The hardest part of beating alcoholism is stopping drinking in the first place. Your GP will be able to help you with this. Almost all alcoholics will suffer some sort of withdrawal symptoms, ranging from mild shakes and nausea to delirium tremens (or DTs), which can be severe and even life threatening. If you’ve been a heavy drinker your GP may recommend that you’re admitted to hospital for the detox process so that your vital signs can be monitored. While there are very few dedicated NHS detox facilities there are several private clinics across the UK.
The detox process takes between three and seven days, and you may be given tranquilisers, such as diazepam (Valium), to help you through. After this, alcohol is no longer a predominantly physical or chemical need, but will often remain as a strong psychological desire.
How to stay sober?
Stopping drinking is only half the battle, if that, and most alcoholics will have at least one relapse on their road to overcoming their addiction.
Your GP will be able to offer medical help in the form of drugs that can help you overcome the cravings that come with alcoholism. These include acamprosate calcium which helps to reduce cravings, naltrexone which blocks the effects of alcohol in the brain, and disulfiram which induces nausea, headaches and discomfort if you do drink.
However, it should be noted that none of these is a ‘magic pill’ or cure for alcoholism. They simply provide help in overcoming the cravings experienced as you try to stop.
A far more important factor is psychological support. Your GP may refer you to a counsellor who will work with you to identify the root cause of your addiction, and help you deal with the stress, or other issues, which started you drinking in the first place.