Group Therapy-discussionWhen drinking alcohol becomes the biggest focus of your life — or your loved one’s life — it can be difficult to know where to turn for help.

Fortunately, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, is home to a dedicated team of addiction specialists who have the highest level of training in substance use disorders. We’re passionate about the work we do, and we’re ready to assist you in taking back control of your life from addiction.

Alcohol use disorder is treatable, especially when care is managed by professionals, like the psychiatrists, addiction medicine physicians, nurse practitioners and counselors at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. We’ll develop a personalized treatment plan, using a combination of medications and behavioral therapies, that considers your medical needs, trauma, triggers and relationships. We use evidence-based approaches as a research-oriented academic medical center, and our philosophy is to keep you safe as we walk with you through each step of care.

Recovery from alcohol use disorder is possible for many people. The award-winning addiction medicine programs at Talbot Hall and community locations can help you reach your sobriety goals and move on to a more productive and quality life.

What is alcohol use disorder?

Previously called alcoholism, alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that involves drinking frequently or excessively. People with alcohol use disorder often can’t stop drinking even when it causes negative social, health or even legal consequences.

It’s a complex, chronic medical disease, and a combination of biologic, environmental and individual factors contribute to addiction. It’s important to remember that alcohol use disorder isn’t due to a person’s lack of self-discipline or failures. The disorder requires professional medical help to treat.

Also, alcohol use disorder typically occurs on a spectrum (mild, moderate, severe) and doesn’t affect everyone the same way. However, it’s a common condition — an estimated 14.5 million people in the United States have an alcohol use disorder.

People should seek treatment as soon as they identify a problem; the earlier treatment begins, the better outcomes someone can have. Unhealthy alcohol use can put your safety at risk as well as cause numerous medical issues, like heart disease, liver disease and even cancer. Excessive alcohol use leads to more than 95,000 deaths in the United States annually.

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder

The symptoms of alcohol use disorder can vary from person to person. Severity is based on the number of criteria, or symptoms, someone experiences: mild (2-3), moderate (4-5) and severe (more than 6).

Those symptoms can include:

  • Drinking more or longer than planned
  • Craving or having a strong urge to drink, often not thinking of anything else
  • Losing control and not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started
  • Not being able to do tasks at home or work because you’re drinking, sick from drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Engaging in unsafe behavior — driving, swimming, risky sexual situations — while drinking, which could endanger your life or the life of others
  • Wanting to stop drinking but being unsuccessful in your attempts
  • Continuing to drink, knowing that it’s the cause of your physical, mental or relationship problems
  • Experiencing “blackouts” when you don’t remember events
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness, when you don’t drink

If you feel you’re experiencing these symptoms, or your loved ones are concerned about your drinking, you can talk with your doctor about possibly starting treatment.

How long is treatment for alcohol use disorder?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to alcohol use disorder treatment. There are a variety of factors that go into developing a personalized treatment plan, and we’ll work with you to identify what therapies will be most beneficial to your unique situation.

Factors affecting treatment length include:

  • Severity of the alcohol use disorder
  • Length of time that alcohol has been misused
  • Presence of any other condition, such as depression
  • Level of care needed
  • Personal health and past treatment history
  • Self-motivation

Treatment options for alcohol addiction

We’re able to treat people with alcohol use disorder at our east campus at Talbot Hall or at various locations in the community, depending on what kind of treatment you need.

After a thorough assessment to understand the physical, psychological and social elements of your addiction, we’ll help select the type and level of treatment suitable for you. This assessment is critical to getting you started on the right path to a new life free of alcohol.

Alcohol use disorder treatments typically fall into two different categories: behavioral therapies and medications.

Behavioral therapies help people develop skills to understand and overcome what triggers their drinking. Medications can help someone avoid drinking, especially during stressful times.

