Are you seeking alcohol treatment for yourself or a loved one struggling with alcoholism? Do you have a spouse, child, relative or friend who you suspect struggles with alcohol use? Alcohol rehab can help people ready to address their substance use disorder.
Alcohol rehab is often the only way that an individual who’s struggling with addiction can get help. There are rehab centers all over the country that offer individualized programs to treat alcoholism, regardless of how long the condition has been present. Alcohol treatment programs take many factors into consideration, including the person’s age and gender, and the extent and length of the addiction. Many alcohol rehab centers also offer various aftercare options and recommendations to help clients maintain their sobriety.
It’s important to learn about alcohol treatment centers, payment options, differences between inpatient and outpatient programs, how to find an alcohol treatment center and what the first steps toward sobriety and recovery are. If you’re here seeking information for a friend or family member, we’ve also included resources on how to help a friend or family member, along with intervention strategies.
Table of Contents
Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
How can you spot the signs of alcohol abuse? The most obvious side effects may be reflected in your loved one’s physical health and appearance.
- Physical Signs to Look For:
- Tremors that relax after your loved one has a drink
- Noticeable weight loss or gain
- Chronically bloodshot or watery eyes
- Heavy perspiration without physical activity
- An odor of alcohol
- A puffy, bloated look
- Slurred speech
- A loss of motor coordination or balance
- Increased bruising (from accidental injuries and fragile blood vessels)
- Changes in skin complexion (unusually pale or ruddy)
- Frequent complaints of stomach pain, nausea or heartburn
- Emotional & Behavioral Signs to Look For:
Alcohol addiction affects an individual’s moods, behavior, and self-expression. Look for these significant changes in your loved one’s actions or emotions if you suspect they have an alcohol use disorder:
- A lack of control over when, where or how much he or she drinks
- Increased tolerance for alcohol, or the need for more drinks to get the same effects
- A disheveled appearance, especially if he or she used to be neatly groomed
- Making excuses for his or her drinking, or denying the problem completely
- Neglecting important relationships, family commitments or work responsibilities as a result of drinking or being hungover
- Unusual irritability, depression or moodiness, especially when he or she can’t drink
- Isolating themselves from others in order to drink more
- Dramatic changes in personality when he or she drinks, such as becoming more affectionate, emotional or angry
- Lying about his or her drinking, or hiding bottles to conceal the amount of alcohol that he or she consumes
- Feeling guilty or remorseful after a drinking episode, yet being unable to stop
- Trying repeatedly to quit
Statistics on alcohol treatment show that overall, more Americans seek treatment for alcohol than for any other drug.
Advances in medical research have given addiction specialists new insight into the treatment of alcoholism. However, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states that alcohol abuse remains the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States, despite innovations in behavioral health modification, psychotherapy, and addiction medication. The following studies and statistics reflect the power of this disease.
- More statistics on the prevalence of alcohol abuse:
- Binge drinking has become the most widespread form of alcohol abuse in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 30 million adults in the U.S. (approximately 15 percent) admit to binge drinking within the past month. Most of these drinkers are white males between the ages of 18 and 34. Forty percent of college students report episodes of binge drinking.
- The Foundation for a Drug-Free World reports that more teenagers die as a result of abusing alcohol than any other drug. Drug abuse is more common among teens who drink than the rest of the adolescent population. Over 30 percent of heavy drinkers over the age of 11 also use illicit drugs like marijuana, cocaine or heroin.
- Globally, alcohol abuse accounted for nearly 6% of all deaths (approximately 3.3 million) in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
- The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) states that over 185,000 Americans who received emergency treatment for alcohol abuse were between the ages of 12 and 20. Approximately 20% of these emergency room visits required serious medical treatment, such as hospital admission, transfer to another medical center, or death.
- There is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and violent crimes like assault, armed robbery, rape, and homicide. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that in up to half of all murders, the perpetrator consumed alcohol before committing the crime. Approximately 33% of sexual assault victims state that their assailant was under the influence of alcohol. In violent crimes where alcohol is involved, up to 60% of victims are injured or killed.
- Individuals with alcoholism or another substance use disorder are six times more likely to attempt suicide at least once in their lives, according to Psychiatric Times. The risk of suicide is even greater among people who suffer from a co-occurring disorder like major depression, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- According to Alcohol Research and Health, over 700,000 Americans are treated for alcohol problems every year. Some of the most successful treatment strategies include rehab programs based on 12-step principles, new medications for alcohol dependence and specialized dual diagnosis treatment for patients with co-occurring disorders.
- Alcohol Health & Research World notes that outpatient alcohol detox programs can be as safe and effective as inpatient detox, as long as the patients have been professionally screened and matched to the right level of care. With outpatient treatment, the average length of stay in rehab is usually shorter, and the cost is generally less. However, for patients at risk of serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or for those with co-occurring medical or psychiatric disorders, inpatient alcohol detox is often more appropriate.
