NHS Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

There are many treatments available on the NHS for alcohol addiction. Assessment of your drinking habits can be made and various treatment options can be explored. This is often referred to as a “Brief Intervention” and may often occur after a drinking related incident or injury.

During this brief session you will be encouraged to look at your drinking patterns, look at the reasons why you drink and how much you consume, who with and when. It is often advised to keep a “Drink Diary.” A drink diary can help identify drinking habits and behaviours so is very useful as a starting point for recovery.  You may also be given advice on ways to better manage your drinking, whether be tips to help in social situations or information about harm reduction and managing the risk factors involved in drinking.

If you are a heavy drinker then you have to decide how you will manage your drinking. Whether it be cutting down and drinking in moderation, or giving up completely. Total abstinence has been shown to be more effective in the quest for long term sobriety. It is very difficult for an alcoholic to have “just one” drink and many mind find drinking in small quantities impossible. There will always be an excuse for another, and another and another. And that’s if they’re not hiding it. An alcoholic will often lie or hide how much they are truly drinking.  An alcoholic becomes an adept liar which can lead to problems in friendships, relationships and work life.

Cutting down is a good way to start your journey towards a better, sober future. Of course, where heavy drinking has been a problem for a while, abstinence may be the only option, especially where health factors are taken into consideration.
Giving up alcohol completely may also be the only option when trying to drink in moderation hasn’t worked. Sometimes it really is the only answer. Whether you have a mild addiction or are heavily physically dependant, a time spent abstaining from alcohol is always recommended in order to let your body repair itself from all the negative effects alcohol has had on it.

The level of your addiction to alcohol will determine how and where detox is attempted. For a mild addiction, you should be able to safely manage withdrawal at home, as the symptoms shouldn’t be too severe. You should still be in contact with your GP and other NHS health professionals to monitor your health and recovery.

If you have been a very heavy drinker or have had withdrawal symptoms when you haven’t had a drink before, then there are more sophisticated treatments available. They may or may not involve medication, the most frequently used being chlordiazepoxide which helps ease the painful and sometimes distressing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.  Other medications include Disulfiram (commonly known as Antabuse) that causes the consumption of alcohol to cause negative effects such as vomiting and dizziness to stop drinking. This has been proven to be very effective. The use of medication in withdrawal and rehabilitation must always be handled by a health professional.

If your addiction is particularly acute then you may spend time in residential rehabilitation – either in a hospital or a clinic to help you withdraw safely. You may experience more severe symptoms whilst your body adjusts and will need to have your detox managed with a specialised course of treatment. Suddenly stopping drinking if you are a very heavy drinker can pose fatal risks to your life.

The most severe physical effects are felt in the first few days – the worst in the first 48 hours. This, will improve slowly as your body gets used to not having alcohol running round its system. This can take anywhere between three days up to a whole week after your last alcoholic drink.  These days are tough but there is help and support at hand. Reaching out for help is not showing weakness, it is showing real strength and empowering you to take back control over your life.

As your body adjusts to not having alcohol in it you may experience symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite and digestive problems. You may also suffer from tremors. You are more likely to suffer from anxiety and paranoia. Depression is common, especially in women, who have had problems with drinking. They will ease with time but it can be very difficult and upsetting. Being under the care of health professionals will help you deal with these side effects of alcohol addiction more effectively.

You can help aid your detox by drinking lots of water to help flush out the toxins and keep your body hydrated. You should also eat well to help your body get the vital nutrients alcohol has starved it from. Trying to keep relaxed and calm and avoid stress can help you avoid lapsing back into drinking. In order to beat alcohol addiction you have to maintain the desire to give up alcohol.

Overcoming the body’s physical addiction and withdrawing from alcohol and its effects is just the beginning. Withdrawal alone is not a complete treatment for helping an alcoholic stay sober. It must be combined with longer term care to stop drinking for good. This can be a lifelong process. It is encouraged to seek further help and counselling to keep sober. Alcohol addiction cannot be cured but it can be treated.

There are different treatments available on the NHS to help you stay abstinent from alcohol. These vary in success from person to person and what has worked for someone else may not work for you. The best thing to do if you or someone you know has a problem drinking is to try and seek help immediately. Addictions can become more difficult to treat and cause more harm if allowed to continue for a long period of time.

In cases where the physical addiction is not so severe, withdrawal should be possible to manage at home. Alcohol help is available, seek help before it’s too late.