Alcohol Abuse and Addiction: Get the Facts About Alcoholism and Treatment

Alcohol addiction – or alcoholism – remains a major problem throughout the United States. Abusing this drug is dangerous, but detox and rehab are available to help people stop. Far too many attempt to quit drinking on their own without any real support. More often than not, those individuals are not successful.

Many people fail to recognize dangerous patterns in their drinking behaviors. They do not know how to stop, even if they want to. It is important to learn as much as possible about alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The more people know, the more they will be able to see a need for change in their lives.

The problem is that because alcohol is so readily available, it is perceived to be safe. But the reality is that alcoholism can happen to anyone; although most people believe they are immune to it. Learning more about alcohol abuse and addiction is key. But we also want people to be aware of how they can get treatment.

Alcohol Addiction – How to Detox and Rehabilitate

Alcoholism Statistics in the U.S.

Drinking has gotten way out of control in the United States. In fact, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, statistics tell us that:

  • 50% of the people in the U.S. claim to be regular drinkers.
  • Only approximately 15% of the people in the U.S. say that they have between one and eleven drinks every year.
  • The CDC reports that there are 88,000 deaths every year because of excessive drinking behaviors.
  • 100,000 people die every year because of alcohol-related causes, such as drinking and driving accidents, falls, fires or other incidents.
  • Alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of death in our country.
  • In 2005, 2.5 million people in the U.S. were treated for this type of addiction.
  • Teen drinking is a widespread problem that kills 4,700 teenagers each year.
  • That number is higher than all illegal drugs combined.

Do these statistics surprise you? The fact is that alcohol misuse is much more common in our country than we realize. If you have a serious drinking problem, you may be included in the facts above. However, there are ways to change that.

What are the Effects of Alcohol?

Both the short-term effects and the long-term effects of alcohol use can be devastating. It’s important to recognize what happens in your body and your mind when you drink. Also, people who drink for many years may eventually develop fatal medical conditions.

These are issues that most people don’t think about until it’s too late. Stopping your alcohol use early on can potentially save you from experiencing many of the following effects.

The Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Use

If you’re like most people, you know that drinking may cause you to experience some immediate effects. You anticipate many of them, and some are even the reason why you drink alcohol in the first place. What you might not realize is the damage you could be doing, even in the short-term.

Some of the short-term effects of alcohol include:

  • Having difficulty with coordination
  • Exhibiting slurred speech patterns
  • Becoming very dizzy
  • Experiencing blurry vision
  • Having a negative impact on your immune system
  • Impairing your reasoning and judgment
  • Making poor decisions
  • Participating in risky behaviors

If you drink in excess – even one time – there are additional risks involved. You may experience blackouts, depression and stupor. It’s possible that drinking too much can also lead to alcohol poisoning.

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Use

Failing to get help for your alcohol addiction can have some serious long-term effects on your body as well. These usually surface after some time has gone by, and they can include:

  • Being diagnosed with liver disease
  • Beginning to have seizures
  • Experiencing sleep problems
  • Symptoms of severe depression
  • Exhibiting problems with memory
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory failure
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Increased risk of diabetes

If you have been drinking for a long time, this is known as chronic alcoholism. You may feel like it’s too late for you to stop. Many people feel this way. We want you to know that it isn’t true. It’s never too late to stop drinking, although some of the long-term effects may not be reversible.

Chronic Alcoholism and Potential Diseases

People who have been alcoholics for years rarely escape unscathed. It’s important to realize that you may eventually be diagnosed with one or more diseases as a result. Some can be treated, while others may develop into lifelong conditions. Let’s take a look at some of the risks of chronic heavy drinking.

This is a type of brain damage that can occur with chronic alcoholism. It is possible for the symptoms to improve with therapy. However, the damage of Wet Brain is often irreversible.

This condition is caused because of a thiamine or B1 deficiency. Alcohol interferes with the absorption of this vital vitamin. The onset of this condition is very sudden, and it’s not something that takes time to begin. It does occur in two different stages, and can be treated if caught early on.

Fatty liver is also called hepatic steatosis. This refers to the buildup of fat in the liver, and chronic alcoholism is one cause of it. It can be difficult to detect because some people may not show any symptoms. If it’s caught early enough, it can be treated and possibly even reversed.

Your doctor may suspect fatty liver disease if the organ seems enlarged during a physical exam. If the condition is allowed to progress, you may experience jaundice, confusion and a fluid-filled abdomen. You may also find that you bleed more easily.

Cirrhosis is another chronic liver condition. Alcohol is toxic to the cells in the liver. If they develop this condition, it can be fatal. When you have cirrhosis, it means that your liver is heavily scarred. Women appear to be more vulnerable to this disease than men are.

When the liver is scarred, it’s no longer able to perform the way that it should. This means that it can’t make protein, clean your blood, digest food and fight infection in the body. This can eventually lead to serious problems, including kidney failure, gallstones and high blood pressure. If too much scar tissue forms, you may need to think about having a liver transplant.

Your red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen in your body. When you drink too much, this results in the number of these cells to be very low. This is a condition known as anemia.

If you develop anemia, it may be difficult for you to function in your everyday life. You may be chronically fatigued and short of breath. You may get lightheaded when you stand up, and even faint periodically.

