Treating Alcohol Addiction
Treating Alcohol Addiction
Gail Priddy (Deputy Director) gives expert video advice on: Is there a cure for alcohol addiction?; Should I approach my GP?; How can my GP help me? and more...
Is there a cure for alcohol addiction?
It is possible to recover. It is possible. There isn't one specific cure at all. The most important thing is to stop drinking, to stay not drinking, and to actively look at a lifestyle change. So, it's about not spending all your time in the pub, but thinking about high risk situations, which actually change a lot of the things you do. It is possible to recover, but it does depend, however, on the amount of damage that you've done to yourself.
Should I approach my GP?
Yes, your GP can be a very useful place to start and to think about your alcohol use. I think that would be a good idea.
How can my GP help me?
Your GP can, first of all, work out with you the amount that you drink, and actually go through a process called screening for alcohol use to look at the amount you drink and the situations in which you're doing that. They can also advise you to get some help from the nurse within the GP surgery, and point you in the direction of services that can help you - local alcohol services.
What forms of treatment are available?
There are a wide range of treatments from counselling that you can have on a weekly basis in order to help you look at using drinking diaries to help you cut down on your alcohol use, through to detoxification from alcohol either with a nurse coming into your home helping you with medications or actually going in somewhere for a week to do what we term 'drying out'. After that, there are options around rehabilitation, either within the community, attending day programs or within residential services. There are again medications that can help to help reduce cravings, which need to be done alongside other forms of therapy. Stuff like attending groups, relapse prevention work, a wide range of different things you can be involved in and, of course, not forgetting A.A.
What is the AA?
AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous which is a very large self helper organization for alcoholics, and you can find information about them on their websites. It's extremely useful for people. From the AA, there is also another organization called Al-Anon which is for the relatives of people who have alcohol problems.
Who provides treatment for alcohol addiction?
The National Health Service will provide treatment, the local authority will provide some forms of treatment, and there are equally a lot of agencies in the voluntary sector and private companies who will also do that, often attached to private health insurance.
What are group meetings?
Group meetings are the opportunity for people who come together with a shared problem to discuss their issues, to get support, to look for the way forward and to look at solutions. The idea behind that would be a shared look at problems, recognizing that you are not alone and being able to move forward individually with support from your group.
Where can I find out about group meetings?
You can generally find out through web site of the local authority, to the yellow pages, and looking on the internet if you know the specific services. Your GP can help you. A nurse within your GP practice, or possibly a social worker involved with social services.
What will group meetings help me to achieve?
Group meetings will help you to achieve moving forward with your problems and look with other people at the issues that you share in common, the differences, their experiences in overcoming their problems, give you a sense of support and a sense of being part of it. Often, for people, the idea of being alone with their problem is the thing that's scary. "There isn't anyone in the world but me with an alcohol problem. Everyone will dislike me. I can't explain to anyone." So, when you're within a group of people, those things disappear. You are able to move forward and you are able to recognize that you do have some control over changing your life and some control over your alcohol misuse problem.
How expensive can alcohol addiction treatment be?
That depends on the level of treatment that you require. If you work with a private company, it can be thousands of pounds a week. Very often the local authority or the health service will support people and will pay for people to go into residential treatments. Equally, a lot of community organizations are funded through the local authority to provide the service for people in their area.
Does alcohol addiction treatment work?
Yes, of course it can. People make significant progress over time. One of the things to remember is that alcohol problems are a relapsing condition, so people who move forward may stop drinking, may cut down, and they're challenged with high risk situations. They are suddenly out with friends that they drank with before, or they're up against some particular anxieties, which they've drank. They may start to drink again but they learn out of that process. The idea would be not that you stop. It's a great notion, but in fact people very often go around a cycle a few times, learning each time, and are eventually able to come through with quite significant changes in their lives.
What effects does alcohol have on my body?
Unfortunately alcohol has some quite detrimental effects on lots of parts of our body. The liver is the most common part of the body that people will know, but alcohol also has an effect on circulation, digestion, the heart, the brain and issues about infertility. Also, alcohol has emotional and psychological effects upon us.
Is the damage done to my body by alcohol reversible?
Generally, yes. In some extreme cases the liver, heart and brain can be irreversibly damaged. However, our body has a great capacity to repair itself if we stop drinking.
How long does it take to cure' alcoholism?
A couple of years at least. It's not a short term option and it really depends on the amount of damage someone has done to themselves. I'm not just talking about physical damage, I mean just in terms of lifestyle, they would need to repair their relationships with a family, look for work, resocialize and get them back in the community. So, it'd take at least a couple of years for that to happen.
Are there any prescription medications available for alcoholics?
Yes, there are. First of all, there are medications that help people who need to detoxify from alcohol, which are prescribed and administered through GP. Equally, there are NASA medications that help to reduce cravings. Again, they are prescribed by GP and they should always be accompanied with having individual counseling to look at the other issues around the drinking.