Recovery From Alcohol Use Disorder
Written by Jade McNulty BMS'23 Neuro‘23
Published on April 5, 2021
With the dangers of alcohol withdrawal looming overhead, it may be hard to think about recovery. Recovery is a process of change to improve health and wellness and while getting better may seem unfathomable, it is not impossible. Overcoming an addiction is a complex process that requires perseverance and adequate resources. It is not something that one can do alone, and often requires daily monitoring. Treatment may include a mixture of therapy and medications, with varying levels for varying degrees of necessity.
Chronic alcohol use can cause negative neuroplastic changes which increase risk of relapse, but there are a multitude of therapeutic approaches to overcoming alcohol use dependence. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to transform negative thoughts and behaviors into manageable responses while aversion therapy represses the urge to drink altogether. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) offer ways for individuals to express their experiences with others in a safe environment. Talking about their personal struggles and bonding with others dealing with the same difficult situation helps individuals to feel less alone. When humans are in close contact with others, they tend to mimic behavior in a process inside the inferior frontal cortex known as mirroring. This mental process allows mentoring relationships, where people who have been through the process (sponsor) and new members (sponsee), create positive bonds and behaviors. Connecting with others and having support through therapists or peers can create a world of difference as humans are always better off together than alone.
Heavy alcohol use can damage neurocognitive functioning, and abstinence is the only thing that can partially improve this. Due to how difficult abstinence is to maintain on its own, certain medications are available to help. While there are some medications like disulfiram (Antabuse) that can cause displeasing effects when alcohol is consumed, most remedies dull the senses. For a less drastic approach, vitamins like Thiamine (Vitamin B1) are used to help repair brain systems damaged by alcohol by impacting energy levels, cell metabolism, and brain function. Differing drugs cause differing effects, and licensed clinicians and therapists can help individuals onto the path they need.
Detoxing the body from the substance inflicting harm is the only way to heal, and alcohol abstinence is typically the end goal. These processes all work in conjunction to help people to recover from alcohol, but they only work if one uses them. The first step of getting help is always the hardest, but the resources for recovery are out there. Almost every university contains options on where to find help, and there are costless methods available everywhere. Do not struggle alone.
University of the Sciences students can reach out to the Student Health and Counseling center at The Counseling Center 215-596-8536 or 215-596-8980 for assistance for themselves or their friends.