Anemia can be treated, fortunately. However, stopping your use of alcohol will be a required part of your treatment.

When you consume alcohol, your body converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. This is what can potentially lead to cancer. If you also use tobacco, your risk of cancer increases even more.

There are several types of cancer that may develop in chronic alcoholics, and they include:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Cancer of the larynx
  • Liver cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer

When you drink heavily, there is a greater chance of blood clots in the body. This can easily lead to you having a stroke or a heart attack. If you regularly binge drink, your risk of heart problems multiplies even more.

Excessive heavy drinking can also lead to cardiomyopathy. This is a possibly fatal condition. It means that your heart is weakened and eventually, it will fail. You may experience heart rhythm abnormalities that can lead to death if not treated immediately.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Quite frequently, people confuse alcohol abuse with addiction. The two are definitely not interchangeable, and it can help to understand the definition of abuse.

Alcohol abuse refers to drinking more than you should, and more frequently than you should. When you’re abusing this drug, it hasn’t turned into a need for you yet. However, that could happen at any given moment. Some examples of abuse might include having too many drinks with friends one time on a night out, or drinking alone when you’re feeling upset about something that happened to you that day at work.

In and of itself, abuse is something to be aware of, but it doesn’t necessarily always lead to addiction or alcoholism.

Alcohol Addiction – How to Detox and Rehabilitate

What is Alcohol Addiction?

On the other hand, alcohol addiction always begins with abuse. When you’re addicted, you feel as though you have to have a drink (or several drinks) in order to feel normal. Drinking quickly becomes a part of your identity, even though your addiction might be something you keep carefully hidden away from those close to you.

It is possible for the line between alcohol abuse and addiction to become blurred for some people, so it can help to know what some of the signs of alcoholism are. They include:

  • You’ve started lying about your drinking, or how much you had to drink.
  • You turn to alcohol as a way to relax or improve how you feel.
  • You’ve blacked out more than once after drinking.
  • You feel powerless to stop drinking once you’ve started.
  • You’ve been guilty of drinking when you knew you really shouldn’t, such as before going to work.
  • You’re beginning to neglect your responsibilities at home, work or school.

If you’re exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s definitely time to get professional help. If you’re uncertain, you may need to take other steps to get the answers to your questions. You may want to start by taking an alcohol addiction quiz.

Drinking and Using Other Substances Simultaneously

Whether you are mixing alcohol with medications, or with illegal drugs, both are bad ideas. Many medicines have warnings on their labels regarding drinking, and they’re often ignored. The perception is that drinking is safe because it’s legal and so widely available. By now, we hope you can see how false this belief is.

Mixing alcohol with other substances can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fainting spells

There are other risks as well, such as heart problems, internal bleeding and problems with breathing.

Sometimes people will drink while using other substances because they want to enhance the euphoric feeling. This is a typical sign of addiction, and it can easily lead to a secondary addiction. In some cases, certain combinations may even be fatal. Some drugs that are commonly used alongside alcohol include:

  • Marijuana
  • Opioids (both prescription and illegal)
  • Cocaine
  • Adderall
  • Ecstasy
  • Mushrooms
  • LSD (Acid)
  • Antidepressants

Alcoholics Need Professional Treatment to Get Sober

For alcoholics, there really is no such thing as just quitting cold turkey. Attempting this method is likely to result in a quick relapse, which just contributes to the cycle of addiction. The best way to recover to a treatment facility for help.

There are two different types of addiction treatment you need. The first will deal with the physical aspect of your dependence on alcohol. The second will cover the psychological aspect of it. Both are necessary and both will give you the best chance at success.

The Facts About Detox Facilities

Your alcoholism rehab will begin by going through the detoxification process. An alcohol detox program will help you by controlling your withdrawal symptoms. If you’re at risk for any complications, that risk will be significantly decreased. You’ll also find that your withdrawals will be much shorter in duration than if you were to quit on your own.

The physical aspect of your addiction is very powerful. It’s what causes you to crave alcohol and experience other symptoms when you aren’t drinking. It’s very important to get this under control. If you don’t, it will be harder for you to maintain long-term sobriety.

Stopping your use of alcohol abruptly on your own is never recommended. Doing so can result in serious withdrawal symptoms, and some of them may require immediate medical attention.

Some of the more common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Feeling restlessness in your body
  • Becoming very shaky inside and out
  • Losing your appetite
  • Becoming agitated or irritable
  • Feeling anxious or nervous

You can also experience tremors, become disoriented or develop seizures when withdrawing from alcohol. When this occurs, it’s called delirium tremens, or the DTs. If DTs are left untreated, the condition can become fatal. It’s very important to get immediate medical help if you suspect you have developed delirium tremens.

Most people really need to go to through a period of detox in order to allow toxins to be purged from their bodies. This also gives their bodies a chance to adjust to the “new normal” of not drinking. Alcohol addiction treatment centers rely on detoxification as a way to prepare their patients for rehab because it lessens withdrawal symptoms and is a much safer way to quit drinking.

Alcohol is actually one of the drugs that requires medically-assisted detox. This means that you will likely be prescribed medications to help you with your recovery. It’s a form of detoxification called medication assisted treatment, or MAT.

