There are, and have been, many theories about alcoholism. The most prevailing theory, and now most commonly accepted, is called the Disease Model.
Its basic tenets are that alcoholism is a disease with recognizable symptoms, causes, and methods of treatment. In addition, there are several stages of the disease which are often described as early, middle, late, treatment and relapse.
While it is not essential to fully define these stages, it is useful to understand them in terms of how the disease presents itself.
This series of articles describes the signs and symptoms of each stage as well as exploring treatment options.
- Early or Adaptive Stage
- Middle Stage
- Late Stage
- Treating Alcoholism
- Relapse to drinking
4 – Treating Alcoholism
An alcoholic will rarely stop drinking and stay sober without outside help. Also, he or she usually will not stop drinking without some kind of outside pressure. This pressure may come from family, friends, clergy, other health care professionals, law enforcement or judicial authorities, or an employer. For example, a spouse may threaten divorce, or the alcoholic may be arrested for driving under the influence.
One Can Quit Anytime in the Cycle
There was at one time a widespread belief that alcoholics would not get help until they had “hit bottom.” This theory has generally been discredited as many early and middle stage alcoholics have quit drinking when faced with consequences such as the loss of a job, a divorce, or a convincing warning from a physician regarding the potentially fatal consequences of continued drinking.
There are obvious advantages to getting the alcoholic into treatment earlier rather than later. One advantage is that, the earlier treatment is begun, the probability of having less expensive treatment, such as outpatient care, is increased. There is also a greater likelihood of success in treatment with an individual who has not yet lost everything and still has a supportive environment to return to, including an intact family, good health, and a job. In addition, the employer has a stake in the early treatment of alcoholism, since the employee will have a greater chance of returning sooner to full functioning on the job if the disease is arrested at an earlier point. Early treatment is simply less disruptive and can help the alcoholic avoid further misconduct and poor performance. If an alcoholic doesn’t get help until very late in the disease, there may have been irreparable harm done.
Responsibility for Treatment
The alcoholic does not initially have to want to get help to go into treatment. Many people go into treatment because of some kind of threat such as loss of a job, divorce or possible incarceration. However, even the individual that is forced will eventually have to personally accept the need for treatment for it to be effective. Employers are a very potent force in getting the alcoholic into treatment. The threat of the loss of a job is often the push the alcoholic needs to enter treatment.
There are various kinds of treatment and programs for alcoholism. Though some alcoholics do stop drinking on their own, this is rare. Most alcoholics require some type of treatment or help such as Alcoholics Anonymous.