What is alcoholism?

Alcohol addiction or alcoholism is a condition that occurs when a person has a dependency on alcohol. This dependency impacts their life and their relationships with others. Alcoholism can be a deadly disease. The condition can lead to liver damage and traumatic accidents.

Traditional alcoholism treatment includes stopping drinking. People accomplish this by quitting “cold turkey” or by gradually cutting back on drinks. Doctors can also prescribe medications to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

People who are long-term, heavy drinkers require professional medical detoxification or detox programs. This is because withdrawal symptoms could cause seizures and hallucinations. Withdrawals can also affect brain functioning and lead to death.

People trying to overcome alcoholism may choose alternative treatments to boost their chances for success. Here are some of the alternative choices.

The decision to quit drinking requires mental discipline and self-control. Drinking can serve as a coping mechanism and source of stress relief for some people. Certain people may choose meditation as a means to replace drinking with a more positive stress relief method.

Meditation involves taking a few moments to maintain focus. You may choose to chant or repeat a positive thought in your mind. For example, you could tell yourself: “I will commit to living a healthier lifestyle.” Another practice involves picturing yourself overcoming alcohol addiction. You can imagine how you will feel when you successfully quit.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice. It involves inserting small needles into the skin. Its purpose is to restore balance to the body. Many people use acupuncture to relieve pain and depression. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), people also use acupuncture to quit smoking.

The evidence that acupuncture helps people overcome alcoholism is more anecdotal than research-based. Acupuncturists believe techniques can help people detoxify their bodies, especially the liver. Because alcoholism can cause liver scarring, this is a rumored benefit.

No definitive published research can back acupuncture’s benefits in treating alcoholism. Some studies suggest there may be some benefit, but more research is needed. Acupuncture is not associated with health risks if a licensed practitioner performs it. You should not attempt acupuncture on your own.

Yoga is a gentle exercise designed to help you get in tune with your body. Because alcoholism can make you feel out of control, yoga may help. The practice involves careful breathing and slow, gentle movements to stretch and tone your body.

Yoga helps you make a mind-body connection. The exercise provides stress relief that can enhance your sense of well-being. Yoga can teach you to use your body in a healthy way.

Many types of yoga exist, from slower-paced hatha yoga to vigorous power yoga. Community centers, gyms, and yoga studios offer classes. Instructional DVDs and mobile apps are also available to help beginners learn yoga positions.

One of the side effects of alcohol withdrawals is poor-quality sleep. Those living with alcoholism are at greater risks for sleep disorders, such as insomnia.

Bright-light therapy, also known as phototherapy, involves exposure to bright, artificial light during typical waking hours. Light therapy is a common treatment for seasonal affective disorder. The potential benefits are two-fold for people who have alcohol addiction. The light can reduce depression and promote a more natural sleep cycle.

Boston University researchers studied the benefits of bright-light therapy and a medication called naltrexone in helping people overcome alcoholism. The results showed this regimen was just as effective as intensive alcoholism treatment programs.

For over a thousand years, Chinese medicine practitioners have been using an herb called kudzu to reduce excess alcohol consumption. Kudzu is a weed considered a nuisance in the southern United States. However, a 2005 Harvard University study suggested kudzu might reduce alcohol consumption by heavy drinkers.

The researchers asked men and women to take a pill and then drink up to six beers. Some people got the kudzu pill, while others got a placebo. The group that took the kudzu pill drank slower and less beer than those who didn’t. While the study’s size was small, it showed that this herb might help those with alcohol addiction.

Kudzu has an ingredient called puerarin that boosts brain blood flow. Researchers believe the herbs helped people feel satisfied after drinking less beer.

People with alcoholism should not start taking any herbs without a doctor’s review. Herbs can have serious interactions with medications or alcohol.

Alcohol addiction affects your nutritional status. According to the Cleveland Clinic, nearly all people with alcohol addiction are malnourished in some way. Doctors use nutritional therapy to help you feel better. When you make healthy eating choices, you have more energy. This can help you resist temptations to drink. A dietitian can help you identify healthy foods.

There are a number of ways to treat alcoholism, including:

  • quitting “cold turkey”
  • gradually cutting back on drinks
  • engaging in professional medical detoxification or detox programs

No matter what method of treating alcoholism you choose, a variety of alternative treatments can make the road to sobriety easier. These include:

  • meditation
  • acupuncture
  • yoga
  • light therapy
  • herbs
  • nutritional counseling

Be sure to check with your doctor about which treatment options are best for you.