There are a number of medications that can be prescribed for alcoholics who are facing withdrawals. You may be placed on drugs such as:

  • Vivitrol
  • Acamprosate
  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram
  • Other medications to treat individual symptoms

Medical detox has really progressed over the last few years. Today’s medications are much better, and carry less of an addiction risk. However, holistic treatment may also be combined with them. Improving your diet and increasing your physical activity enhances your overall health. This is only going to contribute to your success in recovery.

You may feel it necessary to attempt at at-home detox before committing to an inpatient detoxification program. However, we want to advise you against this. Any withdrawal vitamins, supplements or cleanses aren’t likely to be effective. In fact, they can put you at a greater risk for complications.

An at-home detox may sound like a good idea, but it’s very dangerous. You really need to be in a proper facility where you can get the care you need.

Going to a Rehab Center: The Next Step in Your Recovery

Once you have gone through the detox process, the next step is to go to an alcohol rehab facility. This is going to help you by addressing the mental side of your addiction.

You may not realize it, but there is a part of your brain that feels you need to drink. You may believe that you have to, and if you don’t, you won’t survive. So many alcoholics think that they are in complete control of their drinking, but this just isn’t true.

The right treatment program is going to tackle this belief. It can take some time for you to begin thinking clearly. Right now, you don’t have the coping skills that are necessary to stop consuming alcohol. However, once you receive the proper treatment, you will.

It’s best to opt for an inpatient rehab, in most cases. While outpatient addiction treatment can work for some, most people need a higher level of care. The only exception might be if you can’t commit to an inpatient facility and you choose an IOP. Intensive outpatient treatment programs are very good, and close to the level of care you’d receive in an inpatient center.

With inpatient treatment, you receive around-the-clock support. That’s something that most recovering alcoholics find that they need. You’ll always have someone to talk to, and you won’t be able to relapse. This is important because when you recover at home, it’s very easy to go back to drinking again.

About half of all alcoholics suffer from co-occurring disorders. These conditions are actually mental illnesses that usually cause the addiction to take place. In some cases, the co-occurring disorder is caused by the alcohol use. However, this is more rare.

If you suffer from a mental illness, it’s possible that you’re using it as a way to self-medicate. Alcohol has been known to help with some types of symptoms caused by anxiety and depression. However, it has no real therapeutic value, and those symptoms are likely to return before long.

If this applies to you, you’ll be receiving dual diagnosis treatment. This is a way of treating the mental health condition and the addiction at the same time. It puts everyone on the same page, and acknowledges the connection between the two. What you’re really doing is addressing the cause of the alcoholism, not just the drinking problem itself. This approach is going to benefit you in the long-term.

You will experience many different types of therapy when you go to alcohol rehab. You’ll be meeting with your therapist on a regular basis. It will be their job to diagnose you with a co-occurring disorder, if necessary, and then provide treatment.

You will also participate in group therapy, which has shown to have so many benefits for recovering alcoholics. You’ll have several different groups that you’ll meet with every day. You will give and get support from one another during those times.

You may also participate in family therapy, yoga, and many other forms of treatment. Your treatment plan will be unique and specific to your personal needs.

What is the Cost of Alcohol Rehab and Detox?

It can be difficult to come up with the money for treatment programs on your own. Some can run as high as several thousand dollars for both rehab and detox. This causes a lot of people to decide that getting professional help must not be for them. However, there are many ways that you can cover the costs of addiction treatment.

Will Insurance Help Pay for Your Treatment?

If you have health insurance, you don’t have anything to worry about. By law, your insurance company is required to provide you with addiction treatment benefits. This will include helping to pay for both alcohol detox and rehab.

If you don’t currently have health insurance, you may want to apply for a policy through HealthCare.gov. There, you can find information about what is offered in your state, and you can sign up online.

If you’re not able to get health insurance, you may want to take another approach. You may be able to finance your treatment on your own. It’s also possible to talk with your local Department of Social Services for information on how to fund rehab and detox. They may be able to point you in the right direction.

How to Approach a Loved One About Addiction Treatment

If you have concerns about a loved one who is battling alcoholism, you may be extremely worried and frustrated. Maybe you feel like it’s not something you can talk about with them. It’s possible that you think they may shut you out of their lives, or refuse to talk to you for a while.

Even though these concerns are valid, it’s important to remember the bigger issue. Addiction is a disease that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised that your loved one actually listens to you. It’s possible that they have been trying to think of a way to stop drinking, but they didn’t know where to turn. Try to stay positive and work up the courage to have this difficult discussion.

Talking With Your Family Member About Getting Help

It’s best to talk to an alcoholic about going to detox and rehab when they’re sober. The best time to have this conversation is probably going to be first thing in the morning. Ask them to sit down with you for a few minutes because there’s something you need to talk to them about.

When you start, express to your family member that you love them. Tell them you’re only bringing the subject up because you’re so worried about them. Be prepared to show examples of their destructive behaviors. This might mean bringing up medical issues that you know are caused because of alcoholism. It might mean talking about bills they can’t pay because they’re spending their money on drinking. You need to be firm with what you say, but remember to be kind at the same time.

