Addressing Alcohol Dependence with Medically Assisted Treatment
With the availability of alcohol and the acceptance of it in our society, it’s easy to see why there are so many people dependent on it. But, everyone is different. While one person may be able to stop after 2 glasses, an alcoholic may not be able to stop drinking until eventual unconsciousness. And, since there are many different kinds of drinkers and varying levels of alcoholism, there must be more than one method of treatment. And, the ability to combine treatment should be available for those who need it. Here at Diablo Valley MAT, we believe that a combination of medically assisted treatment and therapy sessions can help many individuals gain the recovery from alcohol dependence they need.
When individuals consume any addictive substance, their brains start reacting differently to adjust to the added chemicals. It’s easy to think that dependence or even addiction is just something an individual can stop if they have the right willpower. But, no one ever thinks they’re going to become dependent on alcohol when they take their first sip. Instead, dependence is something that can take years to develop.
Alcohol is a nervous system depressant that may make individuals feel better about negative aspects of their life when effects take place. But, when life’s problems start to come back upon sobering up, not only do individuals not feel well, dopamine and other brain produced chemicals have all been released during drinking. So, individuals will likely feel a craving to use alcohol once again to experience the effects. And, doing so over and over can increase tolerance, meaning it takes more alcohol to feel its effects. Tolerance is one of the characterizing aspects of a physical dependence on alcohol. When the body starts to form physical dependence, the brain will only release dopamine and other mood-regulating drugs when alcohol is present. So, individuals will start to associate drinking with feeling good and experience severe cravings to drink. And, the cycle of addiction ensues.
Some people can have a glass of wine for dinner and others can’t drink a beer without going on an all-night bender. Not everyone is at an increased risk for developing an addiction. But, unfortunately, some are. Individuals who may be at an increased risk for developing a dependence on alcohol may include:
Individuals diagnosed with mood disorders: Since alcohol can numb negative feelings for a short while, individuals dealing with emotions they would rather not have to may feel inclined to use alcohol. In fact, according to research and studies performed by the National Institutes of Health, 44% of individuals diagnosed with an alcohol disorder are also diagnosed with a concurring psychological condition.
People with a family history of alcoholism: We don’t know specific variables of DNA which may translate to alcoholism or an increased risk for developing alcohol abuse disorder. So, we can’t pinpoint which genetic aspect makes individuals more at-risk for drug abuse or dependence. However, we do know, through the use of large case studies, that alcohol dependence is a larger risk for individuals with a family history of it.
Individuals with specific personality traits: Some studies have shown that specific personality traits may place certain individuals at an increased risk for developing alcoholism. Most recognized of these traits include impulsivity and avoidance behaviors.
There are various causes for developing a dependence upon an addictive substance. And, for each individual case, the causes may differ. Along with getting the necessary medications one may need to gain sobriety, there are techniques utilized through therapy aimed at identifying and addressing the underlying causes of dependence. Here at Diablo Valley MAT, we don’t just give individuals a diagnosis and their medication, we also offer a number of therapeutic approaches individuals can use to gain insight on their predisposition to dependence and why they may be struggling with addiction in the first place. This helps to establish healthy thought patterns which aim to prepare individuals to reduce their chances of relapse.
It can be challenging to identify if a person has a problem abusing alcohol and is struggling with dependence. Often, individuals are simply in denial that they have a problem at all. And, that makes it even more of a challenge to identify if someone is struggling with increased tolerance, physical dependence, full-blown addiction. Essentially, anyone who is being affected negatively, either physically or psychologically, by drinking will be diagnosed with Alcohol Abuse Disorder. During an initial interview for treatment, doctors will interview individuals to gain a diagnosis based on 11 factors of alcoholism. Displaying some or all of these factors can help medical professionals assess which type of treatment individuals may make the best use of or whether or not they are exhibiting addictive behavioral tendencies and/or concurring mental health conditions.
