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How to help an alcoholic stop drinking?

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Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar

Psychiatrist

Practicing since :2003

Answered : 2190 Questions

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Posted on Mon, 31 Dec 2012 in Mental Health
Question: My father is 65yrs old and a severe alcoholic. He retired as an accounts officer from a reputed company in South India. We, family members, tried many options to get him out of this problem, including admitting to hospitals or holistic healing center, changing places of stay, sending him for job several times to keep him busy, a mediator(close relative) speaking to him etc . He is again going back to same condition and all our trials are in vain. We want some help bring him back to life, because we cant handle the problems he creates for us. He does malpractices to get money.We have always tried to be with him, but looks like he should be put in some healing center force fully (like an ashram) until he is permanently coming back to life. What is your opinion about this? Do you suggest any place?
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Answered by Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar 52 minutes later
Hello and welcome to Healthcare Magic.

I understand that it can be very distressing to deal with a family member who is addicted to alcohol and who refuses to take any steps to change himself. Now, almost all people who are addicted to alcohol or any other substance have already been told enough number of times by their relatives and friends to stop or cut down the habit. But remember, the very definition of 'addiction' implies that the person has lost control over himself and is unable to stop or control the habit, despite knowing that it can cause him harmful consequences.

Now, at the same time, this does not mean that there is no way out. There are a lot of people who have been in the same state as your dad but have been able to overcome this problem eventually. Now, regarding the treatment of any addiction problem, it is important to understand that one of the key factors in success is to get the person motivated internally. Even if he is compelled to get admitted in any de-addiction centre or is put in any ashram, unless he is made to realize, understand, and develop an XXXXXXX self-motivation, the benefits may not be long-lasting.

I would suggest that you try admitting him in a proper de-addiction centre for atleast a month, where he will not have an opportunity to drink but also will get rigorous treatment and intensive counselling. This would not be like his previous hospital admissions where he is admitted for a few days, put on some medication, sent home, and he probably stops the medication and starts drinking again. There are specialized de-addiction centres like NIMHANS, Bangalore, TTK, Chennai, etc. where intensive and well-structured de-addiction programmes are being done.

There are specific an targetted psychological therapies like Motivational Enhancement Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Aversion Therapy, Hypnotherapy, etc. which often give good results. Through these psychological therapies, the psychiatrist establishes a good rapport with the patient, gradually wins his confidence, and then in a skilled and professional manner, he is made to understand his situation and realize that it is time for change. His motivation is gradually enhanced and he is taught skills how to prevent relapses and how to adjust / modify his lifestyle accordingly. In addition, there are medication which can reduce the 'craving' i.e. the urge or desire to keep taking the substance called anti-craving agents. There are other medication called detterent medication, like Disulfiram, which can also help him develop an aversion towards alcohol and stay away it. Also, certain mood-stabilizing medication like Carbamazepine and Valproate can help in reducing his impulsivity and mood fluctuations, which may be causing him to have this kind of fluctuating drinking pattern.

So, my opinion is that even if you are planning to forcefully put him in a centre, it would be better to put him in de-addiction centre, where he will also get the benefit of treatment. This will maximise his chance of recovery.

Wish you all the best.

- Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar
Consultant Psychiatrist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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