Once you’ve presented the information, ask them to get help. If possible, do some research before you talk. Find out about local rehab centers in your area, or talk with them about joining Alcoholics Anonymous. If you can, offer to go with them to meetings, or to be with them when they call for information. The more support you can provide, the more likely they are to get the help they need.

When is it Time to Set Up an Intervention?

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you beg and plead, because your loved one refuses to get help. When this happens, it causes a lot of strain on you. You may feel compelled to enable the alcohol addiction just to keep your family member happy. This isn’t a good way for either of you to live.

If you can see that nothing is changing, and that your loved one doesn’t intend to get help, it’s time to act. You may need to start thinking about having an intervention.

You can find intervention services at many treatment facilities. These services provide you with the help and support of an interventionist who will guide the entire process. The best part is that many alcoholics will agree to get help once they’ve been through an intervention. Hopefully this will be the case for your loved one as well.

A Closer Look: What Is Alcohol Detox?

While most people have heard of detox before, the vast majority of people don't understand the process or how crucial it really is.

And to make matters even worse, some people may think that you don't need professional detoxification from alcohol at all.

But the truth is, detox from alcohol is an essential step in your successful recovery because it primes the body for healing itself and expelling all the built-up toxins caused by your addiction. Added to that, it also starts the process of physically adapting to operating without it.

To explain, addiction is often marked by what’s known as a physical dependency. As you probably know, physical dependence is where your body just can't function normally without the substance being in your system. It's caused in part by a phenomenon known as tolerance.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA), tolerance is defined as:

when the person no longer responds to the drug in the way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.

For example, while you may have gotten drunk off of 4 or 5 beers in the past, now you might need 8 or 9 to feel the same way thanks to a higher tolerance.

And as that tolerance builds and builds, your body goes through actual physical changes that make alcohol less effective.

Liver enzymes release more quickly, neurotransmitters become more powerful, and a host of other adaptations all occur with enough use and abuse of alcohol.

When you’ve been drinking for so long and quickly take it away, though, the body has to reverse those physical changes. And that can cause some particularly uncomfortable (and even deadly) symptoms known as withdrawals.

Professional detox, then, is clinical help for treating these painful and possibly lethal side effects so your body can start adapting to an alcohol-free existence.

What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?

Whether you’re worried about your addiction to alcohol or suspect that a friend, spouse,parent, or sibling is struggling with their own alcoholism, the first step towards getting them the professional help they need is learning how to recognize the signs.

With other drugs, spotting a use disorder is substantially easier simply because most drugs are still stigmatized in our daily lives. With alcohol, though, it’s incredibly common for many people to have a few drinks a night and then binge drink all weekend long. And that normalcy can trick many people into thinking that the behaviors they see aren’t a real problem.

That’s why it’s critical for you to know how to spot the signs of abuse and addiction before it’s too late.

There are some hints to be on the lookout for here such as:
  • Physical warning signs like broken capillaries on the face, noticeable weight gain or loss, poor personal hygiene, etc.
  • Behavioral warning signs of alcoholism like drinking alone, cravings, using alcohol to cope with emotional problems, not fulfilling obligations, etc.
  • Always has a reason for drinking (e.g., a good day at work, a bad day at work, a special occasion, blowing off steam, relaxing at home)
  • Multiple DUIs or other trouble with the law
  • Spending an excessive amount of money on alcohol or using funds reserved for other obligations (rent, insurance, school, etc.)
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Forceful denial and even aggression when confronted about their abuse
  • Extreme anxiety when alcohol is unavailable
  • Frequent blackouts
  • Missing work or school or a noticeable decrease in performance
  • You find empty or hidden bottles around the house
  • They carry alcohol with them secretly such as in a flask or thermos
  • You’ve noticed missing money or items from the house they may have used to pay for alcohol
  • Unpaid bills or repossessions

Am I An Alcoholic?

While spotting the need for alcohol detoxification and treatment in others can be tough, it can be even harder to come to terms with addiction when you’re the one that might be addicted.

That’s because if there’s one thing that nearly all alcoholics and drug addicts have in common, it's that they're likely going to be in denial about their problem at one point or another. You see, an addict isn't just physically dependent on a substance – they're also mentally dependent. And when the brain is faced with losing something it thinks is so necessary to functioning normally, it can be almost impossible for that person to recognize their addiction on their own.

In fact, denial is so typical among addicts that it's highly documented. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH), of the 13.9 million adults that met the criteria for needing professional help, only about 457,000felt they needed treatment.  

That means about 96.7% of alcoholics are in complete denial about their addiction.

And if you think you don’t need professional detox and treatment for your alcoholism, you just might be one of them.

As a result, it’s incredibly important that you take an objective and rational look at your behaviors before discounting an addiction entirely. And there are a couple of ways you can do so.

Alcoholism Quiz– You can take a quick online alcoholism quiz to help you get a better idea of your level of addiction. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete and can end up being an invaluable first step in tackling your addiction.

NIDA Tools– You can also use the numerous NIDA addiction self-assessment tools to help dive even deeper into your addiction habits. There are 10 evidence-based tools you can choose from that vary in complexity and test duration.

DSM-V– You can also see if your behaviors meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These standards are used by practicing psychiatrists and physicians around the world. If you’ve experienced at least 2 of these 11 scenarios (as listed by NIDA) in the past year, you have a problematic pattern of alcohol abuse and should find professional help as soon as possible.

