Alcohol Treatment: Aversion Therapy
One of many treatment options for alcoholism, aversion therapy teaches the alcoholic to associate a negative outcome with being drunk or intoxicated. This conditioning helps the patient to break the cycle of alcohol dependence.
About Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction stems from many factors and cannot, generally, be attributed to one cause. Each form of alcohol abuse treatment has focused ideas about addiction and the best method to treat it. Individuals respond differently to each form of alcohol abuse treatment. Therefore, an individual seeking treatment should undergo assessment in order to determine the alcohol abuse treatment program that would work most effectively to accomplish his or her goals for recovery.
There are many types of alcohol abuse treatment programs ranging from behaviorally based programs such as inpatient treatment and therapeutic support, or outpatient non-methadone alcohol abuse treatment to biologically based alcohol abuse treatment such as pharmacotherapeutic treatment, hypnotism, or acupuncture. One such form of biologically based alcohol abuse treatment is aversive conditioning in which the patient is conditioned to associate the addiction to a negative outcome.
Addiction is often psychologically based causing the brain to associate the addictive substance to false feelings of wellbeing. When the addictive act is repeated, it creates memories causing the brain to associate the addictive substance with false good memories that can be triggered by stimuli. Aversion therapy as an alcohol abuse treatment program can be effective because it focuses on stimuli associated with those false positive memories and re-associates the addictive substance with negative reactions.
When Antabuse is combined with alcohol, it inhibits the body’s ability to break down the alcohol.
Aversion therapy with alcohol abuse treatment can be chemically based in which a substance, Antabuse (disulfiram) interferes in the metabolic process when combined with alcohol consumption. Generally, alcohol can be easily broken down to acetic acid. When Antabuse is combined with alcohol, it inhibits the body’s ability to break down the alcohol by blocking the necessary enzyme. The result is an uncomfortable side effect similar to a really bad hangover. Such side effects range from nausea, vomiting, and a decrease in blood pressure to increased heart rate, feeling flush, severe headache, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.
When used for alcohol abuse treatment, the process is repeated until the patient’s subconscious mind re-associates the addictive substance sensory stimuli, such as smell, sight, or taste, with a very negative feeling, which repulses them from repeating the addictive behavior. Aversion alcohol abuse therapy can also be hypnotically induced in a similar way by causing the patient discomfort ranging from nausea or temporary paralysis when triggered by the associated stimuli. Aversion therapy works fast and effectively by resetting the subconscious substance connection through repetition of inducing adverse effects and blocks the patients desire to use. Reactions occur within minutes of being exposed to the stimuli and will last for 30 minutes up to several hours.
The Ethics of Aversion Therapy
The ethics of aversion therapy as a form of alcohol abuse treatment are constantly under scrutiny due to the level of discomfort it can cause and the implication that it is a “cure” to a widely-accepted notion that addiction is a disease. The results of aversion therapy are also disputed as relapse can be measured in a myriad of ways. While aversion therapy typically bodes higher success rates, there is skepticism among industry professionals as it only treats the addiction of a particular substance, not the behavioral components of addiction.