Is It Necessary to Go to Alcohol Rehab?

Do you have an alcohol problem?

stop addiction sign

One of the main questions that people raise in telephone calls when they call The Haynes Clinic is if, what they drink and the amount they drink, means that they are alcoholic. Not that long ago people’s perception of an alcoholic was the typical park bench drunk or the person going into a pub for an early drink; there used to be a stigma attached to those with an alcohol problem. That situation has now been reversed, with more public understanding, and the stigma is now more around those people that know they have a problem with alcohol but choose to make excuses and not to do anything about it. They will delay getting help such as going into a residential alcohol rehab.

Generally, if we at Haynes Clinic are getting a phone call then that person knows they have a problem. It is their denial which makes it difficult for them to accept it. One of the common comparisons people make is that they disclose they are drinking beer, lager, cider or wine and, if they don’t drink any spirits such as vodka, how can they be an alcoholic? It actually does not matter what alcoholic drink is being consumed or even what the % alcohol per volume is, what matters is – does our drinking now cause a problem in some or all of our life areas such as self, family, work, or relationships?

Have those closest to us challenged us on the amount we are now drinking or how we change when we are drinking and are we finding excuses for our change in behaviour?  It is very common for anyone with an alcohol problem to blame anything or others to justify their increase in drinking and subsequent change in behaviour. 

Alcohol problems tend to get worse, rarely better, if you do not get help

What does happen, though, with anyone who has an alcohol addiction is that the amount that they drink will increase over time, as the body becomes more tolerant to the drug and there will be the need to consume more to get the same or similar effect.  For many people, Covid lockdown and the regime of starting to work from home was the worst thing that could have happened to them.  This is because it suddenly removed all alcohol restrictions such as physically commuting to a place of work. It became easy to drink more and at any time of day and the problem then started to escalate for many with the general excuse being that of “boredom.”

A high percentage of people will say that they now get their alcohol delivered and it is much easier to dispose of a wine box than be left with a load of empty bottles. This is such a far cry from the days of strict licensing laws so in one respect it has made alcohol far more accessible that it ever used to be. This may be one of the reasons that far younger people are now seeking help for alcohol addiction.

Help from the NHS is rarely available

Publicly funded help for alcohol addiction is now becoming more restricted and less available. A GP cannot offer a full home detox for alcohol due to health and safety guidelines. Under prescribing a detox leads to people drinking alcohol with their detox medication. Hospitals will generally not offer anyone a detox from alcohol even if they turn up at A and E. At A and E they will usually just hydrate the individual and discharge them from treatment within 24 hours. Help can also be sought from the local community drug and alcohol team but throughout the country they are majorly underfunded, and there is generally a long waiting list for residential help including an alcohol detox.

Just stopping drinking overnight with will-power can be dangerous

Suddenly stopping drinking can be very dangerous. The body is used to its daily or near daily intake of a drug – alcohol – and when that is stopped the body may react quite violently and can go into a series of seizures, normally on day 2 or 3.  A seizure can affect the brain, or worse an individual may be susceptible to swallowing their tongue.

Alcohol rehab / detox is the safest way

The safest course of action is to be admitted to a residential alcohol rehab or residential detox clinic.  You will be admitted under the care of a doctor who will prescribe your detox medication.  The medication used is usually Librium or Diazepam which is commonly administered 4 times a day on a reducing scale over a period of 7 days.  You may also be prescribed a ‘PRN’ dosage, which is a small amount of extra medication given if you start to feel the effects of withdrawal.

Everyone is different and not everyone will need additional doses. Zopiclone, a sleeping tablet or some sort of alternative, may well also be prescribed to help the individual to get the natural sleep pattern started again. This is usually only prescribed for up to the first 6 nights. 

Alcohol detox is usually available immediately

When someone decides that they need help, there is normally a small window when they will act on their decision before they change their mind again. That is why being able to access private treatment for an alcohol addiction is so important, as normally people can be admitted within a 48-hour window, once the decision has been made.

Alcohol detox alone is not enough to stay permanently sober

Just going into residential alcohol rehab for a detox though is not enough to get well long term. There needs to be a change in our thinking which will result in a change in our behaviour.  At The Haynes Clinic we have a minimum residential programme for a 14-day period.  People coming into treatment are generally able to start therapy the day after they are admitted. It is important that people engage with the structured daily therapy programme so that they understand how to get well and live a normal life without alcohol. 

Don’t put it off!

Interestingly, December can be a very busy month for admissions as some people realise they cannot face another Christmas nor do they want to ruin yet another Christmas for their family. They choose to give their family and friends an early present by getting well and no longer use the excuse of “I will do something about it later / after Christmas and the New Year,“ which is basically just again finding an excuse to prolong the action that needs to be taken.