Is it Safe to Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

There is undoubtedly a certain appeal to stopping your alcohol abuse all at once without any help – a.k.a. going "cold turkey." It may sound like a much cleaner break, and if you're avoiding detox due to financial or other reasons and are planning on detoxifying at home, cold turkey might be your only option.

Alcohol Addiction – How to Detox and Rehabilitate

However, going cold turkey can have some pretty serious and even deadly consequences. To explain, alcohol (believe it or not) is one of the only addictive substances that carries with it potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms.

It’s true – while many people imagine that withdrawals from heavy hitters like crack cocaine or crystal meth would be the most dangerous, the truth is that alcohol along with benzodiazepines and opioids (to an extent) are the only drugs with withdrawals that can directly kill you.

When it comes to alcohol, the main dangers are the risks of experiencing grand mal seizures and a set of deadly symptoms known as delirium tremens.

How Do Alcohol Detox Seizures Happen?

When you go through detox from alcohol cold turkey and without proper professional help, you might be at risk of developing grand mal seizures. Not only can these seizures cause permanent damage to your brain, but they might also even end up costing you your life.

But how do these seizures happen? And why is alcohol, one of the only legal drugs on the market, associated with deadly withdrawals while nearly every other substance of abuse isn’t?

It all comes down to how alcohol affects the brain on a molecular level.

As you may know, alcohol is considered a depressant. That means that it tends to calm down various parts of your brain which results in sedation, reduced inhibitions, and a degree of euphoria. It’s these effects that make drinking so pleasurable for many people.

Alcohol creates these effects by impacting two systems in particular: the GABA system and the glutamate system. Both GABA and glutamate are chemicals in the brain that influence whether or not a nerve becomes electrically excited.

GABA – The primary inhibitory chemical, higher levels of GABA means nerve cells are less likely to fire. Alcohol increases the potency of this brain chemical, making it easier to keep certain nerve cells from firing.

Glutamate – One of the brain’s main excitatory chemicals, glutamate's potency is diminished by alcohol. As a result, the mind becomes less stimulated in certain areas over time.  

When an addict goes through alcohol detox, though, the potency of these two systems switch in a sense. GABA becomes less powerful, and glutamate gets even stronger. Consequently, the supercharged glutamate and weaker GABA can lead to over-excitation in the brain’s nerve cells which can end up causing dangerous seizures.

And without proper professional help, these seizures could be fatal.

As you can imagine, detoxing from alcohol and the risk of seizures is not something to be taken lightly, especially if you’re a particularly heavy drinker. But how common are they really?

According to the NIAAA, these seizures occur within more than 5% of untreated patients experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal. However, the risk of suffering these seizures increases with each past withdrawal. As such, if you unsuccessfully detox from alcohol, you’re making it more likely that you’ll experience seizures next time you try to quit.

This is what's known as the Kindling Effect, and it's a well-documented phenomenon in sedative-hypnotic drugs like alcohol and benzodiazepines like Xanax.

The timeline involved with experiencing seizures during alcohol detox is usually concentrated to the first 48 hours after having your last drink. In fact, 90% of these seizures occur during this time.

However, it's worth noting that it is possible seizures can strike up to 20 days after your last drink. The NIAAA indicates that 3% of seizures related to alcohol detox occur 5 to 20 days after you've stopped drinking.

And without proper medical attention during this period (like the kind of care offered by professional alcohol detoxification), these seizures may end up costing you your life.

What Kinds of Alcohol Detox Programs Are There?

In general, alcohol withdrawals are treated using one of two types of programs – either an inpatient alcohol detox program or an outpatient one. And each of these program types has their own specific benefits and detriments.  

But detox from alcohol is a different experience for everyone. Some people may, for example, require more medical attention throughout the process, may have a co-occurring disorder, or might even need additional treatment for poly drug abuse. It depends on the individual.

As a result, no one program 's going to meet the specific needs of every patient. And that’s why it’s so important to recognize the differences between these programs: so you can see which works best for you.

Inpatient Detox from Alcohol – An inpatient program for treating your alcohol withdrawals is largely considered to be the “gold standard” for detoxification, especially when it comes to alcohol. That’s because patients are required to stay on the campus grounds throughout the entire program.

These stricter conditions allow for 24/7 access to medical staff while also reducing the likelihood that a patient will relapse and turn back to drinking during their alcohol detox.

Pros

  • More immediate medical attention and care
  • Drastically reduced relapse risk
  • Alcohol withdrawals can be treated in-house, making them much more manageable
  • Less chance of severe complications

Cons

  • Can be more expensive than an outpatient program
  • Requires a dedicated time commitment

Outpatient Alcohol Detox– In contrast to an inpatient program, outpatient alcohol detox allows recovering addicts to come into a facility once a day for staff to check medical signs and prescribe medication that can make the detoxification process easier.

An outpatient program for treating withdrawals allows for greater flexibility, but since patients are freely able to return to drinking on their own, it isn't recommended in most cases. Beyond that, since detox can be deadly, an outpatient program simply might not be safe for some alcoholics.

