Home » Blogs » If someone is predisposed to addiction due to genetics, one little drink with friends or colleagues may lead to a struggle with alcohol in a short period of time. It may well consume one’s life. The performance at work is suboptimal, and colleagues at work have started to suspect that the individual has issues with addiction. Or, maybe his/her spouse/partner keeps worrying about your health and whether you will be socially functional or not! Or maybe, if that individual is a student, grades are slipping. If this is happening, it is time to take control of one’s life.
Even if the individual decides to stop liquor cold turkey, they experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which is extremely physically comfortable, it could also be dangerous – it could lead to seizures, stroke or even death! It is definitely time to look at drug and alcohol treatment options.
If the thought of being hospitalized is scary, or work and/or family commitments make inpatient programs impractical, consider an outpatient alcohol detoxification program. Outpatient programs are favored by health insurance providers and length of stay is longer than inpatient treatment – usually about 12 days.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Mild symptoms include anxiety, headaches, insomnia, tremors, palpitations, and gastrointestinal disturbance. Some individuals may experience moderate symptoms like hypothermia, diaphoresis, tachycardia, increased systolic blood pressure, tachypnea, and confusion. Symptoms are termed as severe when individuals become disoriented (delirium tremens) and have impaired attention, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, and seizures.
Types of Treatment
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, i.e. it slows down the brain. An effective treatment plan will start with addressing withdrawal symptoms immediately, due to the risk of seizures and stroke. Wholesome treatment will also include therapeutic techniques such as motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), 12-step self-help groups and group therapy. Family involvement in treatment is always a plus, but this can happen realistically only in outpatient detoxification programs at an early stage of treatment.
Ideally, detoxification should take 12-14 days in order to be effective – that is, minimal withdrawal symptoms at the end of detox – but inpatient programs last only 6 days at most. The full length of time needed to effectively detox an individual off of alcohol is only approved by health insurance providers for outpatient detox. Follow through treatment after alcohol detoxification should include partial care and intensive outpatient (IOP) programs.
This is the most acute and risky phase of treatment due to the risk of seizures and stroke. The program needs to have expertise in order to detox an individual off of alcohol. If it Is not done in an optimal manner it could lead to negative consequences. Medication is administered to address withdrawal symptoms and the patient is monitored for signs of risk of stroke and other medications introduced, if needed, to prevent seizures from occurring. Titration and tapering of mediations is key to achieving a smooth detox for the patient and leaving him or her with minimal withdrawal symptoms at the end of the detox program.
For alcohol, this process can take 12-14 days and outpatient detox programs usually are able to obtain authorization from health insurance providers for that amount of time, while inpatient programs can only manage to get about 6 days of authorization. Consequently, unless the patient pays for the remaining days out-of-pocket, inpatient programs are unable to complete the needed detox protocol. An effective detox raises the chances of the patient engaging in follow-through treatment to add skills to stay sober and prevent relapse. Detox happens on a contiguous basis until the protocol has been completed (weekends included).
Benzodiazepines (such as Chlordiazepoxide and Lorazepam) may be prescribed to treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Typically, most alcohol abusers who experience withdrawal symptoms also suffer from a shortage of vitamins and minerals; nutritional supplements can be given in such cases. Such individuals may have a deficiency of folate, thiamine, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate, or even low blood glucose levels.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are addressed in this level of care and therapy to teach coping and relapse prevention skills are provided. This program runs about 6 hours on weekdays (no weekends). Medication to address symptoms of discomfort and address mental health issues will be prescribed. The duration of treatment depends on an individual’s condition but usually lasts 2-3 weeks.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
IOP programs usually provide therapy 3 days a week, 3 hours a day for 6-8 weeks. This drug and alcohol treatment program offers patients the flexibility of performing their daily work activities and attending therapy sessions in the evening. Treatment does not always begin at the detoxification level of care. Depending on the severity of dependence and the frequency of use, patients can start treatment at any level of care.
Continuing Care Groups and Self-Help Groups
Such groups offer counseling sessions by a licensed therapist once a week. These groups cater to individuals who wish to maintain their sobriety with some level of support from an addiction treatment specialist.
Self-help groups are AA and NA. They are free to the public and there are a multitude of groups in the community. They provide a social setting of like-minded people who have made recovery journeys and help, apart from the daily support, to keep the holidays healthy and enjoyable.
You are not fighting a lone battle. Consider these treatment options for yourself or your loved one without burning a hole in your pocket or interrupting your busy schedule at work or home. Seek help at the right time and say hello to life.
Dr. Cidambi is a leader in addiction treatment and innovator of safe and effective ambulatory (outpatient) detoxification level of care for alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, and suboxone. Prior to founding the Center for Network Therapy, she completed her residency in Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and an Addiction Medicine Fellowship at NYU/Bellevue Hospital in New York. Due to the successful detoxification program, Dr. Cidambi was featured frequently by media outlets, including NPR, CBS, NY Times, and Wall Street Journal.