People who are poorly informed about alcohol addiction or alcohol addiction treatment tend to assume that it must be simply a matter of stopping drinking. They may even imagine that treatment in European countries, as such, isn’t really necessary. This discounts two critical factors: the very nature of addiction or, in this case, alcohol dependence and the inherent risk to life of suddenly stopping alcohol intake for someone whose brain and body has come to expect, indeed to rely on it.
The greatest care has to be taken in the treatment of alcohol addiction, especially in the early stages. A number of factors must be taken into account, including the person’s age, current and historical health, the individual’s level of consumption on admission and how long they have been drinking this much, the use and presence of other drugs as well as other physical conditions, whether associated with alcohol addiction or not.
Similarly, symptoms of mental health issues and any current treatments for such mental health conditions and their psycho-social impact need to be considered. Sometimes it is necessary for a psychologist to administer cognitive tests to evaluate any suspected impairment to brain function. It is not difficult to see why thorough assessment prior to and then on admission, followed by ongoing reassessment in treatment, is absolutely vital; as is the help of a multi-disciplinary team.
Although there is considerable overlap, the treatment of alcohol addiction has four main elements:
1. Withdrawal (including detoxification).
2. Adjustment to abstinence.
3. Understanding addiction and personal susceptibility.
4. Active engagement with recovery.
Depending on the variety and severity of a number of factors and underlying issues, detoxification — the medically managed treatment that brings physical dependence to an end — may last anywhere from three to ten days. It generally involves the use of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms.
On the physical level these may include nausea, eating disorders and stomach pain as well as the effects of dehydration. Shaking, fever with sweating and tremors may occur. High blood pressure and irregular heart rate commonly feature. In very severe cases, medical professionals will be alert to the risk of seizures in the first few days in particular.
Medication is prescribed to patients to prevent such an occurrence and the patient closely monitored. The aim of the medical team is to oversee a gradual withdrawal that is as safe and as comfortable as possible. For this reason, the patient will be accommodated in rooms specifically designed for the purpose, situated close to the nursing station of the luxury rehab.
On the emotional front, mood swings, confusion, irritability and craving will be in evidence and some people may even experience hallucinations. Anxiety is likely to be intense, producing restlessness and agitation that will no doubt affect sleep. Symptoms of depression, including thoughts of suicide will need to be recognised and responded to. Additional psychiatric intervention may be called for.
The medical team will also be on the lookout for other consequences of alcohol dependence such as malnourishment, physical injury perhaps due to accidents while intoxicated or ailments related to the physical and mental harm caused directly by alcohol.
Tests will be undertaken to establish the health of vital organs such as the liver and, if necessary, referral will be made to a local hospital with which Clinic Les Alpes has established an effective working partnership. Vitamin supplements may be given to boost nourishment. Rest, good food, sleep and re-hydration are all important non-medical prescriptions.
There are many rehab options to help someone overcome alcohol addiction and mental health disorders. However, there is a distinct advantage to undergoing medically supervised withdrawal from alcohol within a luxury addiction treatment service whose overriding purpose is laying the foundations for a sustainable recovery. It helps to focus the patient’s mind away from a typically narrow and unhelpful preoccupation with symptoms towards the creative, hopeful endeavour that is recovery.
A purely clinical and functional setting can prove demotivating to people who are severely dispirited. A calm, positive, uplifting, comfortable and welcoming environment, such as to be found in this luxury addiction treatment facility, helps reduce this risk. The round-the clock empathic support of the expert professional team and the patient’s peers they’ve met in their regular group therapy is also an important factor where sustaining motivation is concerned.
As soon as possible the person is helped to increase their understanding of alcohol addiction and gain insight into their personal susceptibility. They will learn coping strategies and know how to adopt a whole new approach to life that, if practiced continuously, will help prevent relapse and sustain remission over the long term.
In the process of alcohol addiction treatment, the individual assumes an ever increasing degree of personal ownership of their recovery. A shift is also made away from simply not doing something (abstinence), to a positive, active engagement with recovery principles which has incremental benefits to one’s mental health; from self destructive behaviours, attitudes and thought patterns, to life-affirming ones.
The psychotherapeutic team is on hand to help facilitate this transition. The involvement of family members is important here not only in relation to supporting the family member in alcohol and drug abuse treatment but also in order for them to receive help in their own right.
Giving up any close relationship is difficult, not least because you have little or no idea what’s in store for you on the other side of the break up. However damaging the current one, it is at least familiar.
It can be even more difficult to let go when, as in the case of alcohol addiction, the attachment has become neurological as well as psychological and become your regular coping mechanism. This refers to the effect that prolonged and excessive consumption of alcohol has on the brain, which, in time, adapts to expect its arrival. That is what dependence means.
Alcohol, a toxin which kills brain cells, impairs the system regulating inhibition and supplants the brain’s natural reward system. It can take months for the brain to reset itself to pre-addiction norms and, unfortunately, in some cases it never does so completely.
Abstinence, especially after a prolonged period of dependence leaves a big hole. After all, addiction is an all-consuming relationship that comes to govern most aspects of life. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are directed by it.
Into the space left by active alcohol addiction will flood a variety of feelings formerly regulated or suppressed with alcohol. These will need to be carefully explored and made sense of in the rehabilitation process. Many of them will arise during the uncomfortable recognition of the realities and consequences of addiction. They will include shame and guilt. Others will emerge that are linked to the painful events that may have played a part, albeit unconsciously, in the onset of addiction, including trauma. Without help they may, under stress, become triggers for relapse.
It is no doubt easier to confront and process some of these feelings within the safe, secure and supportive environment of a beautifully resourced luxury alcohol addiction treatment facility like Clinic Les Alpes in Switzerland, ranked as one of the best in the alps, that takes a holistic approach to treatment and recovery.
However, a stay in such a centre is only the beginning of the process of change. A relapse prevention program and regularly attending an AA meeting can be beneficial after rehab. When what is learned and absorbed here about alcohol addiction and recovery is applied conscientiously in daily life, long term wellbeing becomes achievable. There is reason to be hopeful.