Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder Part 4: How is Alcohol Use Disorder Treated?

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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a complex, chronic disease, as are the symptoms and complications. When someone receives treatment for AUD, it has to take into account this complexity. Physical complications of AUD can affect the brain, heart, pancreas and liver, and lead to an increased risk of cancer.

This video overviews addiction treatment programs, medications and therapies that address physical withdrawal symptoms and the co-occurring mental health issues that often come with AUD.

Video Materials


Alcohol Use Disorder Part 4

This lesson will be on medical complications of Alcohol Use Disorder and some treatment options.

There are many Alcohol Medical Syndromes, based on data from the National Institute of Health. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is when alcohol affected the nerves and caused a neuro disease.

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy means that alcohol directly affected the heart and caused a heart disease.

Alcoholic gastritis means alcohol contributes to a stomach disease or a liver disease or a fatty liver or even hepatitis, which is inflammation of the liver.

Chronic alcohol use can lead to fibrosis and sclerosis of the liver and cirrhosis of the liver, which is end stage liver disease due to scarring of the liver, which can lead to alcoholic hepatic failure or liver failure.

Alcohol can also cause acute pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis.

One of the saddest things is for women who have alcohol use disorder and are drinking while they are pregnant. The newborn can have fetal alcohol syndrome, the results are they are born with chronic physical and neurologic problems.

I reviewed some of the syndromes caused by direct consumption of alcohol. And there are more to come.

I mentioned alcohol induced cardiac issues. Alcohol can cause other issues with the heart. One of the most common things is high blood pressure or hypertension. And the research shows that alcohol consumption at any amount for men can affect their blood pressure and really should be at higher consumption levels for women, which would be more than one alcoholic beverage a day.

There is also an increased risk of heart conduction disorders that would lead to an irregular heartbeat. Your heart is a muscle and has an electronic pacemaker built into it. And if alcohol causes damage to the heart and to the pacemaker that is built in, it can cause all kinds of irregular heart rates. These can give you an increased risk of stroke.

Cancers. A lot of different cancers are affiliated or associated with alcohol use disorder.

The most common, of course, is where you think, which is where alcohol touches. It touches your mouth. It touches your esophagus. It touches your pharynx, which is part of your voice box and larynx. It goes into your GI tract and affects your stomach. It can affect your colon, which is at the end, and your rectum and your liver. So virtually everything that alcohol touches from your mouth to your rectum could be subject to cancer.

In addition, females, there is an increased risk of breast cancer from alcohol use disorder.

In the last lesson, I did talk about symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. And that there are individuals who will continue drinking to avoid withdrawal. And by drinking more, they may feel euphoria or pleasure. And I do want to emphasize that we do offer safe medical detox. That is probably the first step for someone with mild to severe alcohol use disorder. They need to get off the alcohol safely and we do offer safe medical detox. We also offer medications, there is another lesson that is not part of this series on medication assisted therapy.

We have three main medications to help with alcohol use disorder.

The first one is Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse. Disulfiram is the generic name and Antabuse is the brand name and how this works is it affects the metabolism of alcohol and basically makes you pretty sick if you even touch alcohol or consume it. How it works long term is that, you know, if you know you’re taking Antabuse and you have that urge to drink, you’re going to think twice about it because you don’t want to get sick.

Acamprosate is another medication that seems to help stabilize the neurotransmitters and not give you as much of a buzz when you drink. It can be very helpful with alcohol use disorder.

The third one is Naltrexone. It also works by slowing down the “buzz—or intoxicating effects” that you might get from alcohol. And a nice thing with naltrexone is that you get it monthly in shot form. That helps you maintain sobriety quite a bit easier. They also have tablets of naltrexone available that you can take instead of the shot.

Treatment for your mental health issues is a very important part of recovery. Virtually every patient that is going through withdrawal has some depression and some anxiety. It is a major life event to give up alcohol, especially if it has been so much part of their life for 5, 10, 15 years or more. Many social and personal things will need to change to be successful in recovery. Often there has been a critical event in their life. Loss of job, loss of a life partner due to alcohol use disorder. It is really important to have a psychiatrist and or engage in psychotherapy if you have depression or anxiety that does not improve with sobriety.

Medications can be very helpful for the treatment of depression and anxiety. It is extremely important that your medical provider prescribing medications for mental health issues knows that you are in recovery. No opioid should be prescribed, which are potentially dependent and habit-forming. No stimulants should be prescribed and no benzodiazepines, which are tranquilizers. All three of these classes are potentially addictive and habit-forming and should not be prescribed to anyone who is in recovery from alcohol use disorder or any substance use disorder for that matter.

In addition to medications, self-help programs are very beneficial. The Recovery Village does not endorse a specific self-help program, but we do feel they are beneficial. Some names you may be familiar with are Alcoholics Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery. They all are excellent programs; they are free and available nationally and we support patients going to them.

CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of cognitive thought-based therapy to work through issues. Motivational interviewing is another therapy working with getting people engaged in recovery and working through the obstacles they may have in wanting to get a recovery process going.

Group therapy can be very helpful. Your peers can be some of your greatest assets for the recovery process. And, of course, family therapy and individual therapy can help with the recovery process.

In summary, alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease. The Recovery Village has treatment programs to help you understand the consequences of alcohol use disorder, we have detox available and then medication assisted therapy while supporting your participation in self-help programs and evidence based clinical therapies.

Thank you for choosing The Recovery Village. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or substance abuse and would like to find out more about the programs we offer, please reach out to us directly at 855-387-3291.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.