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How Addiction Treatment Works


Before even considering the question of how addiction treatment works, you must be open to the possibility that you need such treatment. In doing this, you have to be willing to accept that you have a problem. For most people, this is often the most difficult part of the recovery process, and there are many reasons for this.

In the case of alcohol addiction, it can be very hard to tell when drinking has crossed the line into addiction. Since alcohol is a legal substance that most people drink to some extent, it is hard for many of these to see when it becomes a problem.

The UK Government has set guidelines for the safe consumption of alcohol and recommends that adults drink no more than fourteen units per week. This would equate to around six glasses of wine or six pints of lager. However, recommendations also state that the fourteen units be spread across the whole week with a number of days kept alcohol-free.

Drinking more than this is harmful for health and increases the risk of a physical dependence occurring. Nevertheless, many people drink more than fourteen units per week and do not even realise they are doing so. For them, drinking has become so habitual that they are not even making a conscious decision to reach for alcohol; it is just something they do.

Do You Have an Alcohol Problem?

This is a question that a friend or family member may have asked you. Your initial response was probably to angrily deny the suggestion that you could possibly be struggling with alcoholism. With so much stigma attached to addiction, most are horrified at the suggestion that they could be affected. Some would take it as an insult if another person were to raise the subject. It is for this reason that many family members stay silent until the situation is completely out of control and there is no way their loved one could deny the problem.

You may be here because someone you love has suggested you have an alcohol problem or because you know deep down that you have an issue with drink. If so, it is important that you are completely honest with yourself. Think about your alcohol consumption of late and whether you deem that it is in your control.

Are you drinking more alcohol than you used to? Did you even realise you had increased your alcohol consumption to such an extent? If not, then you are not alone. Many individuals will develop a tolerance to alcohol that means they need to drink more of it to achieve the effects they desire. So that one glass of wine after work may increase to two glasses and, before you know it, you may be drinking the whole bottle.

Problem drinking occurs gradually and subtly, and it is only when drinking starts to cause harm to your life or the lives of those around you that you may become aware that something is not quite right. Think about how you feel about alcohol too; for example, do you become irritable when you want alcohol and cannot get it? Have you tried to cut back or quit but have been unable to? If so, it is likely that you are already physically dependent and in need of help.

Do You Need Help?

If you have noticed that you feel ill when the effects of alcohol wear off, it is likely that you are already physically addicted and will more than likely require professional help to regain control of your life. The reason you feel ill is because you are suffering withdrawal symptoms. You might find that when you wake in the morning you feel quite nauseous or shaky, or perhaps you have a pounding headache? These symptoms are your body’s way of crying out for alcohol; you may have also noticed that a couple of sips of alcohol helps these symptoms to ease. Based on this, getting help as soon as possible is crucial.

Treatment can help you to overcome your alcohol problem and is available from many different organisations in the UK. Although you can go it alone, this is not recommended. Alcohol treatment must include both a detox (where you will quit alcohol) and rehabilitation (where you will learn how to live without alcohol). If you go it alone, you will likely miss out rehabilitation, which is a very important part of the process. Not understanding how addiction treatment works could mean that your recovery is very shaky, and you might find yourself back on the path of addiction at a later date.

What is Alcohol Detox Like?

If you want to live a substance-free life, you will need to understand more about how addiction treatment works and be willing to commit to a programme of recovery. Overcoming alcohol addiction is a three-part process. The first stage starts with a physical detox where you will quit alcohol and then wait until your body eliminates all traces of chemicals that have built up in your system over time. The other two stages will follow this: rehab and aftercare.

Again, it is possible to quit alcohol yourself but even if you do this at home, you are going to need constant supervision. Since the process tends to last between one and two weeks, you will need several people willing to take shifts as you will need around-the-clock monitoring.

It is usually preferable for most affected individuals to detox in a dedicated facility. Such facilities have staff fully trained and experienced in the detox process. Here you will be fully monitored at all times and staff will ensure that you are as comfortable as possible throughout the process.

