If your alcohol use causes any problems for you or anyone else, you are obviously drinking too much alcohol!
Alcohol use disorder is a condition in which you have noticed one or more of the following in the past year:
- physical (such as high blood pressure) or mental (such as sleep disorders) problems caused by alcohol abuse.
- compulsion to drink, the urge to consume alcohol. Alcohol is consumed in larger quantities and for longer periods than originally planned, alcohol consumption cannot be reduced, a lot of time is spent on drinking alcohol and less time is spent on other activities, the person continues to drink despite its harmful effects on their health, ability to work, and relationships.
- increased alcohol tolerance. In order to achieve the same stage of intoxication, an increasing amount of alcohol is needed, i.e. the same amount of alcohol no longer makes the person drunk.
- withdrawal symptoms – nausea, palpitations, sweating, and anxiety. The person uses alcohol or other chemical agents, such as sedatives, to relieve these symptoms.
Today, both alcohol abuse and addiction are considered alcohol use disorders. We recommend screening for the alcohol use disorder with the AUDIT test (PDF) – online version in Estonian and online version in Russian.
Treatment of alcohol use disorder (abuse & addiction)
We recommend seeking treatment to those who have tried to change their drinking habits independently or with the help of someone, but have not achieved the desired result.
The aim of the treatment of alcohol use disorder is to restore a person’s control over their alcohol consumption, i.e. the amounts consumed are of a low health risk (for more information, read more on alkoinfo.ee (and in Russian)) or stop drinking alcohol completely.
In the treatment of alcohol use disorder, a distinction is made between detoxification and prevention of relapse. The goal of detoxification treatment is to cleanse the body of toxins. As a result, the person will feel better, but it does not change their behaviour. In order to achieve lasting change and a better quality of life, treatment is needed to prevent relapse, i.e. a person must learn to live without alcohol or learn to consume alcohol in a way that does not harm them or their loved ones. To achieve this, the patient is taught awareness of triggers, coping with urges, as well as more effective coping and communication skills.
Potential concurrent disorders such as sleep problems, anxiety and depression, relationship difficulties, etc. are considered when planning treatment for an alcohol use disorder. With the consent of the patient, their loved ones are also involved in the treatment process.
The treatment of alcohol use disorder is a combination of patient education, counselling, psychotherapy, and medicinal products as recommended in the treatment guide. The length of treatment depends on the state of health of the patient, their history and habit of alcohol use, general coping, as well as hereditary prerequisites and the support of loved ones. Scientific literature recommends regular meetings with the members of the medical team for an average of six months to permanently change drinking behaviours.
Treatment is a process in which professionals are tasked with helping a patient achieve their goal using evidence-based methods. Mutual trust and adherence to agreements are essential to achieve a result. Treatment is stopped when the goal is achieved or when the patient wishes to discontinue treatment.
Treatment in the Psychiatry Clinic of the North Estonia Medical Centre
Treatment is based on an agreement with the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, pursuant to which services are free of charge for all adult patients living in Estonia, including those who do not have health insurance. Patients who speak a foreign language are also provided the services – they should indicate their language preference when booking an appointment.
A referral is not required to seek treatment, but we recommend discussing the need for treatment with your family physician. Treatment is usually provided on an outpatient basis in the Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at Paldiski maantee 52 and in Viimsi, at Nelgi tee 1 (Viimsi community centre) in room 143. It is also possible to book an online appointment.
We do not provide services to intoxicated patients. Patients with acute withdrawal symptoms should first seek emergency medical attention for severe poisoning and book an appointment for alcohol use disorder treatment when their condition stabilises. The patient is assisted by a psychiatric nurse who provides ongoing counselling and, if necessary, other services to the patient, including booking an appointment with a psychiatrist. The appointment dates are agreed in advance and patients are expected to adhere to them. If the patient is unable to make an appointment, they should send an email to their psychiatric nurse as early as possible or call the reception at 617 2623 or 617 2644.
It is not possible to treat somatic diseases in a psychiatric clinic when planning the treatment of an alcohol use disorder; they are usually treated by the family physician.
Services for loved ones
The purpose of counselling for people whose loved ones abuse alcohol is to explain the nature of the alcohol use disorder, to help the person cope with their negative emotions towards themselves and the abuser, to assess the situation and the possibilities to change it, and to motivate them to make changes.
We recommend that loved ones book a time for a counselling session even if the alcohol abuser does not acknowledge the problem and does not want to be treated.
The counselling should also benefit those who are not family members of the abuser but see the problem as friends and would like to help. Employers sometimes do not know whether to continue or terminate their employment with an alcohol abuser. Better knowledge of this disorder and the opportunities to help the abuser can be beneficial for both.
To book an appointment, select the ‘Lähedase nõustamine’ (Counselling for a loved one) service on the reception form.