Alcoholism treatment addresses both the physical and psychological repercussions of long-term dependence on drinking. Alcoholism treatment is vital in respect to assisting substance abusers and substance dependent patients in regaining their sobriety, entering into recovery, and changing their lives. Alcoholism treatment not only serves the individual addict, but includes the family unit which is important for the long-term outlook for the individual, the family and society.
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Alcoholism, also referred to as "alcohol dependence syndrome," is a disease as defined in medical terms. When originally described in the 19th century, alcoholism was noted as an intrinsic set of adverse effects on the systems of the human body caused by excessive drinking.
The definition of alcoholism includes the following signs and symptoms:
The use of alcohol is historically noted as early as 5 B.C. or before, but it wasn't until the 19th century that the effects of use were officially noted in science. The first official declaration of the concept of "alcoholism" was made by a Swedish physician, Magnus Huss, in 1849. His concept revolved around the effects of drinking on the individual.
Prior to Dr. Huss, Dr. C.W. Hufeland had coined the term "dipsomania" in 1819 to describe what is now understood to be alcohol dependent syndrome, or alcoholism. In the 1980's the DSM III (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition) distinguished alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence in their terminology.
Alcohol abuse and addiction, or dependency, are two distinct disorders. Substance abuse and dependence each qualify as an AUD (alcohol abuse disorder) according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV. The difference between abuse and dependency, or addiction, is the absence of physical signs or symptoms with abuse. Signs noted in substance abuse are psychological, mental, physiological, and behavioral in nature. The symptoms of abuse include:
Alcohol addiction goes further in that there is a physical and psychological dependence on drinking and physical signs of addiction and withdrawal when not drinking. Abuse can quickly become addiction with continued drinking and the development of tolerance to drinking. Tolerance requires that the alcohol dependent person drink with more frequency and in higher amounts to get the same results.
Detox, or detoxification, is the first step when entering treatment. Drug and alcohol rehab facilities are able to offer medically assisted detox if needed using medication to curb the physical effects of detox and withdrawal such as nausea, vomiting, shakiness, sweating, and anxiety.
Benzodiazepine drugs such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and lorazepam (Ativan) may be given in a medically supervised setting. Benzodiazepine drugs are central nervous system depressants that have a sedative/hypnotic effect and help to ease withdrawal symptoms and make the patient more comfortable.
Withdrawal is a symptomatic state experienced during abstinence. Alcohol withdrawal produces a wide range of physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms. The extent of the effects vary from mild to severe, and can be critical. Symptoms of withdrawal usually subside within a five day period.
Alcoholism treatment consists of programs designed for persons specifically addicted to drinking. Alcohol rehab usually consists of medical care, vitamin therapy, nutrition, an exercise regimen, individual and group counseling, family counseling sessions, relapse prevention, education, aftercare services, and other forms of customized treatment if needed.