This is the second in a series about what to expect at Schick Shadel Hospital. This blog explains the treatment. It’s pretty clinical in nature, but it should tell you what you want to know.
On the first day after admission and testing, you get a counter-conditioning treatment. These treatments are affectionately (and not so affectionately) known to the patients as Duffys, a reference to the Duffys Tavern theme many drinkers are familiar with. After that, you have one every other day, for a total of five treatments. The goal of the treatment is to recondition you, to make you experience unpleasant effects from what is (or once was) pleasurable. The response you have to your addictive substance has been conditioned in your brain. The therapy acts to dramatically decondition those reflexes.
To prepare for treatment, you fast from solid foods from midnight until the morning treatment, which can be anywhere from 8 a.m. to noon. You are required to drink 64 ounces of fluid (PowerAde, soda, water) before each treatment. The treatment itself is simple: Immediately upon entering the treatment room, you drink a nausea-inducing drug. Then you drink alcohol and you throw it up. You are taken back to your room, where you must stay for three hours. During those three hours you can’t watch television, use your cell phone or computer, or do anything else but think about your addiction. And, of course, experience more nausea. At the end of three hours, you are released, meaning you are allowed out of your room.
Not everyone can do the counter-conditioning treatments because of a medical condition, prior surgery, or other miscellaneous reasons. Those who can’t undergo an alternate therapy called Faradics. A band is placed around your non-dominant wrist, connected to a small, battery-operated neuromuscular stimulator similar to those used in physical therapy offices. The nurse operates the device to produce a distracting uncomfortable tingling while the patient views, swishes, and spits his drink of choice. The patient selects the level of stimulation, which can be changed at any time. The objective is to keep the stimulation at a level that is mildly uncomfortable but not painful. And, like the like the Duffys, the purpose of pairing the drinks with the unpleasant stimulation is to reduce the positive attractiveness of the alcohol.
After the first two Duffys or Faradics, every other day you have a rehabilitation (or sedation interview—truly affectionately known as Sleepys), for a total of four. Their purpose is to monitor your developing counter conditioning to alcohol, and to give you and your treatment team insight into your feelings and emotions about using and recovery. It can cut therapy time down by months by getting the information from and to your subconscious. The treatment also provides some relaxation—a break from
the strenuous, stressful emetic treatments. Another objective of the interview is to provide positive suggestions to the subconscious to encourage abstinence.
To be continued…