Pros

  • Much more flexibility – patients don’t need to take time off of school or work and can attend to other obligations throughout the program
  • Due to the less intensive care, outpatient is often cheaper than inpatient

Cons

  • A higher risk of relapse due to more opportunities for relapsing
  • No 24/7 medical oversight which can make alcohol withdrawals more difficult
  • Unsuitable for severe alcoholics as the high risk of seizures and the DTs requires heavy drinkers to be under constant medical care

Do I Need to go Through Alcohol Detox Prior to Starting Rehab?

The short answer here is YES.

Detox from alcohol is an essential part of any comprehensive treatment program. According to NIDA, incorporating medically assisted detoxification is considered to be one of the 13 principles for effective drug addiction treatment.

There are two of main reasons behind why cleansing your body is so important: it reduces the risk of relapsing during withdrawal, and it can be instrumental in preventing and treating some of the deadly complications.

Throughout your alcohol detoxification, you’ll experience a range of withdrawal symptoms that can end up being incredibly uncomfortable. From physical symptoms like tremors, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea to psychological ones like anxiety, irritability, depression, and confusion, alcohol withdrawal can be quite taxing.

And no matter how strong or resilient you think you may be, when you’re battered by the full gamut of these symptoms for days on end, you’ll likely be tempted to turn back to alcohol simply to stop these effects from occurring.

But with the help of a professional, you’ll have around the clock care to stop you from giving in to that temptation.

It isn’t just avoiding relapse that makes detoxification so important though. In fact, when it comes to alcoholism, one of the biggest benefits of detox is having proper medical care to treat life-threatening alcohol withdrawals.

Grand mal seizures, delirium tremens, and a wide range of complications that may pop up throughout the process can make detoxing from alcohol incredibly dangerous. But with proper medical care, you can be sure that your safety won't be at risk while you get sober.

So, even if you do decide to check into outpatient treatment for your alcoholism, partnering with a professional alcohol detox facility beforehand is still an essential part of the recovery process.

Medicated Detox vs Holistic Detox

Within inpatient and outpatient facilities, another characteristic you’ll want to be on the lookout for when choosing a program for treating your alcohol withdrawals is whether it’s medicated or holistic.

In general, these programs tend to follow differing philosophies on how to most effectively treat your symptoms during detoxification from alcohol addiction. Medicated, as you probably suspect, tends to rely heavily on pharmaceuticals. Holistic, on the other hand, focuses on supporting your body naturally as it detoxifies on its own.

Though programs will typically fall into one of these two categories, many of these programs will end up using a combination of these two philosophies.

And just like inpatient and outpatient, each of these types of programs has their own set of benefits and downfalls.

Medicated Detox – The medicated approach uses prescription medications to treat your alcohol withdrawals. Whether it’s physical symptoms like nausea and fatigue or mental ones like anxiety or depression, a medicated approach will usually rely on pharmaceutical drugs to decrease their severity.

This might sound like the ideal approach for most people. After all, what can be easier than popping a few pills? However, the truth is that many dangers and discomforts might come about as a result of using a purely medicated approach to detox from alcohol.

First, these medications often come with an extensive list of side effects, some of which can be quite inconvenient. For example, Librium, one of the most common medicines prescribed during alcohol withdrawal, can cause side effects like:
  • Fainting
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Chills
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Lower back pain
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Cough

And when you add those effects to the already long list of withdrawal symptoms you’ll be experiencing, it just might end up being more than you can handle.

Added to that, many of these medications are addictive in their own right. Benzodiazepines like Ativan, for example, are often used in a medicated alcohol detoxification. These kinds of benzos are not only incredibly habit-forming, but they're also associated with one of the worst withdrawal syndromes out of any other drug– and that includes substances like heroin or meth.

With a medicated detox from alcohol, then, you may just be trading in one addiction for another.

In the end, taking these kinds of drugs for your withdrawals might not be worth the trouble after all.

Holistic Detox – While a medicated approach uses drugs to help you get through alcohol withdrawals, a holistic detox program is more about naturally supporting your body as it detoxifies on its own. As it turns out, the body is already surprisingly good at clearing itself of harmful substances. The trick is giving it the support it needs to do so.

And this support comes in many forms: nutritional programs,exercise activities, and psychological support workshops.

Nutritional Programs – Addiction can be a strain on the body. Not only is the inherent toxicity of too much alcohol destructive for your internal organs on its own, the lack of nutrition from too many skipped meals and so-called "liquid lunches" can even further degrade your body's ability to heal itself.  

A holistic detox program will help reduce the severity and duration of your alcohol withdrawals by incorporating a unique nutrition-rich meal plan that will help support your body while it heals itself from addiction.

Exercise Activities – Research has shown that incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help reduce the buildup of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Reducing the amount of stress that recovering addicts are going through can be critical when it comes to managing alcohol withdrawals during detoxification. Beyond that, it can also be a healthy distraction to keep the mind occupied rather than focusing solely on the addiction.

Psychological Support Workshops – Finally, your holistic alcohol detox program will also likely have numerous workshops and classes that focus on treating the mental symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Depression,anxiety, and irritability are all common during recovery.

But with classes on mindful meditation, art therapy, and even yoga, you can learn how to control your mind better to help you treat those withdrawals from alcohol. What’s more, the strategies you learn here will also be invaluable in coping with overwhelming cravings that might have otherwise sent you right back to the bottle.

