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MEND Corner: Recognizing and Treating Alcoholism

MEND Corner: Recognizing and Treating Alcoholism

August 9, 2017

What do we mean by Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, clinically referred to as Alcohol Use Disorder, is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as job jeopardy.

What are the four main characteristics of Alcohol Use Disorder?

  • Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink alcohol.
  • Impaired control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence: Produces physical withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol.
  • Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects.

What are signs and symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder?

  • Decreased involvement in extracurricular activities.
  • Loss of interest in work or school.
  • Depression.
  • Lack of interest in family and/or friends.
  • Preoccupation with drinking.
  • Restlessness.
  • Inability to control drinking.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Violent behavior.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms may occur from two hours to four days after stopping alcohol. People may experience:

  • Whole bodyShakiness, sweating, or loss of appetite.
  • BehavioralAgitation, restlessness, or irritability.
  • GastrointestinalNausea or vomiting.
  • Also CommonFast heart rate, tremor, anxiety, disorientation, headache, insomnia, nervousness, or seizures.

Treatment Options

  • Detoxification (“Detox”): This is the highest level of care, where individuals receive medically monitored treatment to safely detox from alcohol.
  • Residential Treatment (“Rehab”): All residential treatment programs require that an individual live at the program during treatment. These programs typically involve attending group therapy sessions and individual therapy sessions.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (“IOP”): An IOP is a program that includes group therapy, individual therapy/case management, and medication management. The frequency of attendance is typically three times (3) a week, but may be as frequent as five days (5) a week depending on the circumstances. Some IOPs have evening programs to accommodate those who work or attend school.
  • Outpatient Services: This is the lowest level of care, where individuals receive treatment from a therapist, psychiatrist (to prescribe medication), psychiatric nurse practitioner, or an addiction counselor within a private practice or clinic setting.

If you or an eligible dependent is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the MEND Program at (212) 366-7590 or by email at