Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction is a major decision. There are many factors to consider, and the process can be overwhelming. Exploring your options can help you choose the most appropriate and effective care for yourself or your loved one.
This guide to alcohol treatment and rehab programs provides an overview of levels of care, types of treatment, payment options, how to recognize an alcohol abuse problem and how to help a loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Programs
Many levels of care are available for alcohol addiction treatment. The most appropriate level for an individual depends on factors like personal needs, the severity of the addiction and history of relapse.
Medically Supervised Detox
Medically supervised detox is not in itself a treatment for alcohol addiction but is often the first step.
Alcohol abuse causes the body to develop a physical dependence, a craving for alcohol that is marked by withdrawal symptoms if someone tries to reduce or stop drinking. Medically supervised detox is an inpatient service that monitors a person’s vital signs and helps them safely withdrawal from alcohol.
Inpatient Rehab Programs
Inpatient rehab programs require a person to live at an addiction treatment facility while receiving care for alcohol addiction. This allows them to connect with others who have similar struggles.
Most of their time is spent in counseling and therapy sessions that help them build a life without alcohol. Inpatient care usually offers the broadest range of treatment options.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)
A partial hospitalization program (PHP) allows a person to live at home or in a sober living facility during alcohol addiction treatment. It may require as many hours in therapy as an inpatient rehab program and uses many of the same types of treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)
An intensive outpatient program (IOP) demands less of a time commitment than inpatient care or partial hospitalization. A person may live at home and attend treatment for a few hours several days per week.
Outpatient Rehab Programs
Outpatient rehab programs are the least demanding and the most flexible. They often consist primarily of alcohol abuse counseling and may be offered either during the day or in the evening.
This low level of treatment may be recommended for people who are just beginning to have problems with alcohol addiction or those who are at risk of relapsing.
Sober living is generally a follow-up to an alcohol rehab program. Recovering individuals live together in a house that may have a supervisor to help them refrain from substance abuse. The goal is to develop lasting life skills and implement what was learned in treatment in everyday life.
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Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Rehab For Alcohol Addiction
The goal of inpatient care is to immerse someone in a therapeutic community away from the distractions of home life. This allows them to change the way they live every moment of every day, so they are prepared to resist relapse when they return home.
Because inpatient care consists of around-the-clock supervision, housing, and meals, it is more expensive than outpatient care. This is a deterrent for many individuals. However, the cost of addiction and relapse, as well as the cost of repeated stays in alcohol rehab, can add up significantly too.
Some people prefer outpatient care because they can live at home and continue working or going to school while in treatment. When a person keeps their daily routine, though, treatment may not make a significant difference in their life. Living at home also exposes a person to triggers and people who enable alcohol abuse.
Outpatient care is often most effective as a step down from inpatient care. Many inpatient rehab centers offer several levels of continued care through outpatient programs.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Approaches
Alcohol addiction treatment can take various approaches that may suit people differently. Some individuals prefer a religious approach that focuses on the 12 Steps and discovering a higher power. Others may benefit from a nonreligious philosophy that empowers the self.
Treatment approaches can be combined, as well. Holistic care focuses on the mind, body, and spirit, while dual diagnosis treatment deals with co-occurring mental disorders. These two approaches can work together to improve overall health and prevent relapse.
Individualized Care For Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol rehab programs may also be tailored to individuals by gender, age, or other factors. When a program serves a restricted group of people, it allows treatment to be more relevant to their specific needs. It also connects recovering individuals with others who share their struggles.
Some examples of this are programs for men only, women only, LGBTQ-friendly programs, and executive rehab programs.
The facility environment can also play a role in treatment. Some individuals are more comfortable in certain settings than others.
Luxury rehab centers are an excellent choice for many because they offer amenities that ease the discomfort of addiction treatment. However, some people are more comfortable in a simple setting with minimal amenities, while others may thrive in a wilderness rehab program.
Types Of Alcohol Treatment
The types of treatment offered for alcohol addiction can vary between facilities. Behavioral therapy and counseling are foundational treatment methods found in most alcohol rehab programs. These work to uncover and resolve root issues that led to alcohol dependence.
Through cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a person learns to alter their thoughts and behavior as well as to accept themselves and express their emotions. There are many other ways to heal addiction that work with these core methods.
Types of alcohol treatment include:
- yoga and meditation to help a person learn relaxation and healthy coping techniques
- art and music therapy to encourage personal expression and emotional regulation
- equine therapy, which involves caring for horses to teach responsibility and bonding
- adventure therapy that promotes teamwork, survival skills, and positive thrill-seeking
- exercise and recreation that rebuild a person’s strength and health
- nutritional support the replenishes nutrients lacking from excessive alcohol consumption
Many inpatient alcohol rehab programs are followed by continuing care. This may involve outpatient programming, substance abuse counseling, alumni meetings and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.).
