AlcoholAversion TherapyDetoxRecovery

Understanding Alcoholism and the Need for an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center

By October 30, 2019 November 16th, 2020 No Comments

Understanding alcoholism and the need for treatment at an alcohol addiction treatment center can be the critical difference between lasting addiction recovery or perpetual struggle and disappointment. There are hundreds of support groups and various addiction treatment methods at hospitals throughout the U.S. However, Schick Shadel Hospital is the only alcohol addiction treatment center that effectively eliminates cravings with aversion therapy.

Our treatment regimen is based on understanding alcoholism from a medical perspective rather than blaming moral failure or weak willpower. In fact, the nature or cause of someone’s substance use disorder can be influenced by factors completely out of their control such as genetics, gender, or comorbid mental illness.1 That’s why we provide a judgement-free, scientifically-proven treatment to eliminate the cravings that are at the root of the addiction. Addiction is a psychological response to stimuli, and we treat it as such.2

This blog will focus on explaining the detoxification and 10-day treatment process that we provide at Schick Shadel Hospital. But first, it’s important to understanding alcoholism – what it is, and what it isn’t.

Understanding Alcoholism

According to Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: “A common misperception is that addiction is a choice or moral problem, and all you have to do is stop. But nothing could be further from the truth. The brain actually changes with addiction, and it takes a good deal of work to get it back to its normal state. The more drugs or alcohol you’ve taken, the more disruptive it is to the brain.”3

Addiction is a severe substance use disorder.4 It’s a complex brain disease that exerts a powerful influence on the brain, which is manifest in three distinct ways: (1) craving the object of addiction, (2) loss of control over its use, and (3) continuing involvement with the substance despite adverse consequences.5

Substance use disorder results from changes in the brain that occur with repeated use of alcohol or drugs. Although each substance has a slightly different effect on the brain, they all produce a pleasurable surge of dopamine in the brain. Addiction forms as repeated use of a substance “trains” the brain to associate the rewarding surge of dopamine with the substance.6 Since alcohol addiction causes lasting changes in the brain, most people need to receive treatment at an alcohol addiction treatment center in order to fully recover. We believe that understanding alcoholism as a psychological response to stimuli is the key to unlocking the most effective treatment avenues for people who struggle with substance use disorder.

Medical Detoxification at an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center

In cases where it is needed, Schick Shadel Hospital offers medical detoxification for patients who come while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. Detoxification must be complete before the aversion therapy treatments can begin. Medical detoxification manages the physical symptoms of withdrawal that follow the stopping of alcohol or drug use. It is the first stage of addiction treatment, but it’s rarely sufficient on its own to help people achieve long-term abstinence.7 Since withdrawal from a substance of abuse can be life-threatening, medically-supervised detoxification at an alcohol addiction treatment center provides the safest way for individuals to rid their bodies of drugs and alcohol.8

Aversion Therapy is Based on Understanding Alcoholism as a Response to Psychological Stimuli

Schick Shadel Hospital’s counterconditioning approach, also known as “aversion therapy,” is grounded on understanding alcoholism as a medical condition rather than trying to affix blame or muster extra willpower to recover. Alternatively, aversion therapy is based on treating addiction as a psychological response to stimuli. It’s a counterconditioning method that gets to the root of addiction in the physiological and neurological processes of the brain. Our approach retrains the brain against the pleasurable memories associated with using alcohol or drugs by using environmental stimuli such as taste, smell, and sight to create an unpleasant response, such as nausea. As a result, the patient’s brain will associate the addictive substance with negative memories or feelings. This eliminates the craving.9

Throughout the ten-day treatment, Schick Shadel Hospital provides individual counseling and educational lectures to promote a comprehensive healing process. After the initial ten-day treatment, patients are expected to return to Schick Shadel Hospital twice, 30 days later and then 90 days later, for a two-day refresher that includes additional aversion therapy sessions. These refresher courses help patients to reinforce the “insights” that they learned during the ten-day treatment.10

Before a patient can begin treatment, we conduct a comprehensive patient assessment to determine which treatment method will work best. There are treatment options available for people of all ages.11

Aversion Therapy Sessions

Aversion therapy at Schick Shadel Hospital begins by seating the patient in front of a basin in a small treatment room. The walls are covered with liquor advertisements and the shelves are filled with a wide variety of alcoholic beverages in their original bottles. A drug mixture is administered to create nausea within five to eight minutes. The patient then drinks warm, dilute saltwater to provide a volume of easily vomited material.

