Treating Alcoholism As a Chronic Disease: Approaches to Long-Term Continuing Care

McKay, James R.; Hiller-Sturmhöfel, Susanne
January 2011
Alcohol Research & Health;2011, Vol. 33 Issue 4, p356
Academic Journal
For many patients, alcohol and other drug (AOD) use disorders are chronic, recurring conditions involving multiple cycles of treatment, abstinence, and relapse. To disrupt this cycle, treatment can include continuing care to reduce the risk of relapse. The most commonly used treatment approach is initial intensive inpatient or outpatient care based on 12-step principles, followed by continuing care involving self-help groups, 12-step group counseling, or individual therapy. Although these programs can be effective, many patients drop out of initial treatment or do not complete continuing care. Thus, researchers and clinicians have begun to develop alternative approaches to enhance treatment retention in both initial and continuing care. One focus of these efforts has been the design of extended treatment models. These approaches increasingly blur the distinction between initial and continuing care and aim to prolong treatment participation by providing a continuum of care. Other researchers have focused on developing alternative treatment strategies (e.g., telephone-based interventions) that go beyond traditional settings and adaptive treatment algorithms that may improve outcomes for clients who do not respond well to traditional approaches.


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