6 Features of An Effective Alcohol Program vs. One That's Not Working

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There’s a difference between an effective alcohol program and an ineffective one. Effective programs are more likely to succeed and come with certain traits. Knowing what to look for is half the battle.

Alcohol addiction in running rampant in America. Approximately 50.7% of Americans were regular connoisseurs of alcohol in 2016. In these studies, 24.2% of participants reported binge drinking in the past month, and another 6% reported heavy drinking in the past 30 days.

Those who are among the statistic should seek help as soon as possible. The road to alcohol and drug recovery is long, and there’s no better time to start than now. Those who are looking for an effective alcohol program should look for the following 6 traits. These traits are present in both outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment programs.

Alcohol detox

Before agreeing to any form of alcohol addiction treatment, consider whether the drug treatment is evidence-based. This means that there has been quite a lot of research that has gone into the effectiveness of the alcohol treatment program. Ones that have undergone both studies with controlled trials and randomized controlled trials are considered most effective. Choosing an evidence based alcohol detox or drug rehab program will lead to higher success rates. Patients are less likely to relapse. Some of the most common evidence-based approaches include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 12 step programs, medical detox, individual therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Many drug abusers and alcoholics who have undergone evidence based approaches have gotten sober. They are less likely to relapse even after a certain amount of time has passed. While evidence-based approaches tend to be the most successful, some patients will fail. The key is not to get disheartened. Instead, it’s important to try another evidence-based alcohol treatment approach.

#1. The Program Takes on an Evidence-Based Approach

Before agreeing to any form of alcohol addiction treatment, consider whether the drug treatment is evidence-based. This means that there has been quite a lot of research that has gone into the effectiveness of the alcohol treatment program. Ones that have undergone both studies with controlled trials and randomized controlled trials are considered most effective. Choosing an evidence based alcohol detox or drug rehab program will lead to higher success rates. Patients are less likely to relapse. Some of the most common evidence-based approaches include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 12 step programs, medical detox, individual therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Many drug abusers and alcoholics who have undergone evidence based approaches have gotten sober. They are less likely to relapse even after a certain amount of time has passed. While evidence-based approaches tend to be the most successful, some patients will fail. The key is not to get disheartened. Instead, it’s important to try another evidence-based alcohol treatment approach.

Different Levels of Evidence

When looking at the different approaches to alcohol addiction, patients will usually notice that each approach has different types of evidence to back them up. The usefulness or quality of the evidence is graded on 5 levels. The levels give patients a better idea on how experts see the evidence behind the treatments. The 5 levels include:

  • Level 1. These treatment programs have gone through true experimental designs. There are always randomized controlled trials involved in these evidence-based approaches. Numerous groups of patients have tried out the treatment program and been more successful than those who didn’t. The studies on alcohol have given addiction researchers a clear view on the effectiveness of each program.
  • Level 2. These treatment programs have been tested with quasi-experimental designs. This usually means that less research was done. There’s also usually no randomized controlled groups at all in the trials.
  • Level 3. These treatment programs usually come highly recommended by professionals in the addiction community. Doctors and nurses may have seen how effective the treatment is. Unfortunately, it may not have gone through any clinical trials yet.
  • Level 4. These treatment programs are derived from qualitative literature reviews. Usually, the programs for substance abuse were highlighted by respectable publications.
  • Level 5. These treatment programs are usually pushed by alcoholics or drug abusers who claim that they work. The only evidence involved are personal experiences.

Those who know a family member or a friend with an alcohol addiction should look at evidence-based alcohol intervention programs. The types of evidence used to back up each program can make a huge difference in its overall quality. Effective treatment will treat alcohol addiction with more ease.Go to top

#2. The Program Offers Treatment That’s Readily Available

It’s not easy to get into the right mindset for addiction treatment. It’s difficult for many alcoholics to maintain motivation during the treatment program. As a result, it’s vital that the rehab facility can respond quickly to the needs of each alcoholic.

In short, the treatment must be readily available. It’s vital to look for an alcohol treatment program that can deal with admissions and provide alcoholics with a bed within a short amount of time. The longer they wait, the more they are likely to attempt to get out of treatment. Those who are seeking treatment should ask questions about the pre-admission and admission process. Figure out how long it will take to get a bed, and how long before treatment plan starts. It’s best to avoid alcohol or drug addiction treatment facilities with long wait times. Consider whether there are differing wait times for inpatient or outpatient programs.Go to top

#3. Medications Are Tailored to Each Patient

Alcohol abuse is often associated with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. To help deal with these symptoms, most treatment programs involve medical detox. The medical detox uses chemicals to alter and change your brain and body. The medications manage withdrawal symptoms and keep patients healthy.

The type of medications recommended for each patient will vary. It depends on the patient’s biological makeup, length of alcohol abuse, and insurance policy. Some insurance policies cover specific medications only. The dose and length of the prescription will also vary from patient to patient. Personalized medical detox programs lead to higher recovery rates. They remain abstinent from alcohol.

Types of Medications Used in Medical Detox

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There are a wide array of medications used in medical detox. Each medication works in a unique and specific way. Some medications are approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). Others are recommended by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The most common medications used in medical detox include:

  • Acamprosate, which work by modulating and regulating glutamate and GABA systems. These systems often become dysregulated with alcohol dependence. As a result, the body becomes hyperactivated when alcohol consumption stops. Learn more about how long does alcohol stay in your system here. Acamprosate helps regulate these levels to avoid hyperactivity.
  • Disulfiram, which is an acetaldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor. This addiction medicine is used in aversion therapy. The drugs work by stopping alcohol from getting metabolized. If a patient consumed alcohol and then took this medication, he or she will experience unsavory symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
  • Naloxone, which is effective in reducing alcohol intake. These medications work block alcohol receptors in the brain; thus, preventing them from getting activated.
  • Naltrexone, which is a unique alcohol antagonist. It also blocks alcohol receptors in the brain and prevents them from getting activated. This medication is unique in the sense that it is injected intramuscularly once a month.