Can I Detox on My Own? – Alcohol Detox at Home

You may be wondering, why can’t I just go through alcohol detox on my own? Do you really need to check into a professional program to get through the worst withdrawals? Can't you just hunker down and push through till the end?

And it's true that there are a few benefits to doing so. Detoxification from alcohol at home is free, it lets you avoid the stigma attached to alcohol detox and addiction, and you can do it purely on your terms. What's so bad about that?

But the truth is home alcohol detox can be deadly. With the numerous complications like respiratory failure and abnormal heart function that can come about during alcohol withdrawal, making sure you have medical expertise on your side just might end up saving your life.

Beyond that, the risk of grand mal seizures and the potentially fatal physical effects of delirium tremens all add up to home detox being an incredibly bad idea, even if you think your addiction isn’t that severe. And when you add on the devastating psychological effects of the DTs as well which have been associated with suicide.

There’s one more aspect of home alcohol detox that makes it such an unviable alternative to professional programs: The Kindling Effect. This phenomenon makes it harder and more dangerous to detox after each unsuccessful attempt.

Essentially, then, an alcoholic of any stage should only use detox methods that have been proven to work, like professional addiction treatment.  

What Is the Kindling Effect? – A Closer Look

The Kindling Effect is a phenomenon that occurs after repeated instances of withdrawal. Because of the Kindling Effect, the more times you unsuccessfully try to quit, the harder the following alcohol detoxifications will be.

For instance, if an individual goes through detox from alcohol twice, the second round of withdrawals will likely be more intense than the first.

The danger here comes from the fact that this effect doesn’t just apply to the severity of certain symptoms like agitation and nausea – it also applies to the likelihood of developing grand mal seizures during detoxification.

One study found that 48% of inpatient alcoholics that had experienced seizures had already been through five or more withdrawals. Comparatively, only about 12% of hospitalized alcoholics with the same history didn’t experience any seizures.

The clinical evidence, then, shows that recurring episodes of alcoholism and relapsing contribute to a more dangerous alcohol detoxification process further down the line.

As the NIAAA puts it, then:

Both clinical and experimental evidence supports the existence of a kindling mechanism during alcohol withdrawal… The presence of kindling during withdrawal suggests that even patients experiencing mild withdrawal should be treated aggressively to prevent an increase in the severity of subsequent withdrawal episodes.

Ultimately, then, even patients who do not suffer from an especially severe case of alcoholism should receive aggressive alcohol detox and rehabilitation treatment.

At-home detox, then, may not only be immediately life-threatening, but it can also make kicking your alcohol addiction even harder (and more dangerous) in the future.

What Are the Risks & Disadvantages of At-Home Detox from Alcohol?

Deciding to forgo professional alcohol detoxification can be dangerous – that much is obvious. With the threat of seizures, delirium tremens, and the long-term effects brought on by the Kindling Effect, physical safety alone is enough to make detoxing without professional help sound like a terrible mistake.

But there’s more to detox than just getting you safely through alcohol withdrawals. Below are just some of the major disadvantages of choosing at-home alcohol detoxification over seeking out professional help.

An Alcohol-Free Environment – The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be overpowering and even unbearable in some cases. And in moments of weakness, recovering alcoholics often find it difficult if not impossible to abstain from drinking if a bottle is within reach.

Detoxing from at home can make it difficult to push past that temptation to have a drink because alcohol is so readily available. In a professional inpatient detox program, however, you'll be living in an alcohol-free environment throughout the extent of your stay. So even if you get to the point of losing all control, you still won't be able to use again.

Lack of Motivational - Emotional Support – Getting through withdrawals isn't just about personal willpower. In fact, the brain chemistry of alcoholics has become so fundamentally altered by their addiction that they often aren’t able to control themselves at all anymore. And even if they can, if they don’t receive the emotional and motivational support to keep on going, they’re likely not going to stay sober for very long.

With an alcohol detoxification program, you’ll have all the support you so desperately need throughout the entire process. Rest assured, if you partner with a professional facility, you’ll never feel like no one is cheering you on towards sobriety.

No Helping Hand – Withdrawal from alcohol addiction can be debilitating. You may not be able to care for yourself very well throughout the process. Adequate sleep, nutritious meals, and exercise will all likely take a back seat to during your at-home alcohol detox. As a result, you may end up making the severity and duration of your symptoms even worse.

Professional alcohol detox, on the other hand, provides everything you'll need to make the process as smooth as possible. Your meals are provided, your activities planned, and help is available 24/7 in most cases. You’ll be in far better hands compared to if you were all on your own.

Missing Out on Expert Advice – One of the most notable benefits of a professional alcohol detox program is that you’ll have access to the expert knowledge of trained specialists.

Beyond just knowing how to make your alcohol withdrawals less painful and far shorter than they would be otherwise, these experts are also equipped with the experience to know if something is going wrong and how to deal with it.

Won’t Benefit from Numerous Therapies - Workshops – Detox from alcohol in a professional setting will also expose you to many therapies and tools that can prove to be instrumental for long-term sobriety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT), for example, can help you learn proven strategies for coping with cravings, anticipating triggers, and help you regain control over your actions. There are numerous other behavioral therapies just like CBT that can put the odds in your favor when it comes to recovery. And a program for detox from alcohol is one of the best places to find them.

