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Many individuals struggling with alcohol addiction decide to do an outpatient program (instead of a live-in inpatient treatment) to aid in their recovery. Although length and intensity can vary depending upon each individuals needs, many points of treatment remain the same.

Most outpatient treatment programs geared specifically for alcohol addiction include:

  • An expectation of abstinence from alcohol
  • An initial assessment to determine the needs of the client
  • Seminars and activities for alcohol treatment that the client is expected to attend in order to educate themselves about the science of addiction.
  • Goal setting and formation of an outpatient alcohol treatment plan while discussing one’s emotions and underlying conditions (such as depression or anxiety)
  • Rules about individual’s behavior while they attend outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse.  Breaking rules often means individuals are ejected from the outpatient program
  • A certain number of therapy session each week will be agreed upon
  • Clients are generally asked to divulge personal information in individual or group settings in regards to alcohol and themselves with other clients

Connections: Alcohol and Drug Dependence

As we’ve reported, people who either suffer from substance abuse issues or may be prone to them may find a connection between alcohol and drug dependence.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “Alcohol and drug dependence often go hand in hand; research shows that people who are dependent on alcohol are much more likely than the general population to use drugs, and people with drug dependence are much more likely than the general population to drink alcohol.”

Indeed, the NIH statistics are eye-opening:

  • 15.3 million adults meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder*
  • Of those, 2.3 million adults meet the criteria for a drug use disorder*

Outpatient Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Pros & Cons

There are pros and cons when deciding between inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for alcohol addiction. And just as with most outpatient programs, outpatient alcohol treatment requires work to bring forth progress. However, if clients are ready and willing to work hard, the self examination and results of outpatient treatment for alcohol can be very rewarding and extremely life changing.

An intensive outpatient rehab program exists for one purpose:To help you get your life together without leaving it. A proper approach teaches individuals how to achieve and maintain long-term sobriety through essential coping skills, while still giving enough time to take care of responsibilities at home.

Participants learn these essential coping skills from a team of addiction treatment experts.

According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: “Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning the condition can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Outpatient rehab programs work best for those with mild or moderate substance abuse symptoms. An inpatient program is a better fit for individuals on the more severe end of the spectrum as well as those with co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety or trauma.”

“Different levels of outpatient rehab are available so that you can transition progressively from more frequent and intensive therapy to less intensive therapy as you show an ability to manage your own recovery with less clinical support.”

One challenge to being in the general population, of course, can be understanding some of signals around drinking too much.

We’ve noted an immediate effect: alcohol acts as a depressant that can lower mood and trigger depressive feelings. “The inability of the body to fully process this much alcohol in the blood leads to far more than just intoxication. Binge drinking causes dizziness, loss of motor coordination, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and loss of consciousness,” Alcohol.org, an American Addiction Center Resource site explains.

Alcohol’s effects over the long run on the nervous system can cause anxiety, agitation and further depression and extreme discomfort, often known as the “hangover” feeling. Sometimes, the effects become so uncomfortable, people turn to drinking again to temporarily alleviate the unpleasant symptoms. Ultimately, it can become a vicious cycle that can lead to serious addiction.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Medical News Today notes that “according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), 11 criteria help a professional decide if someone has an AUD [Alcohol Use Disorder]. If the person meets two of these criteria during a 12-month period, a doctor will consider they have the condition.”

Now a new study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism identifies 5 types of alcohol use disorder that vary with age. The study is titled “Dynamic Features of Problematic Drinking: Alcohol Use Disorder Latent Classes Across Ages 18–64.”

The authors state: “Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are linked with numerous severe detrimental outcomes. Evidence suggests that there is a typology of individuals with an AUD based on the symptoms they report. Scant research has identified how these groups may vary in prevalence by age, which could highlight aspects of problematic drinking behavior that are particularly salient at different ages. Our study aimed to (a) identify latent classes of drinkers with AUD that differ based on symptoms of AUD and (b) examine prevalences of latent classes by age.’

As Medical News Today notes, the study adds “even more nuance to the issue of problematic drinking.” The profiles, as the post outlines, can be useful for individuals who are considering treatment to understand. They include:

  • “‘Alcohol-induced injury’ characterized 25 percent of the participants. People with this profile engaged in risky behavior and got into dangerous situations that might have caused injury.”
  • “Highly problematic, low perceived life interference’ characterized 21 percent of the participants. This group said that their alcohol consumption did not have any adverse effect on their lives and did not affect their family, work, or social obligations, despite also reporting that they experienced many AUD symptoms.”
  • “The ‘Adverse effects only’ profile included 34 percent of the participants, who reported hangovers or alcohol withdrawal symptoms.”
  • “‘Difficulty cutting back’ was a profile prevalent among 13 percent of the participants. People in this category struggled or were unable to cut back on their drinking.”
  • “Highly problematic’ was the final category, which made up 7 percent of the total number of participants who had every symptom of AUD.”

