Alcoholism treatment has not changed much over the last few decades. You would think that great strides would have been made, particularly in the medical field, but this has not really happened. About the biggest thing that occurred is that a new drug was released that helps fight alcohol cravings called Campral. But the results from this medication have been a far cry from being a miracle cure. In fact, it seems more likely now than ever before that there probably is not cure for alcoholism.
Our best bet for treating alcoholism in this day and age probably starts with residential treatment. This basically means drug rehab with a full detox unit that has medical supervision. Of course this is always going to be the preferred route for an alcoholic to dry out, even though it is expensive, simply because of the safety issue. Detoxing from alcohol is dangerous.
Group therapy and lectures and 12 step meetings usually make up the typical routine for alcohol treatment. Inpatient treatment used to last for 28 days, but in today’s economy it is more like 2 weeks or so on average. The full month stay was just proving to be too expensive for funding sources and insurance companies. Treatment is expensive. When you factor in the relatively low success rate of treatment, the cost is downright outrageous.
Treatment for alcoholism is evolving slowly. There is probably a push towards more pharmaceutical research, even though that has proven to be pretty much fruitless so far. The world wants a quick fix, and this is certainly true for alcoholics and drug addicts. It is so much more convenient to simply pop a pill than it is to “work a program” or take deliberate action every day to improve our lives.
The future of alcoholism treatment
I believe that the future will hold a bit more promise for treatment solutions. Particularly, the shift will be away from a spiritual and social solution that we see today being used in the 12 step program towards a much more holistic model. The problem with existing programs is that they are very narrow solutions that do not work for a large percentage of people. In fact, our existing programs only work for a very small minority. The solution to this is not to cram these people into a solution that does not fit them (as we have tried to do), but instead to find a more flexible model of treatment that works for them.
Now in some cases you will have those who are not willing to stop drinking and they are going to simply self destruct due to their addiction. There will be no saving them. But in other cases you have people who genuinely want to quit and the existing tools we have are failing them. It is those people who need a comprehensive and holistic solution that challenges them to explore a new life for themselves.