How to Manual on Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment

A person who is looking into getting help for alcohol or drug addiction – or others who may be concerned about a loved one’s use of alcohol or drugs – may be intimidated by conflicting or confusing information about substance abuse treatment programs and how they work. There are many different kinds of groups and individuals online and otherwise who advertise quick fixes, or offer strange or untested treatments to help people recover from addiction. Sometimes, it can be hard to figure out what treatments can really help compared to those that are less effective.

Treating Addiction

Research-based treatment for substance abuse and addiction does exist, and knowing what it looks like and where to find it can help people who are troubled with a drug or alcohol problem make sense of what’s out there. Through knowledge, it can be easier to find treatment that is right for the person who needs help.

How to Treat Alcoholism

Treatment plans for alcoholism

Treatment for alcoholism requires particular care in certain areas. Starting with medical detox, there are some symptoms of alcoholism that differ from those of other substance withdrawal and treatment requirements. In addition, because alcohol is a legal, easily attainable substance, risk of relapse can be very high for people who have developed an alcohol dependence. For this reason, a full-spectrum treatment program is recommended to offer the best chance at recovery without relapse.

How to Treat Drug Addiction

Much like treatment for alcoholism, drug addiction treatment is most likely to result in positive outcomes when provided under a full-spectrum program involving multiple areas of treatment. The main goal of drug addiction treatment is to help the person avoid returning to drug use after the treatment program is over.

The principles of drug addiction treatment are basically the same across all types of substance abuse and addiction. One of those principles considers the idea that each individual’s addiction history is different, which means that each person’s treatment should be customized to the greatest degree possible in order to offer the best chance of recovery.

Nevertheless, some of the differences between alcoholism and some drug addictions can mean that treatment is approached differently. Depending on the substance being used and the level of abuse or addiction, there may be slightly different priorities for detox, therapy, practical education, and post-treatment care in order to achieve the most positive recovery outcome.

Addiction Treatment Process

Medical Detox to Manage Withdrawal Symptoms

Detox from any substance can be an uncomfortable process. With alcohol detox, there is also the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms, particularly for those who have been heavy users for a long period of time.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Fatigue, bad dreams, and insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion and lack of focus
  • Aches and pains, including headache
  • Digestive issues and poor appetite
  • Heart problems
  • Trembling
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

The last two symptoms listed above, in particular, are dangerous and can lead to death if not treated by a professional. For this reason, medical detox is always recommended for alcohol withdrawal.

Through medically assisted detox, a doctor can administer medications that help reduce the severity of these symptoms. In addition, professional support can assist in managing the longer-term symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and alcoholism, such as fatigue and mood changes, which can last for weeks or months after ceasing alcohol use. This support can help reduce cravings.

What Drugs Require a Detoxification Process?

Aside from alcohol, there is only one class of drugs for which withdrawal is potentially fatal and requires intensive medical supervision; these drugs are benzodiazepines (benzos), which are prescription anti-anxiety drugs. Benzos are often also used illicitly as club drugs. Familiar names of these drugs include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam), among others.

Opiate withdrawal – whether for illicit drugs like heroin or prescription painkillers like OxyContin – does not generally carry the risk of death; however, it can be extremely uncomfortable. Relapse is likely if a person attempts opiate detox alone, so medical detox is also recommended. It can also be complicated if the person who is withdrawing from the opiate is also withdrawing from benzos; this is a common combination and can lead to dangerously low respiration.

There are methods of opiate detox that are sometimes advertised that do come with serious risks. Rapid opiate detox using anesthesia has been shown to result in death and other adverse events. To be on the safe side with opiates, and to help make withdrawal easier to manage, opiate withdrawal should also be managed by a medical professional.

While withdrawal from other drugs might not be life-threatening, medical detox is often recommended to keep individuals safe and comfortable throughout the withdrawal process. By making the withdrawal process a bit easier, medical detox lowers the chance that the person will relapse simply to stop withdrawal symptoms.