Alcohol Addiction Medications
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be used for some individuals who have trouble refraining from alcohol use during rehab. Even if they have gone through detox, they may continue to have cravings for alcohol.
Three medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used as part of treatment for an alcohol use disorder:
- Acamprosate (Campral) reduces withdrawal symptoms that often lead people to resume drinking alcohol and discontinue treatment.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) causes nausea, flushing, and heart palpitations if alcohol is consumed to deter people from drinking.
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol) block receptors in the brain that produce pleasant effects from alcohol, thus taking away the reward associated with drinking.
Medication is not a standalone treatment for alcohol addiction. It should always be used in combination with substance abuse counseling, at least, and is most beneficial when integrated into a multidisciplinary alcohol rehab program.
Paying For Alcohol Rehab
Some people hesitate to enroll in treatment for alcohol addiction because of the cost. There are several options besides private pay that can help individuals and their families pay for rehab.
Many rehab centers accept insurance, which may cover all or a portion of the cost of treatment. Some facilities offer scholarships, grants and sliding fee scales to cover what insurance does not.
Alcohol Addiction In The United States
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 2017 reported that about 14 million adults ages 18 and older in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder. Another 443,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 suffer from alcohol addiction as well.
Sadly, only a small percentage of people with this treatable disease had received treatment within the past year.
Abusing alcohol can destroy a person’s health in many ways, increasing their risk of liver disease, cirrhosis, and cancer in many parts of the body. Alcohol-related driving deaths account for over 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in the country.
“An estimated 88,000 people… die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States,” notes the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Types Of People With An Alcohol Use Disorder
Often, people assume that someone with an alcohol use disorder is homeless and perhaps suffering from another mental illness. While this may be the future for individuals who do not seek help for alcohol abuse, some people who drink heavily for years do not fit this stereotype.
An NIAAA study found that there are five types of people who abuse alcohol:
- Young adult: people who generally do not have mental disorders or a family history of alcohol abuse
- Young antisocial: individuals in their mid-twenties who start drinking early in life, have a family history and suffer from antisocial, bipolar, or other mental disorder
- Functional: middle-aged individuals who may or may not have a family history or mental disorder, but are educated and perform well at work or school while abusing alcohol
- Intermediate familial: middle-aged people from families with a history of alcohol addiction, about half of whom suffer from clinical depression and many who use other drugs as well
- Chronic severe: middle-aged people who have had an alcohol use disorder for many years, have a family history, are involved in criminal activity and suffer from other mental issues
The study reports that co-occurring mental disorders are a significant contributor to the severity of the problem and increase the likelihood that someone will seek alcohol addiction treatment.
Signs Of Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
If you suspect someone is struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, there are some signs to look for. The more severe the addiction, the more noticeable these signs may be. Addiction changes a person’s brain structure, which usually causes them to realign their priorities so that alcohol is the most important thing.
A major sign of alcohol addiction is a loss of control over drinking. If a person has no limit to how much they drink, or if they promise to cut back and are unable to do so, they should look into alcohol rehab programs.
Other signs of alcohol abuse and addiction are:
- flushed skin
- lack of coordination
- the smell of alcohol on their breath
- hiding alcohol bottles in odd places
- dangerous behavior like driving under the influence
- high tolerance for alcohol
- making excuses for why they need to drink
- breaking obligations to family or friends because of alcohol
- being drunk or hungover most of the time
- withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness (tremors) when they are not drinking
Helping Your Loved One With Alcohol Addiction
If your loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, it may be difficult to admit and even more difficult to approach them about it. But many people who are addicted to alcohol do not seek help until someone reaches out to them.
It is essential that you approach them when they are not under the influence of alcohol, and that you base the conversation on concern for their wellbeing. You might mention specific instances where drinking led to negative consequences in their life, such as a DUI or accident.
Encourage them to look into treatment options for alcohol addiction, and keep in mind that alcohol rehab is most effective when the individual decides to go. The most important thing is that you show your love and support.
It may help to work with a professional addiction interventionist to address your concerns to your loved one. They can guide you in choosing an appropriate time and place as well as how to talk to a person who may not be ready to admit that they are addicted to alcohol.
Choosing An Alcohol Rehab Program
When someone is ready to enroll in an alcohol rehab program, there are many options to consider. Their financial situation and location may play a role in where they seek treatment, but these should not be the only factors that make this life-changing decision.
Alcohol rehab programs that are customized to individual needs are much more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. The rehab center should also offer a range of appropriate therapies that address all of a person’s needs to ensure there are no unresolved issues that can lead to relapse.
At Vertava Health, we provide various evidence-based therapies at several locations across the country. Through a thorough assessment, we learn about your personal needs and strive to create the most effective treatment plan for your lifelong recovery.