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Though the substance abuse rehab process remains similar among all mind-altering chemicals, there can still be differences between drug & alcohol treatments.

While addiction is addiction, treatment for those in recovery from drugs varies slightly from those with alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first 12-step recovery program. While the efficacy of its success remains debated, it still remains the largest community of recovering alcoholics internationally. Many of them do credit AA with their sobriety. While 12-step programs for various kinds of drug addictions are well attended, it is less common for those struggling with drug addiction to rely on a program such as NA as their initial and primary means of recovery. Drug addicts more often seek a more structured and supervised form of treatment.

While many symptoms associated with drug and alcohol detox are similar, there are a few subtle differences. For example, delirium tremens (DT’s) is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal characterized by convulsions, confusion and possibly death which is not the case with drug withdrawal. Additionally, there are 3 medications that can assist detox from alcohol dependency by which do not work the same as drug substitutes like methadone and suboxone.

Alcohol changes how your body functions. Alcoholism can shorten an individual’s life expectance by 10-12 years and can lower the quality of their life. Alcohol can cause death through many ways such as:

• Higher rates of death by violence, accident or suicide
• Alcohol poisoning (overdose)
• Withdrawal and DT’s, which if not medically monitored can be fatal
• Inability to recuperate from disease or surgery.

In contrast, drug addicts tend to have shorter lives. The average life expectancy of a drug addict is 15-20 years from the start of the addiction. Common ways drug addicts die are:

• Overdose
• Death by violence, accident, or suicide
• Withdrawal
• Organ failure due to toxin buildup in the body
• Contracting a disease while addicted such as HIV/AIDS.

One of the biggest problems with alcohol is actually cultural. It is a social lubricant and really big business. It is everywhere. Individuals can work an AA program, participate in therapy, and/or take medication but there are going to be triggers everywhere with alcohol. Drug addicts who work a recovery program, do not “accidently” run into heroin or cocaine. They have to make a conscious effort to obtain it.

Alcoholics may often be in denial since their “drug of choice” is legal. They may claim that their addiction is not as serious as the drug addict. Residential treatment programs need to be able to confront disease and denial on a daily basis.

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