Types of treatment might include:

  • Detoxification and withdrawal management – Depending on the severity of your alcohol use, your treatment might start with detoxification that is medically managed in an inpatient or hospital setting.
  • Medications – There are three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: disulfiram causes unpleasant symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting) when alcohol is consumed; naltrexone reduces the pleasurable feelings of drinking; and acamprosate curbs cravings.
  • Psychological/behavioral therapy – This could be in the form of individual or group psychotherapy. You also might benefit from other types of talk therapy, including couples or family counseling.
  • Continued support groups – Mutual support programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery and others, can be crucial to continued success in alcohol use disorder treatment outside the hospital.

Typically, we’ll recommend a combination of these treatment methods to treat your alcohol use disorder. We’ll also recommend a level of care.

Ohio State’s levels of care for alcohol use disorder

We’re able to provide any type of care no matter the severity of your condition. That’s one of the reasons we’re unique in alcohol use disorder treatment in the central Ohio area. Our levels of care range from treating the most severe cases to outpatient therapy programs.

Inpatient detoxification

Acute withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening. As the only Level IV medical withdrawal management unit in the central Ohio area, we’re able to care for you around the clock with trained nurses and physicians as you go through the alcohol detoxification process. Typically, a three- to five-day stay at our inpatient detoxification addresses your medical needs and reduces pain and anxiety in the safest way possible. A counselor will meet with you throughout your stay to help you formulate a successful plan for treatment and discharge.

Residential care

The residential treatment unit offers a safe, supportive environment for those in recovery. This eliminates the added stress of homelessness, unsafe living situations, lack of transportation and basic self-care and gives those in our care the ability to focus on making lifelong changes. You can stay at the in-hospital, 15-bed unit for up to 30 days for further stabilization and as you start treatment, with the goal of getting you back to independent living.

Partial hospitalization

After an inpatient stay, many people continue treatment in our partial hospitalization program. This program offers you an alternative to more costly overnight care in the hospital and provides structured support when you’re not ready to make a full return to home or work. You’ll come Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3p.m., for an average of two to three weeks for individual and group therapy sessions.

Intensive outpatient program

The next level of treatment at Ohio State is intensive outpatient treatment, which is a six-week program designed for you to maintain family and work responsibilities. Sessions take place mornings or evenings, and participants generally attend 18 sessions over six weeks. We provide programming for your family and encourage you to participate in a 12-step program or find other outside support.

Outpatient programs

Our outpatient programs continue the work of our more intensive programs to help restore your brain to its normal patterns. The goal is to help you overcome the compulsion for drugs and maintain control of your life. We offer both individualized therapy and weekly group therapy, and participants can attend either or both. We have specialized groups run by licensed professionals that bring together people with similar experiences, like men’s and women’s groups.

Why seek treatment for alcohol use disorder at Ohio State?

When you’re looking for help with an alcohol addiction, choosing a facility that is safe, follows evidence-based therapies and cares for your success is important. The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center excels in many areas of addiction medicine.

Key highlights of our program include:

  • We have capacity – We know that time is of the essence when you are in crisis or you make the decision to get sober. Currently, there is no waitlist for our inpatient and outpatient services. We have a new 15-bed residential unit that helps us serve even more people.
  • We’re home to a Level IV medical withdrawal management unit – If you need it, we’re able to provide the highest level of care for withdrawal management. No one else in central Ohio can provide this type of care.
  • Our care is comprehensive – We help you manage every aspect of your care for alcohol use disorder, including case management, group therapy and medications.
  • We provide every level of care – Ohio State’s treatment of alcohol use disorder is unique in Columbus, because you can have all your treatment in one place. There’s no need to go to another place when you need partial hospitalization, or transitional or outpatient care. We’ll follow you every step of the way, even if you relapse.
  • We treat chronic alcohol use disorder – We don’t put time limits on how long you have to transition from one level of care to the next.
  • We can treat mental health disorders at the same time – Conditions like depression or bipolar disorder are often linked to substance use disorder, and because we’re a large academic health institution, we’re able to manage dual diagnoses. Many private addiction treatment facilities aren’t equipped to do that.
  • We see success – People seen here for substance use disorder recommend us to others. Ohio State Talbot Addiction Medicine currently has a 97% satisfaction score.

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