Effective Alcoholism Treatment

The differences between support groups and treatment programs

Paul Getzendanner, JD, LCSW, CADC
Program Director for Gateway’s Chicago West and River North Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers

No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. gateway provides personalized treatment based on the extent and nature of a person's alcohol abuse.

No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. gateway provides personalized treatment based on the extent and nature of a person’s alcohol abuse.

Oftentimes people aren’t clear about the difference between 12-step programs, offered by groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and treatment programs, which are what Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers provides.

The primary difference between the two is that Alcoholics Anonymous essentially provides a support group as opposed to an integrated treatment program. The distinction between support and treatment is an important one to make.

How does a support group work?

12-step support groups provide people a roadmap to sobriety, with steps that everyone is expected to complete in the same manner. It’s more of a one-size-fits-all solution. Alcoholics Anonymous is a peer-based group, where members of the group encourage each other and provide guidance based on their own experience.

How does treatment work?

At Gateway, alcoholism treatment is evidence-based and flexible. It is provided by professionals who are trained, educated, licensed and accredited and who specialize in substance abuse counseling. We seek out current information and will try new things based on what research tells us is proven to work. This is a key factor that distinguishes us from 12-step support programs as well as the vast majority of treatment providers.

Gateway’s treatment programs are personalized, using what evidence tells us will work for each particular person. We assess and diagnose individuals, collaborate with them and devise a treatment plan that will meet their needs.

Among the resources we use in alcoholism treatment are dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, art therapy and our own mindfulness based sobriety curriculum. Our programs also treat co-occurring disorders that include depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Treatment and Support Groups Working Together

Gateway supports involvement in 12-step programs and, as part of our therapy, introduces clients to the concept, hosts meetings for them to attend as part of their therapy, and recommends that patients take part in Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar 12-step offering following discharge.

12-step support groups play a valuable role in alcoholism treatment and many people are helped by them. Gateway believes the most benefit can be derived from experiencing both evidenced-based treatment and support.

To learn more about treatment options for alcoholism, or our free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit Recovergateway.org

Gateway Rehab Applauds FDA for Breakthrough Thinking in Alcoholism Treatment

alcoholism, drinking alcoholThis February, the FDA suggested new guidelines for drug makers interested in developing treatments for alcoholism. In a groundbreaking departure from conventional thinking, the guidelines would give drug companies the green light to develop treatments that help patients stay within “low-risk” daily alcohol limits.

Presently, the goal of pharmaceutical treatments for alcoholism is total abstinence from drinking alcohol.

In a February 11 bloomberg.com post, FDA spokesman Eric Pahon explained that abstinence-based endpoints are often unattainable in a clinical trial, which can hinder the development of drugs to treat alcoholism. “Reducing heavy drinking to within ‘low-risk’ daily limits presents an alternative goal in drug development so more treatments may be developed,” Pahon said.

John Larson, M.D., Corporate Medical Director of Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers, agrees. “While complete avoidance of alcohol is necessary for some to achieve meaningful recovery, there are others whose lives could greatly benefit from treatment that successfully reduces the amount and frequency of alcohol use without requiring total abstinence. These new FDA guidelines could aid in the discovery of whole new categories of medications that could do just that,” said Dr. Larson.

The Need for New Medications

There are currently three categories of drugs sold to treat alcoholism. In addition to having limitations, these medications are only effective for some.

Despite this, no new medications have been introduced into the alcohol treatment market in nearly ten years. Reaching the high bar of total sobriety in a clinical trial consistently proves elusive.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) acknowledges more medications are needed to serve the broader population. Dr. Raye Litten, associate director of the agency’s Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, believes more treatments will enable more patients to find one that works for them.

The FDA proposal identifies alcoholism as continued drinking despite physical and psychosocial consequences. The agency said an alcoholism drug should ultimately improve those consequences, which can be done via total sobriety or a reduction in alcohol use.

Michael Darcy, Gateway’s CEO & President, backs this thinking. He said, “It seems the substance abuse disorder field is the only profession that claims a 100% rate of no relapses as the criteria for success. I hope this (new) notion will lead to a more realistic view of success.”

To learn more about treatment options for alcohol abuse issues, or our free, confidential consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Concerned Your Spouse is a Functioning Alcoholic?

A functioning alcoholic is someone who can hold down a job, pursue a career or care for children while continuing with his or her alcoholism. Some can do these things successfully, but the question becomes, how well are they handling their role of spouse, parent, driver, financial manager or community volunteer while under the influence?

It’s important for someone who is a functioning alcoholic to understand the health risks for them may be just as serious as they are for someone who has a more obvious addiction to alcohol.

Take the Alcoholism Test created by Dr. Neill Neill, Ph.D., R.Psych., Author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman’s Survival Guide. Dr. Neill’s Alcoholism Test is designed for anyone who suspects their partner may be a functioning alcoholic.

Alcoholism Test

1. Your spouse sometimes admits to a drinking problem; quipped about being a functioning alcoholic.

Key Insight: Intuition is usually right.

2. Your spouse has lost days at work or school because of drinking. He/she has gotten into fights when drinking and lost friends due to drinking. There has been a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Key Insight: These and many other negative things begin to happen when the alcohol consumption has become a compulsion. What counts is not an isolated incident, but whether there is a pattern of such events.

3. Your spouse says he/she needs alcohol to reduce tension or stress, and a drink helps in building self-confidence.

Key Insight: Many high-functioning alcoholics have low self-esteem. The real issue is whether or not your partner has become dependent on the alcohol to overcome another mental health problem, low self-esteem.

4. Your partner often has a drink in the morning. Sometimes you find your spouse drinking alone or he/she gets drunk without meaning to. Your partner forgets what he/she did or said during the previous evening of drinking.

Key Insight: The first three statements suggest that drinking has become a compulsion and is suggestive of addictive drinking. The last item describes alcoholic blackout, again characteristic of longer-term alcohol abuse.

5. Your partner has sometimes denied drinking when he/she obviously was drinking. You know that he/she hides alcohol so others won’t see it. Your partner gets resentful, defensive and angry if anyone comments on his/her drinking.

Key Insight: Denial is the major line of defense for most problem drinkers.

6. You often worry about your partner’s drinking and lose sleep over it. You make threats that you don’t follow through on. You sometimes make excuses or cover for your spouse when he/she has been drinking.

Key Insight: Your partner may well be a functioning alcoholic, but you have become codependent. All of these behaviors do more to support his alcoholism than to remedy it.

Understanding whether or not your partner is an alcoholic is not simply a matter of counting drinks or counting answers to a questionnaire. The issue is quite complex. The Alcohol Test exercise may help you see more clearly what your unique situation really is. If you have questions about your spouse’s drinking, Gateway Foundation has the answers you need. For a free and confidential consultation, contact Gateway Foundation at (877) 505-HOPE (4673).

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