How Alcohol Addiction Is Treated 

How Alcohol Addiction Is Treated


When people begin alcohol addiction treatment, they often don’t know what to expect. Television and movies may show a glimpse of what treatment looks like, but they don’t provide the full picture. Many people are familiar with the concept of 12-step meetings, but is there more to recovery from alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol addiction treatment has multiple levels. These levels can vary depending on the severity of the addiction and several other factors. Not every treatment has to cost a lot of money, either. In fact, some people even attend free alcohol rehab programs.

Once you have an idea of what to expect, getting treatment may seem a bit less complicated.

Alcohol Detoxification

For many people, alcohol addiction treatment starts with medical detoxification (detox). Detox is the process of alcohol leaving the body. If you stop drinking, your body will begin this process whether or not you stay in a medical facility.

However, medically supervised detox is the safest way to clear alcohol from your system. Severe addictions can create dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some of those symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • increased heart rate
  • high blood pressure
  • fever
  • seizures

Some symptoms may appear immediately, while others may develop over time.

A small percentage of people experience delirium tremens (DT), a severe form of withdrawal that includes hallucinations, confusion, and rapid mood changes. DT is rare, but you may have a high risk for it if you have experienced alcohol withdrawal in the past, have used alcohol for more than 10 years, or have been drinking heavily for several months.

In a detox center, doctors can monitor your symptoms, respond to potential emergencies right away, and make sure that you get enough fluids. They may also prescribe medication to make the process more comfortable.


After alcohol detox, many people move on to rehab. Rehab may last for up to 90 days, and it usually offers several treatment methods. Treatments can include medication, therapy, support groups, and similar options.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment, or residential rehab, provides treatment while participants live on the premises. In addition to therapy, patients are provided with meals and a bed.

Inpatient rehab is generally more expensive than outpatient rehab, but it has a lot of advantages. It provides a highly structured environment with no access to alcohol or any drugs that are not prescribed by treatment providers.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient rehab provides many of the same therapies that inpatient rehab provides. However, participants do not live on the premises. Instead, they commute to the treatment facility and return home once the program has concluded for the day. Treatment may take place for up to seven days per week, though individual treatment plans vary.

Outpatient rehab can be more affordable than inpatient rehab, and it often makes a good choice for people with less severe addictions.

Continuing Care

After rehabilitation, the best way to maintain sobriety is to receive continuing care, or aftercare. Aftercare is usually less intensive than rehab, but it can help people transition back into their everyday lives.

Some rehab facilities offer continuing care programs, but you can also seek aftercare treatment on your own. Some types of continuing care include:

  • sober living spaces
  • individual therapy
  • group therapy
  • support groups
  • mental health medication

What to Do if You Have an Addiction

The best treatment plan for you depends on your needs and situation. No matter your treatment plan, asking for help is a crucial step. If you have a doctor, ask for a referral or recommendation, and be as honest as possible about your concerns. You can also search for detox centers and rehabs near your location.

Starting substance abuse treatment may seem overwhelming at first, but once you begin, you can develop important tools and skills to transform your life.

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