Detox Programs Work

Detox programs enable a person to safely withdraw from drugs by providing forms of medical support for withdrawal. Certain medicines are provided for several reasons, including:

  • To ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms
  • To reestablish the brain’s natural chemistry balance to the greatest degree possible
  • To reduce cravings for the substance
  • To manage symptoms of co-occurring disorders while detox is occurring

While it may only take a few days or a couple of weeks for the drug to completely clear the system, some withdrawal symptoms may extend beyond that period. For this reason, people should remain in detox for the full period recommended by their treatment specialists.

Some people believe that detox is all that is needed to recover from addiction, but this is not the case. In fact, people who simply go through detox without any other type of treatment are likely to relapse into drug use after detox is completed.
Related: Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Inpatient vs Outpatient Addiction Treatment

When Is an Inpatient Facility the Best Option?

Inpatient care is most beneficial for those who are dealing with addiction to alcohol, or alcoholism. This includes people who have perhaps tried outpatient programs without success and people who are at high risk for returning to alcohol use during or after rehab. However, inpatient care can help anyone who is dealing with an alcohol use disorder, including regular binge drinking or heavy use without addiction.

Inpatient facilities help by offering care that is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Because of this, managing the addiction and achieving recovery are the main focus of the person’s day, without distraction or temptation. This frees the person who is being treated from having to deal with work or school, family problems, and other stresses of daily life that may only make it harder for the person to focus on recovery and may serve as triggers for the person to return to alcohol use before treatment is over. In addition, being in residential care eliminates the possibility of relapse for the time that the person is in treatment, because alcohol is not available.

What Does Residential Care Offer That Outpatient Does Not?

For people who present a high risk of relapsing to drug use after detox, residential care can be an important next step. Residential care provides isolation from sources of the substance in case the temptation to use becomes uncontrollable, along with 24-hour supervision and support to help control cravings. Sometimes, medications can be provided to ease those cravings, and in residential treatment, this medication can be managed at any time to fine-tune the dosage for the maximum benefit. Medical supervision also ensures that these medications are not abused during treatment, if abuse potential is likely.

People who are at high risk of relapse include those who:

  • Are genetically predisposed to addiction
  • Have been through treatment for substance abuse previously
  • Relapsed previously
  • Were addicted to or abusing the substance habitually for an extended period of time
  • Have co-occurring mental health disorders that may increase drug-seeking behavior
  • Have easy access to the substance at home or through existing or unavoidable social networks

Similar to residential care for alcoholism treatment, another benefit of residential care for drug use disorders is fulltime focus on recovery without distraction.

How Can Therapy Treat a Psychological Addiction?

Therapy can treat a psychological addiction in several different ways. These include:

  • Behavioral modification: By helping people to recognize triggers and situations that are likely to cause cravings or drug-seeking behaviors, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can transform behaviors and help maintain abstinence from the drug.
  • Relationship management: Family therapy and interpersonal therapy can help a person strengthen relationships and build support systems, resolving some emotional issues that may have contributed to drug use, thereby making it easier to avoid triggers.
  • Managing co-occurring disorders: Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or phobias, can sometimes contribute to the reasons a person abuses drugs. Working with a therapist to manage these conditions can lessen their influence over the person’s perceived need to abuse the substance.
  • Peer self-help groups: Participating in 12-Step programs and similar group support and education models during and after treatment provides motivation, confidence, and a sense of community that can keep a person committed to treatment.

How Long Should One Be Active in an Alumni Program?

As with alcoholism treatment, the goal of drug addiction treatment is to help the person manage recovery from drug abuse for the long-term. For this reason, a comprehensive treatment program will generally involve aftercare in the form of an alumni program or other post-treatment program.

