Preventing Alcohol Relapse after Treatment

Although alcohol is a drug, it’s legal to manufacture, distribute, and consume it. Alcohol use is incredibly prevalent, and it’s associated with nearly every social event, from weddings to ball games to dinners with friends.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than half of adults aged 26 or older (55.3%) were current alcohol users. This percentage corresponds to about 118.8 million adults in this age group who drank alcohol in the past month.

But not all Americans can simply enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time. Rather, an estimated 15.1 million Americans over the age of 18 have an alcohol use disorder, according to NSDUH. Per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), a person can be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder if two or more of the 11 listed criteria, which includes psychological, physical and behavioral symptoms, are present within the same 12-month period.

How Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Affect Recovery

Individuals with an alcohol use disorder will typically find it difficult to achieve and maintain sobriety. This is due in part to the withdrawal symptoms individuals with an alcohol use disorder experience when they stop drinking or significantly reduce the familiar amount of intake.

Withdrawal symptoms generally appear within hours of when a person who has a history of chronic alcohol abuse stops drinking or lowers the amount of alcohol consumed. The most common symptoms are:

  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Hypervigilance.
  • Tremors.
  • Cravings for alcohol.
  • Vivid dreams.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Vomiting.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms may begin appearing after 1 or 2 days and can include hallucinations (auditory, visual, or tactile) and seizures (i.e. generalized convulsion involving shaking of the arms and legs and loss of consciousness). Delirium tremors (DTs) are another severe withdrawal symptom. DTs may last up to 3 or 4 days and are characterized by disorientation, coarse tremor, severe agitation, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure and fever.

Approximately 5% of individuals in withdrawal from alcohol abuse will experience DTs, which can cause life-threatening metabolic or cardiovascular complications, trauma or infection. Most alcohol withdrawal symptoms, however, aren’t life-threatening but should be taken seriously. It’s important to understand that a symptom can subside, but there’s also the possibility that it will worsen. However, help is available to lessen the severity of these symptoms and make relapse less likely.

Treatment Elements to Avoid Relapse

There are several effective evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare options to help you or a loved one on their recovery journey. They can include a combination of therapies, medical detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment, and sober living.

Medical Detox for Alcohol Addiction

Within the addiction treatment community, there’s a universal advisement that individuals who are experiencing an alcohol use disorder, especially one with a severe grade, start the recovery process with medical detoxification.

Detox helps remove substances, like alcohol, from the body in order to help the body return to a neutral alcohol-free state. Medical detox can occur at a rehab center with an onsite detoxification facility, at a hospital, or at a standalone detox center, among other qualified places. During this medically supervised phase, an attending doctor may recommend that the recovering person take medications to help minimize symptoms and prevent complications such as seizures or delirium tremens.

Inpatient Rehab for Alcohol Use Disorder

After medical detox, the next step is primary treatment for the alcohol addiction, which mainly includes therapy, group recovery meetings, and additional supportive services, such as family therapy. Orange County Medical detox plus primary addiction treatment is considered the gold standard to help a person maintain abstinence.

Inpatient rehab in Orange County is often a good choice for people who are at a high risk for relapse, who don’t have a supportive or safe environment at home, or who otherwise need a more structured environment to get on the road to recovery.

After completion of a treatment program for alcohol abuse, it’s universally recommended that the recovering person engage in different aftercare services, such as continuing to go to therapy, attending group recovery meetings, and possibly living in a sober living home, among other options. Aftercare is critical to avoiding relapse as it provides ongoing support of sobriety.

Outpatient Treatment for Addiction Recovery

While many people struggling with alcohol addiction benefit from inpatient rehab treatment, outpatient treatment is an effective option as well. People who go to outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction still receive robust and effective care, but with flexibility to continue to participate in their day-to-day lives.

Outpatient treatment is also a good option for individuals who are leaving inpatient treatment, but want or need the support and services of more formal care. At our sister facility, Desert Hope, in Las Vegas, NV, we offer an array of addiction-focused healthcare to support you on your recovery journey.

Sober Living

Sober living homes are residential houses, often gender-specific, that are safe places for people in recovery to live while they navigate the weeks and months of their new sober life. These homes provide a level of structure that people in early sobriety often require, but with the flexibility of more day-t0-day living.

Sober living homes are often used as transitional places for people leaving inpatient treatment, but who aren’t quite ready to return to their everyday lives. At our sister facility in Las Vegas, NV, our sober living homes — Resolutions Las Vegas —  allow people to get used to an alcohol-free lifestyle, firm up coping skills and trigger recognition, and build a support community — all while gaining life skills to support them when they return to their day-to-day lives.

Relapse and Recovery Support Services

If you, or a loved one, is living with alcohol addiction and has a relapse that doesn’t mean its over and recovery isn’t successful. The days, weeks, months, and years spent in recovery have provided a foundation for getting sober again.

Relapse prevention strategies are learned during treatment and reinforced as part of aftercare. Medications that are effective in helping to prevent cravings may be used to aid in reducing the risk of relapse. Naltrexone, either oral or injected in an extended-release formulation, have both been shown to help prevent relapse in patients being treated for alcohol use disorders.

For ongoing support in recovery, connection with local AA or alcohol recovery programs as well as alumni programs can be incredibly beneficial for helping you return to your recovery journey.

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We are here to help you get sober and learn how to stay that way. Let us help you get started with the rest of your life! Laguna Treatment Hospital is located in Orange County within easy reach of the entire Los Angeles metro. We are the premier chemical dependency recovery hospital in the OC. We offer safe medical detox, mental health support, and wellness programs.