How does alcohol treatment work? To understand this, it is important to learn more about how addiction works. If you are addicted to alcohol, then you should understand why you became addicted and how this substance affects your brain. This will make it easier when it comes to understanding how alcohol treatment works.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?
It is hard for many people to cope with the realisation that they are addicted to any type of mood-altering chemical. This is particularly so with alcohol, which is seen by most as safe. Since alcohol is a legal substance that is actively encouraged in modern society, the very idea that it can cause harm or be addictive is something that many people cannot comprehend.
However, with millions of individuals around the world struggling to get through each day because of their dependence on alcohol, it is clear that it can actually be as dangerous, if not more so, than many illegal substances.
It is common for alcoholics to wonder at some point how they ended up with such a destructive illness. After all, they were not always this way. And they did not become alcoholics overnight. The reality is that alcohol is not a problem for everyone, even though it is a mood-altering substance that can have a profound effect on the brain.
Most people who drink alcohol do not have a problem in the early days. They can drink socially and have control over when they drink and when they stop. But while alcohol causes the brain to release feel-good dopamine chemicals, in some individuals, the release of these chemicals is higher than average, and they feel an intense pleasure when they drink. They will then seek to replicate these feelings of pleasure by drinking again and again.
After a while, the brain will adapt to the presence of the alcohol and will respond by reducing the number of dopamine chemicals it releases. The result of this is that the drinker is not getting the same pleasurable feelings as before and will more than likely increase his or her alcohol consumption to rectify the situation.
This increased alcohol consumption can lead to changes in the body as it adapts to the alcohol and after a while, it will crave the substance. The individual has become physically dependent and suffers withdrawal symptoms whenever the effects of alcohol wear off.
What Happens to the Brain During Addiction
Addiction has a massive impact on the brain. In some people, the reward centre of the brain is hijacked by mood-altering chemicals such as alcohol, which is what eventually leads to addiction. But what actually happens to the brain during addiction?
There are billions of neurons in the brain that direct everything a person does, from breathing to eating to thinking. The brain is constantly passing around electrical impulses, messages if you will, and these messages are sent along neurons. Gaps between the neurons are known as synapses and in order for the electrical pulses to cross the synapse, the brain releases neurotransmitters.
Different neurotransmitters are released, depending on the type of message being sent. Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter, and this is typically released by the brain when a person does something pleasurable like eating, having sex or taking a mood-altering chemical like alcohol.
While in most people alcohol can be associated with pleasure, in others the brain’s reward system is overstimulated by it, which can cause an excessive release of dopamine. This makes them feel very good and causes them to want more alcohol.
Over time, the ability of various neurons in the brain to interact with neurotransmitters can be damaged due to alcohol abuse. In some individuals, neurons are altered, with some neural pathways being damaged while others strengthen. Scientists have discovered that in alcoholics, a part of the brain that suffers with damage is the frontal lobe; this is where decision-making and logical thought occur.
The changes that occur in the brain lead to changes in behaviour. The affected individual is less likely to be able to see the damage that his or her actions are causing, and the person’s need for alcohol increases. Alcohol becomes the most important thing to them and gets in the way of everything else in their life, including the people they love and any responsibilities they might have.
It becomes impossible for this person to stop drinking and he or she is powerless to resist any cravings being experienced. The ability to control how much alcohol is being drunk is all but gone. Their ability to make good judgements is also gone and he or she will continue drinking alcohol, even though it is causing harm for themselves or their loved ones.
Can Alcohol Treatment Fix Your Brain?
Unfortunately, not all the damage that occurs to the brain during addiction can be reversed. It is thought that some of the altered neural pathways are the reason that relapse can occur for some people many years after they got sober.
The good news however is that scientists have also discovered that the brain can be re-wired again, with recovery. So how does alcohol treatment work?
If you are a sufferer, it is important to remember that positive changes to the structure of your brain are not going to happen overnight. In the same way that you did not develop an addiction overnight, you will not recover quickly either.
Having said that, if you are prepared to commit to a programme of recovery and work hard at it, you can reverse many of the changes and your brain will get better. With the power of positive thinking, your brain can reactivate various neural pathways, or even develop new ones.
After a while, your brain will change, and you will naturally focus on staying sober. Cravings will lessen, and your feelings of anxiety will reduce.
What Does Alcohol Treatment Involve?
Now that you know how alcohol treatment works, you might want to know more about what it involves. The first step on the journey to sobriety is to get sober while the second is learning how to stay that way. A medical detox means quitting alcohol, hopefully for good. This process can be a complicated one, but with support and supervision from fully experienced staff in a dedicated detox facility, the process will be easier and safer.
During an alcohol detox, you are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur as your body attempts to get back to normal after years of alcohol abuse. As it eliminates any chemicals or toxins that remain, you are likely to suffer with mild, moderate, or severe symptoms.
How your detox progresses and the severity of the symptoms you experience will depend on how long you have been addicted to alcohol and how heavily you were drinking before quitting. Your overall health and age will also play a role.
It may be possible for staff at the detox facility to prescribe medication to either ease any discomfort you are experiencing or to prevent the worst symptoms from occurring. Medication is prescribed only by a medical professional and only where appropriate.
For most, an alcohol detox will last for around seven to ten days and, when complete, the second part of the recovery process can begin – rehab.
What is Alcohol Rehab Like?
If you have a severe addiction to alcohol, being treated in a residential clinic is probably your best option for getting better. This is because with this type of programme, you will be removed from your everyday life and placed in a distraction-free environment where you have no access to temptations from the outside world.
Instead, you will stay in the clinic for the duration of your stay, which will probably be between six and twelve weeks. During this time, you will be treated by counsellors and therapists who will help you to develop positive thought patterns that can be used to re-wire your brain.
You will have individual or group counselling sessions where you can discuss issues that may have caused your addiction as well as common triggers to addiction that will need to be avoided going forward.
Treatment programmes in residential clinics tend to include workshops, seminars, and lectures about addiction and how to avoid a relapse when you return to everyday life. You may also be taught valuable life and work skills that you never learned while holistic therapies can help to heal your mind, body, and spirit.
If you have ever wondered ‘how does alcohol treatment work’ and are interested in getting started on your own recovery journey, please call Liberty House Clinic today. We can help you get started on a programme of treatment that will re-wire your brain, making it possible for you to make good decisions once more.
Our state-of-the-art clinic is decorated to a high standard and is staffed by fully trained, passionate individuals who will provide around-the-clock care and support during your time with us. We are regulated by the Care Quality Commission and our record of success speaks for itself. Please call now to find out more about how we can help you beat your addiction once and for all.