Because the length of time that a person stays in treatment is often an indicator of whether or not the person will remain clean from the substance for the long-term, the simple answer to this question is to stay in aftercare for as long as possible. However, because this is not always practical, a period of no less than 90 days is generally considered to be the minimum time needed to produce positive, lasting results.

For some people, participating in aftercare for a year or more is helpful. Positive effects can be maintained by keeping up with a 12-Step or other peer self-help group to maintain support and motivation indefinitely after treatment.

How Helpful Is Attending AA Meetings?

As part of a comprehensive program like the one described above, AA or other 12-Step programs can be a good source of support and motivation to stay in treatment and maintain recovery after treatment. Beginning participation in a 12-Step group during treatment is part of the continuum of care that can continue well after the official treatment program has ended.

One of the stronger signs that a person will achieve long-term recovery from alcoholism is the ability to avoid relapse in the short-term after treatment. Research has shown that participating in 12-Step programs like AA on a continuing basis after treatment increases the rates of sobriety in the short-term, which leads to a greater likelihood that the person will still be sober more than two years after treatment is over.

What’s the Difference between Traditional 12-Step Programs and Other Approaches?

Just about everyone has heard of Alcoholics Anonymous – or AA – which is based on the 12-Step model. These types of programs follow a series of guidelines that encourage personal and spiritual growth and change as the basis of recovery from addiction. The 12 Steps are the guidelines that encourage an ongoing progress that starts with the person admitting to and accepting the presence of alcoholism and continues through creating self-awareness of the triggers and temptations that result in the person’s alcohol use. The program’s core is usually based on drawing on a higher power to sustain abstinence from alcohol.

Other treatment programs that do not follow the 12-Step model include a variety of medical, psychological, practical, and social therapies undertaken to reduce the risk of relapse during and after treatment. These therapies help the person:

  • Reduce cravings, through medical support if necessary
  • Understand personal triggers and how to avoid them
  • Treat co-occurring mental disorders that may contribute to or be complicated by alcoholism
  • Practice skills that strengthen the ability to resist temptation
  • Develop social relationships and strengthen networks that support sobriety
  • Develop and maintain motivation to stay sober

These types of treatment are generally supported by research. When combined under a continuum of care, all these elements, including 12-Step involvement, can provide a comprehensive program demonstrated to result in more positive recovery outcomes than a single element alone.

What Are Sobriety Coins, and How Do They Work?

Sobriety coins are tokens offered by Alcoholics Anonymous to commemorate the amount of time a person has remained sober. The purpose of these coins is to give the person who is in recovery from alcoholism a physical reminder of success that can serve as both a reward for the person’s achievements and a motivation to continue on the path of sobriety.

Studies have consistently shown that an important element leading to long-term recovery is the commitment of the individual to complete treatment and stay sober. This motivation makes it more likely that the person will spend enough time in treatment for it to have a positive effect on reducing alcohol-seeking behaviors.

After treatment, this motivation can sometimes be a challenge to maintain. Sobriety coins and other motivational techniques can help to keep the commitment to sobriety strong so the person will continue to avoid relapse.



How Do I Start Addiction Treatment?

We are glad you are ready to get started with addiction treatment. You or your loved one has taken a huge first step. You’ve got two main ways to go from here to checking in at Sunrise House or one of our sister facilities across the US.

  1. Start Admissions Online: You can see an overview of the admission process, learn what to expect for both patient and family members, as well as check your insurance for addiction treatment coverage. Once you’ve checked your insurance, we will give you a call to discussion options. In most cases, we will call within the next 30 minutes. If we can’t reach you, we will leave a discreet message so you can call us at your convivence to complete arrangements.
  2. Call Us at . Our team is available 24/7 to help you find information and make decisions about addiction treatment that are right for you or your loved one. Combined our team members at American Addiction Centers, which includes our facility and 8 other treatment centers around the US, have over 440,000 days in recovery! We get where you are at and want to help you.

Thank you for trusting Sunrise Treatment Center as part of your recovery journey. We look forward to supporting you.

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