Treatment room at Schick Shadel hospital in Seattle. Understanding Alcoholism and the Need for an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center.

Shortly before nausea is expected to set in, the patient is given a drink of their favorite alcoholic beverage mixed with warm water. The patient must sniff the drink to get the full odor sensation, take a mouthful and swish it around to get the full taste, then spit it out into the basin. After nausea hits, the instructions are changed to sniff, swish, and swallow. The reaction is usually instantaneous – it all comes back up along with some of the saltwater. Very little alcohol remains in the stomach.

In a single counterconditioning treatment session, the patient will repeat this process with four to six different alcoholic beverages. Throughout the ten-day treatment period at Schick Shadel Hospital, patients will alternate between drinking sessions and narcotherapy interview sessions.12

The aversion therapy sessions are intentionally uncomfortable as negative reinforcement works to retrain the brain and eliminate the cravings for alcohol.13 However, Schick Shadel Hospital maintains a safe and supportive environment to ensure that the health of each patient is not at risk. There are medical doctors certified in addiction medicine, anesthesiologists, licensed nurses, registered dieticians, and counselors on staff at all times.14

Narcotherapy Interviews

Narcotherapy interviews, also known as “sleepys” or truth serum interviews, are utilized throughout the treatment program at our alcohol addiction treatment center for diagnosis and counseling. Additionally, narcotherapy interviews monitor the development of aversion to various alcoholic beverages by asking about the level of desire for each type of beverage during the interview.

 Schick Shadel Hospital currently uses Propofol – administered by a nurse anesthetist – to sedate patients for short interviews. The narcotherapy interviews help give clarity to the patient’s substance use history. Additionally, these interviews help patients with understanding alcoholism in a personalized context by identifying personal triggers and underlying issues that contribute to their addictive behavior.

During the interview, the patient is asked several questions by a clinician that can offer insight into the patient’s history and addiction and triggers. Additionally, the patient has the option to write down personal questions ahead of time that will be included in the narcotherapy interview. This can help to provide insight into personal questions that the patient hasn’t been able to answer in the past.15 These narcotherapy interviews will alternate to take place every other day throughout the 10-day treatment at Schick Shadel Hospital.

Choosing the Right Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center

Even just within the greater Seattle area, people who are struggling with addiction have several options for treatment. Unfortunately, not all alcohol addiction treatment centers are created equal. Schick Shadel Hospital has the highest recovery success rate in the country because our medical approach is built on understanding alcoholism as a psychological response to stimuli. Instead of treating addiction as the result of moral failure or weak willpower, we get to the root of addiction by using aversion therapy to eliminate cravings.

If you’d like to learn more about our process or learn if our 10-day treatment could be right for you, check out our website at or give us a call at 1-800-CRAVING.


This blog is part of a series – ‘What You Need to Know About Schick Shadel Hospital’

Check out the rest of the series by clicking the links below:

History of Schick Shadel Hospital in Seattle

Understanding Alcoholism and the Need for an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center

Proof That We’re the #1 Rehab Center for Recovery from Drugs and Alcohol


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3 Biology of Addiction. (2017). NIH News in Health. Retrieved 26 August 2019, from

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 5 Publishing, H. (2019). How addiction hijacks the brain – Harvard Health. Harvard Health. Retrieved 26 August 2019, from

 6 The Neurobiology of Substance Use, Misuse, and Addiction | Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. (2019). Retrieved 26 August 2019, from

7 8: Medical detoxification. (2019). Retrieved 10 September 2019, from

8 Medical Detox. (2019). Drug Rehab. Retrieved 10 September 2019, from

9 Edward. (2017). Schick Shadel Hospital Review — Counter-Conditioning Program. Local Rehab Reviews. Retrieved 26 August 2019, from

10 Understanding the Schick Shadel Method and Counter Conditioning – Transformations Treatment Center. (2019). Transformations Treatment Center. Retrieved 29 August 2019, from

11 Schick Shadel Hospital. (2019). Better Addiction Care. Retrieved 28 August 2019, from

12 Alcohol and the Addictive Brain. (2019). Google Books. Retrieved 26 August 2019, from

13 10 Best Drug Rehab Centers In Washington. (2019). Retrieved 28 August 2019, from

14 Edward. (2017). Schick Shadel Hospital Review — Counter-Conditioning Program. Local Rehab Reviews. Retrieved 28 August 2019, from

15 (2018, November 29). What Is Aversion Therapy? Retrieved from

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