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Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Statistics compiled by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicate about 88,000 deaths each year are related to alcohol use. While many of these deaths are related to traffic fatalities—about 31% of all such fatalities in 2014—alcohol is also frequently linked to deaths from liver disease, homicide, suicide, falls, drownings, and other injuries.

What was once called alcoholism, alcohol abuse, or alcohol addiction is now classified as either Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), focusing only on alcohol use, or Substance Use Disorder (SUD), focusing on drug and alcohol use. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists the diagnostic features of all recognized mental disorders, including AUD and SUD, and guidelines for determining the severity of the disorder.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol use disorder (AUD) as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” The 2018 NSDUH report highlights the prevalence of alcohol use disorder in the U.S., finding over 14 million adults age 18 and over 400,000 adolescents ages 12–17 qualify for the disorder.

How Alcohol Use Disorder Affects the Brain

Alcohol affects areas of the brain regulating mood, emotions, movement, and behavior. Many effects of alcohol consumption are obvious: lack of coordination, slurred speech, slower reaction time, personality changes, and impaired judgment. Other effects are internal and not readily apparent. While these impairments may resolve when drinking stops, long-term alcohol use can cause permanent damage to the brain and other organs.

Alcohol is a depressant, slowing down brain function and energy levels. The brain seeks to compensate for the sedative effect by stimulating nerve activity to increase energy and alertness. Once the brain has adapted to the regular presence of alcohol, it will stay in this unnatural state of high alert even when alcohol is no longer present. This results in intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms as the brain adjusts to the absence of alcohol and attempts to return to a state of equilibrium.

When alcohol interacts with the pleasure and reward center of the brain, higher than normal levels of serotonin and dopamine, often called “happy hormones,” are released. These chemical messengers regulate many body functions, including sleep, memory, and emotional well-being. Elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine serve to reinforce the behavior that triggered the increase, causing a strong desire to repeat the experience. As alcohol use continues, the brain requires increasingly higher amounts to achieve the desired effects. Called tolerance, this cycle often leads to dependence and addiction to alcohol.

Criteria and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

According to the Mayo Clinic, warning signs of AUD may include:

  • Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, finding alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol use<
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social, or interpersonal problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies
  • Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms—such as nausea, sweating and shaking—when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms

Other behaviors that indicate a problem with alcohol may include engaging in unsafe sex, lying about drinking habits, centering activities around drinking, and drinking to feel comfortable in social situations. Physical and emotional signs of a serious AUD may also include blackouts or memory loss, intense mood swings, and an obvious decline in hygiene. Health, financial, and legal problems often accompany an AUD.

A New Approach to Alcohol Addiction Treatment

At StoneRidge Centers, we understand that each individual is unique and that to most effectively help those with an Alcohol Use Disorder to recover, the approach must be equally unique. This is why we’ve developed a program that combines scientifically backed, brain-focused treatment with the best therapeutic modalities.

As discussed above, alcohol use has a profound impact on the brain, affecting our emotions, judgment, motor abilities, behavior, and memory. For long-term recovery, we must first heal the brain. At StoneRidge, we employ a combination of innovative, specialized treatment and evidence-based clinical therapy to do just that. The StoneRidge program is overseen by our triple-board-certified medical director, supported by a compassionate, highly trained staff.

Individualized Treatment Plans

Upon admittance to a StoneRidge program, all patients receive a comprehensive screening to determine overall mental and physical health and wellness. StoneRidge health professionals conduct nursing, psychiatric, and clinical assessments and use the findings to develop a treatment plan tailored specifically to each patient’s needs. In cases of a dual diagnosis or the presence of both a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental illness, we address both disorders in the treatment plan.

Our treatment plans may include clinical modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and individual, group, trauma, and family therapy. At StoneRidge, we have found the combination of clinical modalities with neuroscience-based treatments like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), qEEG/Brain Mapping, Neurofeedback, and Spravato Therapy is particularly effective. Our medical director determines the appropriate brain-focused treatments for each patient.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

At StoneRidge, we have seen firsthand how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) help patients better understand how their thoughts and emotions feed the addiction cycle, how to change those thoughts, and how to develop key skills for recovery and relapse prevention.

Alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism, a way to self-medicate in an effort to soothe anxiety, depression, or fears. When alcohol depresses brain activity, a person experiences a reduction in anxiety and an increase in feelings of well-being. Both CBT and DBT are research-based, therapeutic techniques that help clients recognize these same negative thought patterns and learn how to overcome them without the use of alcohol.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been an effective and commonly accepted form of psychotherapy for many years. It is designed to help people recognize self-destructive thought patterns, explore where those thoughts are coming from, and learn how to replace negative thinking with positive thoughts and actions. It is typically goal-focused and takes place within a specific time frame.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy focuses on an individual’s interpersonal relationships. It helps participants learn to accept and manage intense, painful emotions, especially those associated with close relationships, learning how to change what can be changed and to accept what cannot be changed.

Our DBT model equips patients with skills like Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness to help them become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions.

StoneRidge Delivers Innovative Neuroscience-Based Treatments

At StoneRidge Centers, we bring leading brain focused care and science into a clinical recovery setting, combining the benefits of a brain-focused addiction treatment program with insights from cutting-edge research.

Evidenced-based modalities we use include:

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can help patients manage depression and other mental health challenges. The noninvasive procedure uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the area of the brain that regulates mood. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for major depression in 2008.
  • Quantitative electroencephalography, referred to as qEEG or brain mapping, helps clinicians better target effective neuroscience-based treatments. Electrical activity in the brain is measured and analyzed to show how different areas of the brain function under certain conditions.
  • Neurofeedback helps patients “see” their brain at work, learning to emphasize positive behaviors and avoid negative patterns. Along with qEEG, patients can use neurofeedback to affect positive change in AUD recovery and in other aspects of their lives.
  • Spravato Therapy uses carefully regulated doses of Spravato (esketamine) to help patients struggling with depression and related disorders, for whom other antidepressants have been ineffective. The drug was approved by the FDA in 2019 and is available only through a restricted distribution system.

We have found that healing the brain and attaining long-term recovery is most effectively achieved through a combination of evidence-based therapy techniques, nutrition, and exercise. We incorporate the following programs into patient treatment plans.

  • Physical Education focuses on daily movement, stretching, and mindfulness. Regular exercise promotes an elevated mood, enhanced self-esteem, and improvement of physical health, all of which are key to long-term sobriety.

Research published by the National Institutes of Health has found that “complementary therapies like yoga and mindfulness meditation are increasingly recognized for their ability to enhance recovery from addiction, in part by targeting stress-related cognitions, emotions, and behavioral urges such as craving.”

  • Our unique “Brain Diet” program combines with our physical education program to promote healing of the whole person. Patients learn about the connection between nutrition, mental health, and wellness, and how embracing a healthy lifestyle promotes long-term recovery.
  • Experiential Therapeutic Learning helps connect patients with the arts and creative outlets. Techniques may include role-playing, music, crafts, guided imagery, and others. Patients learn to explore and release negative feelings.
  • SMART Goals workshops teach patients how to set and achieve realistic goals specific to their treatment and their individual real-life situations.

StoneRidge Centers programs combine the best in therapeutic approaches with the best research-based scientific approaches for optimum healing and recovery. No matter where you are on your recovery journey, StoneRidge can help. Contact us today for more information and to learn how we can help you or a loved one heal the damage caused by alcohol.

Why Stoneridge?

At StoneRidge, we take a unique, research-backed approach to helping patients understand, manage, and overcome their addiction, starting with the brain. With a wide range of programs, from inpatient care to outpatient treatment, we meet our clients wherever they find themselves on their recovery journey.

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    Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies

    Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.

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    Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
    This low-impact magnetic stimulation activates neurons inside the brain, relieving symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

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    qEEG/Brain Mapping
    Using brain scanning and readings, we create a map of our patients' brains, helping us develop more targeted and effective treatments.

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    This process assists patients in visualizing their own brain functionality through continuous EEG readings.

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    Spravato Therapy
    We use carefully monitored doses of Spravato to help patients struggling with complex mental health disorders, including severe depression.

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    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
    Patients use this practice to help reframe intrusive or negative thought patterns and develop coping techniques for long-term recovery.

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    Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
    This practice helps patients learn to regulate emotions, communicate more effectively, and process their own thoughts and feelings..

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    Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR)
    Licensed and trained therapists guide patients through this technique for managing stress and anxiety on an ongoing basis.

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    Individual Therapy
    Patients experience one-on-one therapy sessions with a licensed therapist to provide a safe and private place to recover and heal.

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    Group/Family Therapy
    Patients can practice the skills and techniques they have learned in treatment with others in a safe, therapist-guided space. .
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