Essentially, the initial assessment will help to determine which stage of alcohol use disorder an individual is experiencing which include:
Problematic Alcohol Abuse: This type of alcohol abuse disorder is characterized by a psychological tie between the use of alcohol and an individual’s feeling. The problematic alcohol abuser may experience negative effects of using alcohol during daily life, but they may not display a physical dependence. This means that these individuals, although they may abuse alcohol, do not exhibit withdrawal symptoms upon ceasing use.
Severe Alcohol Abuse: These individuals will exhibit at least 6 of the factors of alcoholism based out of the 11 used in diagnosing alcohol abuse disorder. But, all of these individuals will display a physical dependence on alcohol. This means that when they don’t drink, their bodies cannot function normally. And, this results in withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, cold sweats, insomnia, and even life-threatening convulsions.
If you’re wondering if you have a problem with alcohol dependence which may require treatment via medical assistance, there are some red flags which may signify alcohol dependence in your life like:
When dependence forms, without the presence of the drug, the body will react adversely. This is known as withdrawal. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms during treatment is inevitable because the body will no longer be obtaining the alcohol it needs to function like it had been trained to. But, withdrawal symptoms for those dependent on alcohol are not only agitating, but they could be deadly. Medication given to those who are detoxing from alcohol can help to prevent or reduce these awful withdrawal symptoms. This allows individuals to detox from home with an outpatient program and to also start with therapy services sooner rather than sitting around waiting for withdrawal symptoms to subside. Combining Medically Assisted Treatment with Therapy Services for Alcohol Dependence
Here at Diablo Valley MAT, the highest percentage of our patients utilizing medically assisted treatment are patients dependent on alcohol. It provides patients the opportunity to focus on other helpful aspects of treatment like group and individualized therapy. While medically assisted treatment may not be the only option for those living with a dependence to alcohol, it’s mostly used combined simultaneously with other helpful methods of treatment to achieve the best chance for obtaining long-term recovery success.
There are many methods to go about treating a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol or any other addictive drug. But, medically assisted treatment has many benefits including:
Great tool to use with other forms of treatment: Although medically assisted treatment is on an outpatient basis, those who are utilizing it have the opportunity to take advantage of both methods of support once a week. One-on-one therapy can help individuals to address specific areas of their own recovery with an experienced addiction specialist. Additionally, group therapy sessions are proven to help recovering individuals to develop a network of support, practice various coping methods used to prevent relapse, and determine healthy relationship boundaries.
It’s used on an outpatient basis: Because medically assisted treatment is something that can be given in a once-a-month injection or oral pill, it’s not something that individuals need to come and spend 10 hours a day on. Or, even live at the facility administering the medication. This means that individuals who invest in medically assisted treatment for alcohol dependence can continue performing daily activities like going to school or work.
It works for helping individuals gain sobriety: It has been proven that a combination of medically assisted treatment mixed with other therapy modules is effective in helping individuals gain sobriety after alcohol dependence. In fact, most addiction specialist will suggest that their patients recovering from alcohol dependence undergo both a medically assisted treatment program and therapeutic approach for the best chance for long-term recovery.
It’s unfortunate, but some people aren’t qualified for medically assisted treatment for alcohol dependence. It all depends on a person’s medical history, history with drug use, and other qualifications. Your eligibility for medically assisted treatment will be determined during your initial assessment with our doctor.
If you’re here, you or a loved one may need help with an alcohol dependence. And, if you’re still wondering if medically assisted treatment is the route you wish to take to gain sobriety, you’ll need to do some more research. Since knowledge is power, prepare yourself by utilizing the internet to gain the education you need about medically assisted treatment for alcohol dependence. Some helpful resources include:
If you think that you or a loved one would benefit from the combination of therapy methods and medically assisted treatment utilized here at Diablo Valley Drug and Alcohol Services MAT, please contact us today to learn about when the journey to recovery can begin!