Alcoholism is one of the many addictions affecting millions of adults and teens in the United States. Thankfully, there are a number of proven and effective treatments for those living with alcohol addiction, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Using medications alongside behavioral therapy can often lead to lasting sobriety. However, like any other form of addiction treatment, MAT has a list of pros and cons for those considering it and engaging with it.
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Alcoholism is one of many addictions an individual can develop. As a substance, alcohol has significant impacts on a person. However, when consumed at an addictive level, alcohol can be a life-altering substance.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is a prominent medical condition that can develop in nearly any person over time. However, certain factors, such as an individual’s genetics, environment, and relationship to alcohol, can make a person more likely to develop it than others. Once developed, a person living with alcoholism has an impaired ability to stop or control their consumption of alcohol – even when faced with minor or major consequences.
Immediate Effects of Alcohol Consumption
When a person consumes alcohol, it has an effect on both their body and mind. Because of this, a person is both physically and mentally impaired. This is largely due to alcohol being a depressant. Substances in the depressant category will slow functions and reactions within the brain, which also relates to the body. This is why alcohol consumption typically affects a person’s mood, behavior, speech, coordination, and more.
Side Effects of Alcoholism
Consistently consuming alcohol over prolonged periods of time can have several serious effects on a person’s health, wellness, and everyday life. The pursuit of alcohol along with consumption can cause a person to have significant behavioral changes. These changes can lead to issues with relationships, a career or job, finances, hobbies, education, and so much more.
However, alcohol and alcoholism also take a toll on the individual consuming the substance. The long-term health effects of alcoholism typically include:
- Changes in mood
- Trouble sleeping (including insomnia)
- A weaker immune system
- Changes in sexual function and libido
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Issues with memory and focus
- Higher risk for pancreatitis
- Chronic liver inflammation
- Higher risk for liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Greater risk of stroke
- Higher risk of heart attack, heart disease, or heart failure
Avoiding alcohol or seeking treatment for alcoholism are the best ways to avoid side effects like these.
Alcoholism and the Human Brain
Sadly, alcoholism, like other forms of addiction, also has a serious impact on the human brain. As a person continues to consume alcohol over time, their brain is forced to adapt to the constant or near-constant presence of alcohol. Eventually, the brain becomes dependent on alcohol to function, so it restructures itself in order to make a person more likely to engage in addictive behavior and consume it.
This can be a difficult cycle to break for many who live with alcoholism. Unfortunately, the brain never fully returns to normal. However, with professional help, a person can restore some areas of the brain and learn to live with its structure.
What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
Medication-assisted treatment, abbreviated as MAT, is one of the numerous forms of addiction treatment. This form of treatment uses specific medications along with counseling or some other form of behavioral therapy to provide an individual with both physical and mental treatment and support. MAT can be used for many different addictions; however, it is often most effective for individuals living with an opioid addiction or alcohol addiction.
The medications provided to patients during medication-assisted treatment aid in restoring normal brain chemistry while also blocking the effects of opioids and alcohol, which can help to reduce cravings and reestablish bodily functions without alcohol dependence. One of the most commonly used medications in MAT is naltrexone. The properties of naltrexone prevent the endorphins released by alcohol consumption from binding to receptors. In breaking this connection, alcohol becomes an ineffective and pleasure-less substance.
Pros of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcoholism
Medication-assisted treatment is among the most popular forms of addiction treatment in the United States and abroad, especially for treating alcoholism. The popularity of employing MAT for alcoholism is primarily due to its benefits.
The pros of MAT for alcoholism include:
- Aiding in eliminating cravings for alcoholism
- Easing withdrawal symptoms
- Reducing the risk for alcohol poisoning
- An increased likelihood of continuing addiction treatment
- Decrease in alcohol consumption
- Helping prevent a relapse
Cons of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcoholism
For many people living with alcoholism, MAT is one of the most helpful forms of treatment. However, MAT does not help every person. Like other forms of addiction treatment, MAT can have drawbacks, depending mostly on the needs of individual patients.
The cons of MAT for alcoholism include:
- Ingesting medications
- Experiencing unwanted side effects from medications
- Consistent medical supervision
- The potential to misuse or abuse medications
- The potential to trade one addiction for another
Medication-assisted treatment for alcoholism works for a significant number of people, but it will never work for every person. These cons can rightfully cause some to seek other forms of treatment that they are more comfortable with.
Always Do Your Own Research on Treatment
If an individual desires to overcome alcoholism and maintain their sobriety, they must commit to a form of treatment that they feel meets their needs. If a form of treatment does not meet them, they are likely to relapse. Fortunately, in the United States and abroad, there are numerous addiction treatments available to help meet the unique needs of different individuals. However, many of these treatments will vary in cost, level of commitment, type of care, and more.
Searching for Treatment for Alcoholism in Your Area?
Living with alcoholism can be extremely harmful for a person and those around them. If you or a loved one is living with this condition, help is available in your area, including medication-assisted treatment. At Knoxville Recovery Center, our team of addiction specialists offer several treatment options for those living with alcoholism, especially MAT. Contact us today to learn more!