Alcohol Addiction: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects
Last Updated: Sep 30, 2023
What is the treatment?
Alcohol addiction or alcoholism is a condition that has negatively affected the lives of thousands of people all across the globe. Alcohol is the most commonly abused psychoactive substances in the world and a lot of people get addicted to it. A person is said to be addicted to alcohol if he/she has lost the ability to control the use of alcohol. Alcoholism is a multi-faceted illness that not only affects the individual concerned but also the family and community.
There are different types of alcoholics, namely: young adult subtype, young antisocial subtype, functional subtype, intermediate familial subtype and chronic severe subtype. Some of the signs and symptoms that help to determine whether a person is alcoholic are: if he/she consumes more alcohol than he/she had actually planned to; he/she is having problems fulfilling work and family obligations due to alcohol; if he/she continues to drink alcohol even after knowing the physical and psychological damage caused by it; if he/she spends a lot of time obtaining, using and recovering from alcohol and if/she requires increased quantities of alcohol to fulfill their craving. A person can be characterized as an alcoholic if he/she has intense craving/desire to have alcohol even at the expense of health and life.
The treatment for alcohol addiction involves a few different programs. The programs include group and individual counseling and therapy; educating the patient on the addiction and what its consequences may be; devising strategies to prevent relapse and post-treatment planning. Medications may also be used.
How is the treatment done?
The first step to effectively treat alcohol addiction is to acknowledge the fact that there is a problem. A person suffering from this condition has to should first accept that he/she has a problem and only then can there be effective treatment. It has to be kept in mind that there is no such medication or surgical procedure for treating alcohol addiction. Getting rid of alcohol addiction requires a firm resolve and different treatments or strategies. The treatment plan will depend on factors like prior history of alcohol dependence, personal commitment of the patient, support from the family and friends of patient and also the patient’s financial condition.
The different treatment options include detoxification, behavior modification, medications and counseling. Detoxification is done at a hospital or at an inpatient therapy treatment center. This procedure seeks to break a patient’s physical addiction to alcohol. People are often addicted as much to the act of drinking as they are to the alcohol itself. Such people need to undergo behavior modification therapy so that they do not start drinking when they get back home after detoxification.
An alcoholic will benefit much by being part of a support group. A doctor or therapist is likely to recommend an alcoholic for a one-on-one or group counseling. Being in a support group, a person is able to connect with people who have or are experienced/experiencing similar problems. A recovering alcoholic will require encouragement and other psychological support to find his/her way out of the complicated situation that he/she is in. Therapies and counseling can help an alcoholic in this regard. Medicines like disulfiram, acamprosate and naltrexone help to reduce your cravings for alcohol.
Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)
A person is eligible for treatment for alcohol addiction if he/she cannot control the use of alcohol or in other words if a person cannot control how much he/she drinks. A person is eligible for treatment when he/she has difficulty in acknowledging that there is a problem, if the person has frequent black outs due to excessive alcohol intake, if the person is unable to stop consuming alcohol and he/she drinks despite warnings from a doctor or before work. Some of the other signs in a person eligible for alcohol are withdrawal symptoms, trouble in relationships, problems at work and being able to drink more than what he/she normally used to.
Who is not eligible for the treatment?
Any person who suffers from alcohol addiction is eligible for treatment. There is no such condition where a person will be ineligible for treatment. Treatment for alcohol addiction mostly comprises of behavior modification and counseling of the concerned person and detoxification. So every person who is addicted to alcohol can avail of these treatments as they do not have any major side effects or risks. However, a person should consult a doctor before taking medications.
Are there any side effects?
Some of the side effects of disulfiram are tiredness, drowsiness, headache, skin rash, impotency, swollen or sore tongue and metallic or garlic-like taste in the mouth. Use of acamprosate to deal with addiction to alcohol may have some serious side-effects like severe anxiety or disorder, negative thinking, changes in mood and behavior, swelling in body and weight gain, increased thirst and less than normal or no urination. Some of the side-effects of using naltrexone are similar to that of disulfiram. The other side-effects are loss of appetite, increase or decrease of energy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
What are the post-treatment guidelines?
An alcoholic normally will take a lot of time to recover from his/her addiction and hence, treatment for alcohol addiction is usually a life-long process. A person may start drinking again or might undergo extreme mental and psychological stresses and strains after quitting alcohol. So, doctors or therapists normally involve family and friends to care for the patient after the initial treatment. A person who has undergone detoxification and counseling sessions need to lead a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, exercises and meditation can go a long way in helping an alcoholic to overcome the problem.
How long does it take to recover?
An alcoholic can require up to 2 weeks time for complete detoxification. There are different stages in the treatment for alcohol addiction. Even after a person has quit alcohol and successfully completed therapy or counseling, there is still a risk of the person reverting to alcohol. Thus, a person needs to attend individual or group therapies for a long period of time so as to overcome the psychological treatments associated withdrawal. Support from friends and family is essential for the long-term treatment of alcohol addiction.
What is the price of the treatment in India?
Detoxification therapy at a private hospital can cost around Rs 50000 for two weeks. Behavioral therapy or counseling sessions can cost something between Rs 500 – Rs 1500 depending on which doctor or therapist is being consulted. 30 tablets of Disulfiram can cost something around Rs 5,500. A month-long supply of Acamprosate will cost Rs 8000 approximately.
Are the results of the treatment permanent?
Detoxification, behavior therapy and counseling may help a person to fight the menace of alcohol addiction. But it does not guarantee that a person will not fall prey to this condition again. Permanent treatment of alcohol addiction requires a strong resolve on the part of the concerned person and proper counseling. A person may be tempted to consume alcohol when he is undergoing treatment. Thus, alcohol addiction requires a life-long treatment and permanent results are quite elusive.
What are the alternatives to the treatment?
Meditation helps to calm the mind and maintain focus and so can be extremely useful for patients suffering from psychological problems after quitting alcohol. Yoga can help if alcohol makes someone feel out of control by making a mind-body connection. Yoga helps to enhance the sense of well-being provide relief from stress. People who have alcohol addiction can reduce depression and get a natural sleep cycle with the help of bright-light therapy or phototherapy.
- Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse- Medline Plus, NIH, U.S. National Library of Medicine [Internet]. medlineplus.gov 2019 [Cited 16 July 2019]. Available from:
- The Genetics of Alcoholism- NIH, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism [Internet]. pubs.niaaa.nih.gov 2012. [Cited 16 July 2019]. Available from:
- Alcohol- MSD Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. msdmanuals.com 2017 [Cited 16 July 2019]. Available from:
- Alcohol- NHS Inform [Internet]. nhsinform.scot 2019. [Cited 16 July 2019]. Available from:
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