How Effective is Alcohol Treatment in the United States?
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. Fortunately, no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with AUD can benefit from some form of alcohol treatment.
Alcohol-related problems—which result from drinking too much, too fast, or too often—are among the most significant public health issues in the United States. Many people struggle with controlling their drinking at some time in their lives.
More than 14 million adults ages 18 and older have alcohol use disorder (AUD), and 1 in 10 children live in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem. 
Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. The good news is that research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later.
Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems. 
Signs of an Alcohol Problem
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when an individual’s drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild to severe and is diagnosed when you answer “yes” to two or more of the following questions. 
In The Past Year, Have You:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving—a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is drinking so much at once that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.08% or more. For a man, this usually happens after having 5 or more drinks within a few hours. For a woman, it is after about 4 or more drinks within a few hours. Not everyone who binges drinks has an AUD, but they are at higher risk for getting one. 
Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. If you notice you or a loved one have a pattern of heavy binge drinking, it’s a sign that you should seek alcohol treatment as well; despite most people who binge drink do not have a severe alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol Treatment Options Led by Health Professionals
Which medication to use during alcohol treatment will depend on clinical judgment and client preference. Each has a different mechanism of action. Some clients may respond better to one type of medication than another.
Medications For Alcohol Treatment
Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors that are involved in the rewarding effects of drinking and the craving for alcohol. It has been shown to reduce relapse to problem drinking in some clients. An extended-release version, Vivitrol—administered once a month by injection—is also FDA-approved for alcohol treatment, and may offer benefits regarding compliance.
Acamprosate (Campral®) acts on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate neurotransmitter systems to reduce symptoms of protracted withdrawal, such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and dysphoria. Acamprosate has been shown to help dependent drinkers maintain abstinence for several weeks to months, and it may be more effective in clients with severe dependence.
Disulfiram (Antabuse®) interferes with the degradation of alcohol, resulting in the accumulation of acetaldehyde, which, in turn, produces a very unpleasant reaction that includes flushing, nausea, and palpitations if a person drinks alcohol. The utility and effectiveness of disulfiram are considered limited because compliance is generally poor.
However, among clients who are highly motivated, disulfiram can be effective, and some clients use it episodically for high-risk situations, such as social occasions where alcohol is present. It can also be administered in a monitored fashion, such as in a clinic or by a spouse, improving its efficacy.
Topiramate is thought to work by increasing inhibitory (GABA) neurotransmission and reducing stimulatory (glutamate) neurotransmission, although its precise mechanism of action is not known. Although topiramate has not yet received FDA approval for treating alcohol addiction, it is sometimes used off-label for this purpose.
Topiramate has been shown in studies to significantly improve multiple drinking outcomes, compared with a placebo. 
Medications Combined With Behavioral Treatment
While a number of behavioral treatments have been shown to be effective in alcohol treatment, it does not appear that an additive effect exists between behavioral treatments and pharmacotherapy.
Also known as alcohol counseling, behavioral treatments involve working with a health professional to identify and help change the behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. Behavioral therapies for alcohol treatment share certain features, which can include:
– Developing the skills needed to stop or reduce drinking
– Helping to build a strong social support system
– Working to set reachable goals
– Coping with or avoiding the triggers that might cause relapse
Types of Behavioral Treatments for Alcohol Treatment
- Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy: The type of therapy that can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups. This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and situations (called “cues”) that lead to heavy drinking and managing stress that can lead to relapse. The goal is to change the thought processes that lead to alcohol misuse and to develop the skills necessary to cope with situations that might trigger problem drinking.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy: It is conducted over a short period of time to build and strengthen motivation to change drinking behavior. The therapy focuses on identifying the pros and cons of seeking alcohol treatment, forming a plan for making changes in one’s drinking, building confidence, and developing the skills needed to stick to the plan.
- Marital and Family Counseling: This therapy for alcohol treatment incorporates spouses and other family members in the treatment process and can play an important role in repairing and improving family relationships. Studies show that strong family support through family therapy increases the chances of maintaining abstinence, compared with clients undergoing individual counseling.
- Brief Interventions: These are short, one-on-one, or small-group counseling sessions that are time-limited. The counselor provides information about the individual’s drinking pattern and potential risks. After the client receives personalized feedback, the counselor will work with him or her to set goals and provide ideas for helping to make a change.
Mental Health Issues and Alcohol Use Disorder
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with heavy drinking. Studies show that people who are alcohol dependent are two to three times as likely to suffer from major depression or anxiety over their lifetime. When addressing drinking problems with alcohol treatment, it’s important to also seek therapies for any accompanying medical and mental health issues.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.5 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019. 
The best alcohol treatment with dual diagnosis is integrated intervention, this is when you receive care for both your diagnosed mental illness and substance use disorder, such as alcohol.
Advice for Friends and Family Members with a Loved One Getting Alcohol Treatment
Caring for a person who has problems with alcohol can be very stressful. It is important that as you try to help your loved one, you find a way to take care of yourself as well. It may help to seek support from others, including friends, family, community, and support groups.
If you are developing your own symptoms of depression or anxiety, think about seeking professional help for yourself. Remember that your loved one is ultimately responsible for managing his or her illness. You might as well need to be eager to join in family therapy sessions while your loved one undergoes alcohol treatment.
Seeking Alcohol Treatment?
Level Up Offers Medically-Assisted Detox and Dual Diagnosis Approach
If you are an alcoholic, your very first step in recovery should be to medical detox in a safe and medically supervised setting. 
Level Up Palm Beach County drug addiction or alcohol treatment center medically assists clients to clear their systems of addictive substances, such as alcohol.
For anyone who suffers from addiction, just the thought of having to stop drinking alcohol can cause severe mental distress. But, with the help of a medical detox center, the medical detox process is managed.
A comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours. Assuring both your safety and comfort.
At Level Up West Palm, our thorough approach to rehabilitation supports several levels of care to ensure the best possible outcome for every client who enters our doors.
From an intensive and more supportive atmosphere for those in the early days of recovery to a comfortable residential-style living dynamic upon completion of detox, we are here to help guide you down the safe and results-based path to your sobriety.
If you or someone you love is seeking a safe, secure, and compassionate resource for alcohol treatment, Level Up West Palm is here for you. Call us and speak with an addiction counselor today about our levels of care.
 Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
[2-3] Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
 Alcohol Use Disorder – medlineplus.gov
 Alcohol Addiction – National Institute on Drug Abuse
 Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration
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