Alcohol Rehab: Today There Are Other Options

Conventional wisdom is that those who drink too much should check in to an alcohol rehabilitation facility. The rationale: people with alcohol problems need to abandon their traditional stomping grounds. Long-in-place behavior routines may have contributed to the problem in the first place.

The reasoning continues: alcoholics need to be away from friends, who may have encouraged (or enabled) their alcoholism. They need to be away from their usual environment, which may have made it possible to be a functioning alcoholic. They need a place that is neutral – a blank slate on which to redraw their lives, free of outside influences.

For some, these reasons are valid, and checking in to a dedicated rehabilitation outpost may be a good choice. But there are good reasons to reconsider.

First, these facilities are expensive. A month’s stay can cost $10,000 to 20,000 – even $50,000. Two months could mean a financial outlay of $100,000. These amounts may or may not be covered by insurance. And imagine having to tell an employer, “I need to check out for a month,” and then having to go into detail about the reason. How will family deal with this absence? Will friends be supportive?

So what are alternatives to rehab?

One of the oldest options is Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935. It is famous for its 12-step philosophy, peer support, and – true to its name – a guarantee of anonymity. Its history is undeniable, and its principles have helped many people. But now there are other options available.

On its website, Smart Recovery describes itself as “the leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group,” using both face-to-face and online meetings. The organization uses a 4-point system: building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts and behaviors, and living a balanced life.

Rational Recovery is a “worldwide source of counseling, information, guidance, and direct instruction on independent recovery through planned, permanent abstinence.” The group uses a trademarked method, Addictive Voice Recognition Technique® (AVRT®), which helps recovery by focusing on strong family ties.

Moderation Management offers behavioral change and support groups for moderation or abstinence, though it differs from others, in that it does not advocate an abstinence-only approach. In addition to face-to-face meetings, MM offers regularly-scheduled telephone conference calls, online support, a library of reading materials, and a directory of medical professionals.

Promoting abstinence, LifeRing LifeRing is a worldwide network of individuals seeking recovery from addictions: “We are sober, secular, and self-directed.” The organization follows the principle that each addict has an “Addict Self” and a “Sober Self,” and that each individual can design his own path to recovery.

Another choice is Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a nonprofit network of local groups (including LifeRing, above), and a non-religious alternative to 12-step programs.

Other, more serious options include outpatient facilities, in which patients live at home with occasional medical appointments. If this is not sufficient, intensive outpatient care may involve multiple appointments a week for up to three hours a day. And then there is partial hospitalization, with daytime spent in intense treatment, with the patient returning home in the evening.

But for many people, alcohol treatment privately, at home, may be the best option of all. Working on the problem at home means dealing with the addiction triggers that are around every day. Ria Health offers a comprehensive treatment program that addresses these triggers.

Developed by John E. Mendelson, MD, one of the country’s most respected addiction researchers, the Ria Health treatment method uses factors that mutually support each other, and can be done in the patient’s home. The company’s method combines a proprietary app coupled with a state-of-the-art breathalyzer, prescription medication (naltrexone), and counseling with Ria Health medical personnel via telephone or Skype.

The breathalyzer, about the size of a deck of cards, attaches to the patient’s smartphone. Patients use the breathalyzer to report twice a day on their blood alcohol levels (BAL), and the app stores the information. This monitoring provides a baseline to measure improvement.

The naltrexone helps nullify the effects of drinking, and also reduces the craving for alcohol. (The app also helps remind patients to take their medication.)

But the monitoring and naltrexone would not work without the final component, telemedicine. Rather than waiting around in a doctor’s office, a patient receives coaching and consultation with Ria Health medical staff – from home, office, or any location. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends counseling as a part of every alcohol treatment method.

Everyone is different, and Ria Health tailors recovery to meet each individual’s needs. For many people, this personalized, multi-faceted approach will reduce – or stop – their drinking.

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