Understanding the different types of medications and how they work is crucial in treating alcohol abuse. Some medications come with side effects, so patients may have to switch from one medication to another.Go to top

#4. The Length of the Programs Are Sufficient for the Brain to Reset

One of the key differences between an effective alcohol program and an ineffective one lies in its length. Addiction involves a chemical imbalance in the brain. Many neurotransmitters become out of whack. With that said, they need a significant amount of time to return to their normal levels. Until then, the alcoholic will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Generally speaking, most experts recommend joining a treatment program with a length of at least 90 days. Most addiction researchers have found that it takes at least 90 days for the brain to reset itself. After 90 days, the brain will gradually return to its normal. Natural decision-making skills and analytical functions are restored. This restoration helps many alcoholics feel as if they’ve returned back to their old self. The cravings and impulsive behaviors will die down. Ceasing or reducing alcohol consumptions becomes a piece of cake.

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#5. Continuous Assessments Are Made to Determine the Patient’s Condition

Each patient’s condition will change substantially with time. Some patients go through the withdrawal timeline much more quickly than others. Others will take a longer time to go through all the symptoms. The latter usually happens when the alcohol user participated in a lot of binge drinking. It may also be more common among users who used alcohol and drugs concurrently.

To determine whether each patient is withdrawing successfully, they must be under medical supervision. Doctors and nurses at the rehab facilities should monitor each patient’s vitals carefully throughout the entire treatment program. The medications and treatments should adapt to the patient’s biological response. Some patients respond better to some therapies and treatment programs than others. The positive responses may be for seemingly no reason at all.

Assessments should be made every 4 hours for the first 7 days. Addiction treatment professionals mark down the types of symptoms experienced, as well as their severities. It’s vital to keep an eye out for life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms, like delirium tremens.

A Look at the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

In general, it takes about seven days for physical withdrawal symptoms to subside. The psychological symptoms, on the other hand, usually take a much longer time. In fact, it can take months, if not years, for psychological symptoms to disappear completely. This is why it’s so easy for alcoholics to relapse. They may start to crave alcohol for no reason all of a sudden.

The alcohol withdrawal timeline can be separated into three distinct stages. The length of each stage will differ from patient to patient. Still, the timeline is quite accurate for most patients. The three different stages of alcohol withdrawals include:

  • Stage 1– which generally starts about 8 hours after the last drink. These symptoms tend to be fairly mild, although they will gradually worsen. It’s easy to control the severity of these symptoms using medications like acamprosate.
  • Stage 2– which usually starts about 24 to 72 hours after the alcoholic has quit drinking alcoholic beverages. Symptoms tend to peak at this stage. This is also when some of the more life-threatening withdrawal symptoms appear. Some of the most common symptoms include arrhythmia and high blood pressure.
  • Stage 3–which usually appears about 72 hours after the patient has stopped drinking. Some of the symptoms that are more likely to appear include seizures and agitation. In general, these symptoms are more severe; however, they will slowly start to subside.

Physical withdrawal symptoms tend to disappear completely after 7 days. If not, they will become easy to handle. If patients withdraw past stage 3 successfully, they are likely to recover.Go to top

#6. Co-Occurring Disorders Are Treated

Did you know that 7.9 million Americans struggle with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder? Co-occurring disorders are much more common than you’d think. They tend to play off of one another. At times, they might even exacerbate the symptoms of one another. This may cause the disorders to worsen.

An important part of alcohol addiction is to treat all disorders at the same time. It’s vital that the medications prescribed do not interfere with the other disorder. It’s also important that doctors are aware of the different disorders that are present. Without a proper dual diagnosis, it’s difficult to treat the cause of alcohol addiction. Patients who feel mentally healthier and stronger are better equipped to deal with addiction. They are less likely to relapse.

Common Mental Health Disorders Linked T0 Alcohol Abuse

Since alcohol interferes with many chemical and biological pathways in the brain, it has been linked to quite a few mental health disorders. Some of the most common disorders that are often treated at the same time as alcohol abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Bipolar disorder

Some mental health disorders will appear at the onset of alcohol abuse. Others will take some time to appear. In fact, they may develop years after the addiction. In most situations, co-occurring disorders are most likely to appear with underage drinking. Addiction counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists will be able to best assess each situation and condition.

Reach Out to One of Our Specialists Today

If you have an alcohol addiction, reach out to one of our addiction specialists today. After assessing your situation, our professionals may recommend that you get medical detoxification, along with other types of substance abuse treatment.

Medical detox for alcohol is quite helpful in curbing addictive behaviors. It not only rids alcohol from the body, but it also prevents alcohol consumption. We’ll walk you through the different approaches to alcohol addiction. Based on your situation, we’ll make unique recommendations that are tailored to your needs. We can even help you if you require special treatment. For example, we have specialized programs for law enforcement officers.

We know what it feels like to deal with alcohol abuse. Some of our staff members are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. Our experience will guide you in the right direction, so you get the help you need. We can help you decide between an inpatient treatment program and outpatient treatment program. Getting sober and staying clean has never been easier. Get the help you need from us today.

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