

Quitting alcohol can be very difficult in the long run as its temptation is nearly always present, no matter where you go. This makes drinking cessation difficult for addicts. When they realize this, they find themselves looking for the best treatments for alcoholism.

Luckily, there are many treatment options for alcohol abuse help. This includes alcohol addiction treatment programs. These exist to get addicts healthy and back on their feet and are the closest thing to a cure for alcoholism.

The detox period is the time where the person abstains from the drug, and alcohol is being cleared from the system. After is alcohol abuse rehabilitation, which aims to address the more social aspects of the addiction and repair the damage left behind. Different therapeutic methods serve as a means to stop alcoholics from seeing alcohol as a solution.

The severity of the addiction can determine how long alcohol recovery will take. In milder or moderate cases, a 7-day alcohol treatment program should be good for treating alcoholism. If 7 days does not suffice for alcohol recovery time, then 10-day treatment programs are available too.

Phases of treatment of alcohol addiction

Diagnostics – the first and significant phase of treatment during which the physical and psychological state of the patient is assessed. The standard diagnostic examination for physical condition assessment includes:

  • urine test,
  • tests for hepatitis B and C, HIV infection,
  • general blood analysis,
  • blood biochemical testing,
  • ECG,
  • an internist examination.

The standard diagnostic examination for assessing the psychological condition involves psychodiagnostics (psychological tests are used to determine the level of addiction, the consequences of the use of substances on mental health, to detect the signs of psychological disorders, the presence of depression, the degree of motivation for healing). Having made the diagnosis, the team of doctors examines the findings and develops treatment strategy and plan. If there are risk factors or some chronic illness, additional tests are carried out, and therapy is prescribed. It is possible to do MRT, EEG, ultrasound, X-ray, endoscopy, medicine, and drug concentration analysis, cardiac examination, neurological examination, endocrinological examination. These are all additional tests that are not included in the package price.

Detoxification – Depending on the results of diagnostics, the most appropriate method of detoxification of the body from alcohol is chosen for each patient individually which will best eliminate all the unpleasant and dangerous symptoms of the crisis.

When one consumes alcohol for a long time and in large quantities, he is at risk of alcoholic delirium and seizures upon quitting. That is why detoxification is crucial and includes not only infusions, vitamins, hepatoprotectors, amino acids, but also the complex of preparations that protect the brain, normalize the work of the heart, liver, kidneys and peripheral nervous system. This program lasts for seven days.

Psychostabilisation – when the withdrawal syndrome passes, addiction is not cured. The key stage enters the scene in which a negative attitude toward alcohol is instilled, and alcohol stops being appealing, and the patient begins to feel comfortable when sober. This is achieved through the following procedures:

  • Aversive therapy makes it possible to create an aversion to alcohol at the subconscious level and a negative response to the smell and taste of alcohol.
  • N.Е.Т. therapy eliminates alcohol-induced pleasure hormones imbalance.
  • Transair therapy is a special procedure that reduces mental tension, nervousness, regulates mood swings, appetite, and insomnia. This therapy leads to the normalization of brain hemisphere functions.
  • Psychotherapy

The pharmacological blockade in the form of Disulfiram is scheduled for the end of the treatment. The blockade is an essential component, and it maintains the treatment results. Disulfiram is a medicine that causes an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is taken and exists in the form of tablets, implants, and depot injections. It is recommended that patients be protected with Disulfiram for 12 months.

Anti-relapse outpatient support is crucial for the treatment to be completely effective. The patient and his family should be in contact with the hospital for at least a year. It is necessary to respect the rules of outpatient treatment, to change the lifestyle, to take the prescribed therapy, and to come to follow-ups regularly.

How to begin with alcohol abuse treatment?

The common nature of alcohol makes it a devastating drug to get addicted to. Even for addicts trying to stop alcoholic tendencies, it can be hard. Getting help for alcoholism will require dedication and alcohol abuse counseling. There are alcohol use disorder treatment programs that can provide this for alcoholics. Finding an alcohol treatment program is the right step to take, and with this, an addict can be on their way to healthy living.

 Book a free online consultation to learn how to start the recovery from alcohol addiction >>>

Published on January 4, 2021

by Dr Vorobjev Clinic team

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