Alcoholism, or alcohol dependency, is a chronic disease brought on by the physical or psychological addiction of drinking alcohol. Like many other diseases it has a course that can be predicted, and is influenced by your genes and by your life style.
Alcohol detox is an important preliminary step in the management of alcoholism. It is a medically supervised period during which the body goes through alcohol withdrawal. This is critical time in the treatment, during which the individual will be monitored and medicated in order to control the symptoms, and to ensure the patients safety. Medical supervision is very important during alcohol withdrawal due to the fact that some of the symptoms can be dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms include agitation, seizures, and delirium tremens. During this time, the patient also receives an education regarding the treatment and how to keep his alcohol problem at bay.
Treatment depends on how bad the patient’s alcohol problem is. Some people are able to cut back to a moderate level of drinking with help from a counselor. Some people may be able to reduce their alcohol consumption with the help of a counselor, but some may need more serious medical treatment and even internment in a hospital or medical center.
There are four stages of alcohol withdrawal:
The first stage is characterized by autonomic hyperactivity, with symptoms setting in within hours of the last alcohol intake and peak around 24-48 hours from that.
The second stage is the hallucinatory one, and usually occurs in a quarter of all alcohol withdrawal patients. They hallucinations are mainly visual and occur within 8 to 48 hours after decreasing the alcohol intake. They can last up to 6 days.
The third stage is the neuronal excitation one which is accompanied by seizure activity in up to 10% of alcohol withdrawal patients which occurs within 12 to 48 hours of abstinence or reduced alcohol intake. The seizures are usually single and of short duration.
The delirium tremens is the fourth and final stage and it occurs in up to 5% of alcohol withdrawal patients. Delirium tremens is characterized by disorientation, confusion, impaired attention, pronounced autonomic hyperactivity, and visual and auditory hallucinations.
Hospital - or medical clinic-based programs: These programs offer both alcohol detox and rehab to interned patients.
Residential rehab programs: These programs are based on the idea of developing a relationship with other alcoholism recovering residents in a special community. The programs are usually broken down into stages regarding external contact with family or friends. These kind of programs can take from days to years, depending on the severity of the problem. Eventually the patient can go back to work, or school, returning to the treatment facility every day.
Partial hospitalization or day treatment: These types of programs usually consist of 4 to 8 hours a day treatments for about 3 months at a hospital or clinic for people living at home. It is very important for these programs to work that the patient has a supportive family and a stable home environment.
Outpatient programs: These programs are structured in such a way that the patient can continue working. Thus, they usually take place during weekends at hospitals, clinics and counselor offices.
Intensive outpatient programs: These programs consist of 9 to 20 hours of treatment a week and run up from 2 months to one year. The patient’s motivation is crucial as well as the support of family and friends.
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