The choice to undergo alcohol rehab can be daunting, and if you’re wondering if it’s worth it, if it will really work, you are not alone. Any chosen path is easier to tread if one knows what to expect, so let’s take a look at the process.
Detoxing the Body
Detox can be considered to be the most daunting step of alcohol treatment. For any alcoholic who has tried to stop drinking on their own, it’s a harsh reality that it is not that easy, once the substance has taken a hold. Understanding how alcohol affects the body can help prepare one for what to expect, while also serving as a motivational factor. The following summary is taken from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- The brain. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can create long-term disruptions that affect mood and behavior, making it harder to think clearly and can negatively impact one’s ability to move with coordination.
- The heart. Extended drinking can cause several complications to this essential organ, including cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), stroke, and high blood pressure.
- The liver, which is the body’s toxin filtration engine, takes a heavy toll with potential problems including steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- The pancreas. Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to inflammation and swelling of its blood vessels that prevents proper digestion.
- Alcohol can also increase your risk of developing cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast.
- The immune system is weakened by alcohol, reducing your body’s ability to fight diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Excessive consumption even on a single occasion can hinder your body’s ability to combat infections.
Treatment and Aftercare
Detox should be undertaken only in an appropriately equipped medical facility with adequate supervision. Signs and symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome may appear anywhere from a few hours to a few days after your last drink, and usually include at least two of the following: tremors, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, headache, increased heart rate, sweating, irritability, confusion, insomnia, nightmares, and high blood pressure.
These symptoms may worsen over 2-3 days and may persist for weeks.
Therapy and counseling are part and parcel of most alcohol treatment centers. There are medications intended to ameliorate the effects of withdrawal, such as acamprosate, disulfiram, or naltrexone. Other medications may be prescribed, or one may choose to subscribe to a program that promotes completely weaning oneself from any kind of chemical dependency.
An aftercare program has been proven invaluable to maintaining an alcohol-free lifestyle. Such programs may continue for months or years; it’s not unusual for recovering alcoholics to consider themselves to be “in recovery” for the rest of their lives. This does not imply that they are battling the same level of withdrawal, only that they have recognized their dependency and maintain ongoing vigilance against the temptation of drinking again. The best programs offer the opportunity to gain life skills and set goals to take life in an entirely new direction. A vital component is to ensure one has a prevention plan for aftercare relapse in one’s hand before leaving rehab.
So Does It Work?
The underlying reasons for becoming dependent on alcohol are individual, thus the path to recovery is individual too. It’s true that a large number of people relapse, but it’s also true that a large number do not. The choice and the path is a personal one. One thing is certain, continuing on the path of alcoholism is not a decision that will vouchsafe a happy, healthy future.