Alcohol detox can be a complicated process and there is a risk that severe withdrawal symptoms may occur. Although most people will suffer mild to moderate symptoms, others will be affected by severe symptoms that will typically require medical attention. The good news is that in a supervised facility, these symptoms can almost always be prevented.

There is no way to tell what type of symptoms you will experience before the detox begins. How this process proceeds are typically determined by the severity of the addiction and whether you have any underlying medical problems. Those who have been drinking heavily for a long time tend to be at higher risk of complications.

How Does Addiction Treatment Work?

Once detox has completed, you will be ready to get started on treatment for your alcoholism. How addiction treatment works is a complex process. Treatment providers have realised that in order for rehab programmes to be successful, these must be catered around individual patients. This means that you will get your own plan of care which is likely to be very different from other patients at the same facility.

Although many years ago treatment for everyone was the same, not everyone benefitted from such programmes. After years of research, providers found that because everyone is different and has such different needs, treatment for addiction must also be different for everyone.

Nowadays, addiction treatment works by addressing these individual requirements. So although you and other patients may have some of the same treatments, it is likely that your plan of care will have other elements of treatment included that the other patient will not.

The idea of rehabilitation is that it helps you to move forward to live a substance-free life. You will need to learn how to live without alcohol going forward and you will also need to learn how to tackle the triggers and temptations that may have led you to this point in the first place.

To get to this stage, you must first tackle why you became addicted. Getting to the cause of your illness is a huge part of rehabilitation because without tackling these issues, you could find yourself struggling with addiction again at a future date because of these same causes.

If you have decided to get treatment in a residential facility, you will benefit from a concentrated and structured programme of treatment. Your programme will probably be condensed over the course of six to twelve weeks, during which time you will address the issues that caused your addiction and will learn how to move forward to an alcohol-free life.

Treatment is likely to include both psychotherapeutic and holistic therapies. Combining both methods provides a whole-person approach to recovery and is said to be the most effective way of treating addiction. It combines traditional therapies such as counselling with holistic therapies such as yoga, massage, and meditation. The use of a combined treatment programme helps to heal the mind, body and spirit and improves overall wellbeing.

Addiction treatment works by ‘re-wiring’ the brain once more. During addiction, structural changes occurred within your brain as the neural pathways became altered due to the presence of alcohol. These structural changes caused you to continue drinking alcohol even when you knew that doing so would cause harm.

The changes that occur in the brain as a result of regular abuse of alcohol tend to occur in the frontal lobe, the part of your brain that is responsible for decision making and good judgement. The good news is that in recovery, your brain can change again; this time it can be re-wired around recovery. With a good treatment programme, you can get sober and learn how to stay that way.

What Happens When Treatment is Over

After your rehab programme, the recovery journey is not over. To stay sober, you will need to be constantly vigilant to the threat of relapse. You will have learned what to do should you be faced with temptations and triggers, but you must work hard to maintain your sobriety.

Complacency can often lead some people to believe they do not have to be alert to the dangers around them. Remember that addiction is an illness that can be treated but not cured. Studies show that the threat of relapse is strongest during the first twelve months after rehab, so it is for that reason that most providers offer free aftercare for up to a year after their programme ends.

Nonetheless, it is also recommended that you get involved with your local recovery community. There are likely to be a number of fellowship support groups near to you, and joining one is important. In the early days of recovery, you can lean on this group for support. As you get stronger in your recovery, you may choose to reduce the number of meetings you attend, or you might continue to attend meetings for the rest of your life. Many people continue going to meetings a few times a year, even when they have been sober for decades.

If you are interested in learning more about how addiction treatment works or if you would like information on rehab providers in your area, please give us a call. Addiction.org.uk works with providers across the UK and provides free and confidential assessments and referrals to those struggling with addiction. We also work closely with family members and friends to provide helpful information and advice about how to get a loved one into treatment. Please call today to find out more about what we do and how we can help you or someone you love.

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