Outpatient Rehab: What to Learn

As we highlight, among the topics individuals in intensive outpatient rehab will learn include:

  • Drug and Alcohol Relapse Prevention
  • Life Skills
  • How to Recognize, Confront and Handle Triggers
  • Health and Nutritional Study
  • Family and Relationship Education
  • Continuing Care
  • Anger Management/Domestic Violence
  • Relaxation and Meditation Skills
  • Phases of Recovery

See a fuller list here.

AddictionsAddictions defined:

The American Psychological Association defines addiction as, “…a condition in which the body must have a drug to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Addiction’s first stage is dependence, during which the search for a drug dominates an individual’s life. An addict eventually develops tolerance, which forces the person to consume larger and larger doses of the drug to get the same effect.” (Apa.org)

However, addictions—long thought to be solely drug related (an uncontrollable habit of using drugs or alcohol in large amounts)—are manifesting themselves in behavioral areas as well.  For example, some are addicted to gambling, pornography, and even ordinary activities such as exercise or eating.  However, what classifies these and other behaviors as addictions is when people who do these things finds them pleasurable in some way.  There is some controversy about which of the “behavioral” addictions constitute scientifically validated “true” addictions, with both professionals and the public failing to reach an agreement. More time research is needed to clarify this issue.

Although the exact symptoms vary from one addiction to another, there are two aspects that all addictions have in common.  First, the addictive behavior is counter-productive to the individual. So, instead of helping the person adapt to things or overcome problems, the addiction tends to undermine these abilities.  About.com states, “For example, a gambler might wish he had more money –- yet gambling is more likely to drain his financial resources. A heavy drinker might want to cheer herself up –- yet alcohol use contributes to the development of her depression. A sex addict may crave intimacy –- yet the focus on sexual acts may prevent real closeness from developing.”

Next, the behavior is unrelenting.  An addict will continue to engage in addictive behavior, despite it causing negative consequences.  Thus, an occasional weekend of self-indulgence is not defined as an addiction, although it may cause different kinds of problems. Addiction involves more frequent engagement in the behavior.

Many people don’t feel like they struggle with addictions because they enjoy the behaviors they participate in and their lives seem normal and high functioning.  This can be deceiving.  Often people’s addictions become ingrained in their lifestyle, to the point where they never or rarely feel withdrawal symptoms. Or they may not recognize their withdrawal symptoms for what they are, putting them down to aging or working too hard, for example. People can go for years without realizing how dependent they are on their addiction.

People with illicit addictions may enjoy the secretive nature of their behavior.  This is also an addictive characteristic: secrecy.  They may blame society for its narrow-mindedness, choosing to see themselves as free-willed and independent individuals. In reality, addictions tend to limit people’s individuality and freedom as they become more restricted in their behaviors. Imprisonment for engaging in an illegal addiction restricts their freedom even more.

When people are fighting an addiction, their enjoyment often becomes very focused on carrying out the addictive behavior and relieving withdrawal, rather than experiencing the full range of life that forms the person’s full potential for happiness. At some point, the addicted person may realize that life has passed them by, and that they have missed out on enjoying so many other things besides than addiction. This often happens when people become aware, begin seeking help, and overcome their addiction.

About.com also indicates that some people who enjoy their addiction don’t feel like it is a problem if it is not harming anyone.  What the addict doesn’t realize, however, is the negative impact of their addiction not only on themselves, but also on those in their life.

They may be in denial about the negative aspects of their addiction, choosing to ignore the effects on their health, life patterns and relationships. Or they may blame outside circumstances or other people in their lives for their difficulties.

Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize the harm caused by addiction when the addiction is the person’s main way of coping with the other problems they have. Sometimes other problems are directly related to an addiction; for example, health problems, and sometimes they are indirectly related to the addiction, for example, relationship problems.  Some people who get addicted to substances or activities are very aware of their addictions, and even the harms caused by the addiction, but keep doing the addictive behavior anyway. This can be because they don’t feel they can cope without the addiction, because they are avoiding dealing with some other issue that the addiction distracts them from (such as being abused as a child), or because they do not know how to enjoy life any other way.

Often, the harm and negative effects of addiction come to light when the addicted person goes through a crisis. This can happen when the addictive substance or behavior is taken away completely and the person goes into withdrawal and cannot cope. Or, it can occur as a consequence of the addiction, such as a serious illness, a partner leaving, or loss of a job.

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