- Patient-centered, collaborative therapies like motivational interviewing (MI) have proven to be more effective at retaining patients in alcohol treatment than older, more confrontational styles. In a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, people struggling with alcohol use who received this encouraging, patient-centered form of therapy during the intake process were more likely to remain in treatment than those who were approached using traditional therapeutic styles.
- Nalmefene, an opiate antagonist that is similar in its chemical structure to naltrexone, is one of the most recent drugs being investigated for the treatment of alcoholism. Like naltrexone (sold as ReVia, Depade or Vivitrol), nalmefene deprives the person struggling with substance use of the pleasurable feelings associated with drinking. But nalmefene is less toxic to the liver than naltrexone.
Treatment Options & Medications
There are many types of alcohol treatment programs available. As you research the different treatment options for alcoholism, you’ll find that there are several levels of care available. A doctor, substance abuse therapist or counselor should help you and your loved one choose the level that’s right for you.
- Inpatient & outpatient rehab
Inpatient vs. outpatient is an important consideration to make when choosing a treatment program. The decision ultimately comes down to your availability and finances. Can you afford to stop everything in your life for inpatient treatment? If you need to maintain your job and other commitments, outpatient treatment might be the best option for you.
Inpatient or residential treatment is the most intensive level of care, with around-the-clock monitoring and clinical management to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and provide structure. After the detox phase, the patient lives at the facility full-time while receiving therapy, group counseling, medication management, holistic therapies, and other services.
Outpatient treatment is the most flexible level of care. Recovery services are provided in a day center, clinic, rehab facility, or other location, while the patient lives at home. Outpatient clients can participate in counseling, therapy, 12-step programming, and other recovery services without giving up their self-determination. This level of care is recommended for patients who have completed an inpatient program or for medically stable individuals who have a high level of motivation to reach sobriety.
Intensive outpatient treatment, also known as IOP, is less intense than partial programs and offers several days of therapy per week.
- Partial hospitalization
After completing a residential program, a patient who is stable in his or her sobriety may be transferred to a partial hospitalization program. In this intensive form of therapy, the patient lives in transitional housing or at home while attending classes, counseling sessions and appointments with medical professionals during the day.
- Medical detox
As part of your initial treatment program, you’ll go through a medical detox program. During this stage, the body must rid itself of alcohol and other toxins through a medically-supervised program that addresses the dangers and symptoms of withdrawal associated with detox. Facility staff will assist you in detoxing yourself from alcohol and other toxins so you can begin your recovery in the healthiest way possible. With the presence of medical professionals, detoxing in a professional treatment facility is the safest way to detox.
- Additional options
There are a number of different approaches to recovery. To find the right approach, consider the individual’s values, mental health status, personality, and cultural background.
- Traditional alcohol treatment programs rely on evidence-based strategies such as psychotherapy, behavioral modification therapy, peer group counseling, nutritional counseling, and 12-step programs. Rehabilitation begins with detox, a cleansing process that allows the patient to withdraw safely and comfortably from alcohol. After detox, the patient participates in a structured series of therapies that are designed to help him or her modify destructive behaviors and create a sober life.
- Holistic recovery programs focus not just on treating alcoholism as a physical or psychological condition but on healing the body, mind, and spirit. In addition to the core components of alcohol rehab — individual and group therapy, family counseling, 12-step meetings, and behavioral modification — treatment addresses the patient’s spiritual and emotional needs through activities like art therapy, recreational therapy, guided meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and massage. The goal of holistic therapy is to promote healing on all levels so the patient can build a meaningful, rewarding life.
- Integrated alcohol treatment programs are designed for patients who meet the criteria for a substance use disorder and a form of mental illness. In a national study of co-occurring disorders, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 37% of individuals with alcohol dependence also suffered from a mental health disorder, while over 50% of individuals who abused drugs also had a psychiatric illness. These patients face unique obstacles in recovery, such as low motivation, anxiety about new situations, poor concentration and delusional thinking. Integrated treatment, which targets both the patient’s mental illness and substance use disorder within the same program, is the most effective way to achieve a full recovery. Services for both issues are provided at a single facility and delivered by staff members with expertise in substance abuse treatment and mental health.
Alcoholism Treatment Medications
Some of the medications used in alcohol treatment programs include meds that help reduce alcohol cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms, or create negative effects when alcohol is consumed. These medications include:
- Acamprosate – Reduces alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- Naltrexone – Reduces cravings for alcohol
- Disulfiram – Produces undesirable effects such as headaches, nausea or vomiting when alcohol is consumed
Treatment Costs & Insurance Coverage
You may be wondering how much rehab costs and if it is worth the price. Inpatient treatment is generally more expensive than outpatient treatment. Depending on the severity of your addiction, it may take some time to recover. The more time you spend in alcohol rehab, the more it will cost. Many people transition from detox to inpatient or residential treatment, to outpatient treatment, and then to a sober living environment.