Readiness for Alcohol Addiction Rehabilitation

To be suitable for rehab you need to have an open mind and realise you need help

escape from the grip of addiction

The definition of “Rehabilitation” is: the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment to an addiction.  The key to alcohol rehabilitation is that, for “the action of restoring” to even begin, there needs to be a willingness from the individual with the addiction to be open minded. They need to want to understand how they can change their thinking and behaviour in order to get their life back. They should not be in denial about having a problem, or be persisting with the thinking that they can sort out their ‘condition’ themselves. They can’t – they need professional and qualified help – and their failure to get well thus far is a demonstration of the fact that they need help.

People who need alcohol rehab cannot stop drinking without help

Using the word ‘condition’ when describing alcoholism, an alcoholic, alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence – terms all now combined into one disorder known as alcohol use disorder – may seem odd but it is now recognised as a medical condition that will move in severity from mild to severe. It is also important for family members and loved ones to understand that it is not simply a case of an individual drinking to excess, thus causing a problem throughout all of life’s areas, but the difficulty in just simply trying to stop drinking or drink in moderation which will not work if we have an addiction to alcohol.

Symptoms of alcohol dependency

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder can include the following and for anyone that can identify with two or three symptoms then the condition is mild; to identify with six or more symptoms the condition would be medically classified as severe.

  • Trying to cut back or stop for a minimum of three days but not able to do so.
  • Drinking more and for longer than intended
  • Hiding the amount we drink from others, either lying about how much we have drunk or even hiding empty and full bottles.
  • Strong cravings or urges to drink when not drinking
  • Continue to drink even though it has caused problems with family and friends
  • Drinking has taken over from social things that we used to enjoy, such as going to the gym or the cinema.
  • Stealing or borrowing money to fund our addiction.
  • Spending money on alcohol rather than household bills
  • Socialising with others that drink to excess
  • Drink driving, as the body only loses one unit of alcohol an hour. As a result, most people with an alcohol disorder will be constantly over the drink drive limit, including in the morning going to work
  • Continuing to drink more as the body has developed a tolerance to alcohol so more is needed to get an effect from alcohol.
  • Feeling the effects of alcohol withdrawal when not drinking such as nausea, particularly in the morning, sweating, shakiness of the hands and feelings of anxiousness and depression.
  • Drinking alcohol affecting our work, health, social, financial and life areas but we continue to drink without seeking help
  • Constantly finding excuses as to why we are drinking to excess when challenged by family or friends
  • False promises that we will take steps to do something about it.

Where is immediate help for an alcohol detox available?

Sadly, in this day and age, and with the numbers of those people being diagnosed with alcohol use disorder on the increase, there is even less help than there used to be. This condition has no restrictions on age or gender. Someone in their early 20s could easily be affected due to the way our drinking culture has changed over the last few years. With a number of pubs closing weekly, we are all drinking alcohol in a different and potentially addictive way.

There is probably a small window of opportunity when someone actually asks for help before that time is lost due to all sorts of excuses being made and it could be some time before the person asks for help again.  The only care pathway available for immediate treatment would be a residential alcohol treatment centre where a medicated alcohol detox treatment programme can be commenced under the care and supervision of the clinic’s own doctor.

For nearly everyone with an alcohol use disorder there needs to be an alcohol detox before there is the chance of not relapsing back into the old addictive thinking and behaviour.  The key is not just the alcohol detox but the structured daily therapy programme that enables us to look at how we are going to change our thinking and behaviour, to try and get a normal life back that is not being destroyed by our addictive actions. 

12 Step Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Of course, with residential alcohol treatment there is a financial cost involved and this will vary throughout the country. 95% of all treatment centres are AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) 12 Step based and the form of therapy associated with this treatment is more aligned with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Treatment) which is making us look at what is rational and irrational behaviour.  A prime example of this would be our continuing to drink alcohol even though we are aware it is causing our life, in every area, to spiral downwards.   Also, during treatment people will get an understanding of the 12 Steps of AA and will also attend AA support groups.  Quite often at The Haynes Clinic we will get a new admission who will state ‘I have attended AA, it didn’t help me stop drinking and I didn’t understand what it was about / like it’. 

Help from the Local Drug and Alcohol Team

Throughout the country, your local Drug and Alcohol team will offer free help but due to their sadly poor budgets they are not often able to arrange an alcohol detox. If they can, it is unlikely to be an immediate one  – which private treatment can provide.

Addiction Treatment Aftercare

Having stopped drinking and now we are attending AA support groups, if we have remained in residential alcohol addiction treatment for the recommended 28 days, some clinics will offer ongoing support, Aftercare, either one day a week at the clinic or via Zoom meetings. Our own GP might offer further medical support to help towards not having a relapse.  It should be understood that if the GP prescribes these medications, they are not a replacement for working a programme of Recovery. They are simply an add on that could possibly be of help but are not to be viewed as a magic tablet that will stop a Relapse because they absolutely will not. The medications that might be offered are:

  • Disulfiram or Antabuse. This is a medication that, should you drink any alcohol, then the body will react quickly and violently causing effects such as feeling nauseous and vomiting, headaches, sweating and chest pains.  These effects can last for at least up to an hour.
  • Naltrexone works in two ways, firstly by blocking receptors in the brain leading to less feelings of craving for alcohol and secondly by reducing the effects of alcohol, should someone relapse and have an alcoholic drink, so as not getting an alcohol high.
  • Acamprosate or Campral, which is usually prescribed for 12 months but can be longer, reduces the ongoing mental craving for alcohol by impacting the brains GABA system which is the glutamate and gamma aminobutyric acid. Also, unlike other alternative alcoholism treatment medications it is broken down by the digestive tract instead of the liver and it makes it a more favourable choice for those with a liver related health concern.   

If alcohol addiction treatment in a rehab clinic has been 100% successful, the person with the alcohol dependency will not need these medications. They will understand why they should never drink again, how it will never solve anything and only make anything worse – and they will have hope and optimism for a future that does not have any prospect of drinking alcohol.