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Long term effects of alcoholism vary according to the amount consumed, the length of time it has been going on, and the age at which it started. The most common long term effects include: • Liver disease • Heart disease • Stroke • Cancer • Memory impairment • Depression • Anxiety • Problems sleeping • Poor concentration • Loss of sexual function • Impotence • Weight gain • Diabetes • Kidney failure
Treatment for alcohol addiction varies depending on the individual. Generally speaking, however, treatment involves a combination of counselling and medication.
Counselling aims to identify the underlying causes of the person’s behaviour. It also helps them understand how their actions affect themselves and others. Counsellors may be able to offer advice on how to avoid future relapses.
Medication is used to treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Medications such as naltrexone (ReVia) and acamprosate (Campral) reduce the craving for alcohol. Naltrexone blocks the effects of alcohol in the brain. Acamprosate reduces the frequency and intensity of cravings.
Other medications that are sometimes used to treat alcohol dependence include disulfiram (Antabuse), which makes drinkers feel sick when they consume alcohol; topiramate (Topamax), which reduces the desire to drink; and baclofen (Lioresal), which reduces the urge to drink.
No. Even though you might think that you no longer want to drink, your body needs time to adjust to the new lifestyle. During this period of adjustment, you could experience uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, depression, irritability and restlessness. You will also need to learn how to cope with these feelings without turning to alcohol.
If you continue to drink after completing a detoxification programme, you will probably find yourself experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This includes headaches, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, sweating, shivering, tremors, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, agitation, diarrhoea, heart palpitations, hot flushes and cold sweats. If you try to stop drinking before the withdrawal symptoms subside, you run the risk of developing delirium tremens, a potentially fatal medical emergency.
In addition, if you continue to drink even after completing a detoxification program, you will still need to undergo a formalised recovery programme. This involves learning coping strategies and skills so that you can maintain abstinence.
If you decide to abstain from alcohol permanently, you should seek out support groups and counselling services. They will help you deal with any emotional problems that arise and provide you with information about other substances that cause health problems.
When you enter a rehab centre, you will be assessed by a team of doctors, nurses and therapists. Your doctor will determine what type of therapy is appropriate for you based on your personal situation.
You will then begin individual or group counselling sessions designed to teach you coping skills and how to avoid relapse. You will also receive medication to treat any underlying conditions that contributed to your alcohol abuse.
You will attend daily meetings where you will discuss issues related to your addiction and participate in activities that promote healthy living.
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