Healthier Together

Winter 2017 issue
Taking the first step

Taking the first step


New medical detoxification services treat alcohol dependency

Nearly 17 million adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But there’s hope: Alcohol addiction, although chronic, is a treatable disease. If you or someone you love is experiencing addiction, you can take the first step in treating alcohol dependency with help from the Transitional Recovery Services (TRS) at Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center.

TRS is a medical detoxification service for adults with an alcohol dependency. It’s an inpatient treatment service to help people deal with the symptoms related to alcohol withdrawal, including nausea, the “shakes” (trembling), sweating and craving for alcohol, among others. Medical attention to the withdrawal process is critical because, in some cases, symptoms can become severe and even life-threatening.

The service, which launched in January 2015, is the first of its kind for the Novant Health UVA Health System, which has medical centers in Prince William, Haymarket and Culpeper.

“I think it’s important for our community to know this service is available at Haymarket Medical Center, and that we know dependency on alcohol is often triggered from trying to cope with life stresses,” said Karyn O’Brien-Flannagan, PsyD. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s about taking that first step.”

Dr. O’Brien-Flannagan says the goal of the TRS team is to determine the best way to help each individual through the process. The level and length of detox treatment are based on the patient’s individual history background and medical needs. In addition to care from Novant Health UVA Health System Inpatient Care Specialists physicians and highly skilled nurses, patients also work closely with clinical support therapists who specialize in addiction therapy. Therapists may also provide family members with support, referrals and educational materials, if the patient allows.

Following a successful detox, patients leave with an aftercare plan that will help them reach their long-term recovery goals. “Generally, for a successful outcome or long-term recovery, people need to do more than just detox,” said Dr. O’Brien-Flannagan. “They need some type of follow-up, supportive care for their recovery.”

An aftercare plan for a patient is individualized to his or her needs and can involve a 28- to 30-day residential program or an intensive outpatient program for continued recovery support at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center, or a 12-step or other form of community support program. The TRS team also offers a bimonthly educational program open to anyone in the community who wants to learn more about medical detoxification, addiction, and how to get help or help a loved one.

“If you ever have the thought of getting help, take that leap of faith because it’s an investment in yourself,” said Dr. O’Brien-Flannagan. “You can never be wrong for doing the right thing by supporting and helping yourself.”

For more information on the Transitional Recovery Services process, call 703-369-8864. Learn more at

What are alcohol abuse and alcoholism?

Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that results in harm to your health, personal relationships or ability to work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol abuse symptoms include:

  • Failure to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school or home.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as drinking while driving or operating machinery.
  • Legal problems related to alcohol, such as being arrested for drinking while driving or for physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Continued drinking despite ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
  • Long-term alcohol abuse can turn into alcohol dependence.

Dependency on alcohol, also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism, is a chronic disease. Its signs and symptoms, according to the CDC, include:

  • A strong craving for alcohol.
  • Continued use despite repeated physical, psychological or interpersonal problems.
  • The inability to limit drinking.