Detoxing from Alcohol at Home: Where to Begin

Despite the overwhelming evidence that a professional program for detoxing from alcohol is far safer, more effective, less painful, and all around smarter than alcohol detox at home, some people may still choose to bypass professional help.

And while it certainly isn’t advised, it is possible. However, it’s worth remembering that all but the mildest of alcohol addictions need to be medically treated during detoxification. Otherwise, you will be at risk of developing potentially fatal seizures and delirium tremens.   

That being said, there are a couple of things you can do to make your detox from alcohol at home less painful and more successful. And the very first step is obviously getting rid of any alcohol in the house. Don’t hide it; don’t keep it in the back of the cupboard; throw it out completely.

After that, you’ll want to free yourself up from any obligations that you may have coming up for the next week or so. Take time off work, reschedule social engagements, cancel any trips – essentially, you want to have your schedule completely cleared so that you can focus on one thing and one thing only: getting through alcohol withdrawals and getting sober.

And finally, ask for help from any willing friends or family members. Getting through alcohol withdrawals can be incredibly hard if you're on your own. With a proper support net, though, the people you care about can help keep you from relapsing, motivate you, and even simply give you a few warm meals while you focus solely on the alcohol detoxification.  

Following these steps will help ensure your home detox from alcohol is safe and successful.

Now that you're ready to begin your home detox from alcohol, it's time to stock up on supplies. There are many different medications, vitamins, and natural supplements that may make your alcohol withdrawals much more manageable.

When it comes, MedlinePlus points out the most common vitamin deficiency in alcoholics is of the B vitamins which include B1, B6, and folic acid. As such, be sure you are taking these vitamins either separately or in a multivitamin supplement throughout your home detox.

L-glutamine supplements may also help reduce cravings, anxiety, and other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as well according to some studies. Incorporating it into your vitamin regimen during detox, then, can end up being quite helpful.

There are also many over-the-counter medications that can help treat the milder symptoms of withdrawal. These include:

  • Imodium (for diarrhea)
  • Nauzene (for nausea)
  • Advil/ibuprofen for joint pain and aches (avoid Tylenol/acetaminophen since it can damage the liver even further)
  • Melatonin (for insomnia)

Finally, some recovering alcoholics have found that taking certain natural supplements for alcohol withdrawal can help ease their symptoms as well. It’s worth remembering here, however, that research is particularly scarce when it comes to whether or not these supplements are effective so be sure to take them with a grain of salt.

The most common natural supplements for alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Milk thistle (may be helpful in regenerating the liver)
  • Kudzu (may be useful for restoring the liver)
  • Angelica extract (may reduce inflammation)
  • Passionflower and valerian root (may help with insomnia)

Lavender and St. Johns-wort (may help with anxiety)

Alcohol Detox Timeline – How Long Does it Last?

Just as the types of withdrawals you’ll experience can’t be predicted with 100% accuracy, the duration of detox is also a bit up in the air as well.

Some individuals may only have to weather the intense symptoms for just a couple of days until they start feeling better. Others, however, may feel out of sorts for well over a week's time.

It just depends. In general, though, you can expect to stay in alcohol detoxification for around 5 to 7 days in most cases. More severe cases will require longer periods of detox.

Beyond that, some alcoholics may undergo what’s known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. This syndrome has been particularly well documented when it comes to alcohol but may also occur among other drug users as well.

The condition is characterized by an especially long alcohol withdrawal period that may end up lasting for as long as 2 years in some cases.

According to SAMHSA, symptoms of protracted withdrawal from alcohol include:
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mood instability
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulties concentrating and thinking
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Unexplained physical complaints

As you can imagine, many people going through PAWS often end up falling back into the cycle of addiction simply due to just how long these symptoms can last.

With proper treatment from an alcohol detoxification facility though, you can reduce the risk of developing PAWS and find ways of treating these symptoms to improve your likelihood of a full recovery.

What Are the 3 Stages of Detox from Alcohol?

For most people, the timeline for detoxing from alcohol consists of three stages. In each of these stages, you’ll likely experience a range of alcohol withdrawals

Stage 1– The first stage of withdrawal typically begins around 8 hours after your last drink. The most noticeable symptoms that you’ll likely experience during this stage are nausea, stomach pain, irritability, anxiety, and possibly tremors, a.k.a. “the shakes.” Stage 1 most often lasts for around 24 hours.

Stage 2– This stage of detox usually lasts for around 2 days and is marked by the onset of symptoms like increased blood pressure, higher body temperature, fever, and intense cravings.

Stage 3– The final stage of detox (not counting PAWS) usually begins around 3 or 4 days after your last drink. In most cases, this stage lasts for about 4 to 6 days. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal during this phase may include those of delirium tremens (confusion, over-excitation, irritability, etc.) as well as insomnia, depersonalization, and severe mood instability.

More serious alcohol withdrawals like seizures and delirium tremens may follow a different timeline.

The highest risk of seizures is within the first 48 hours of detoxification from alcohol (i.e., Stage 1 and Stage 2). After that period, the probability of experiencing a seizure drops significantly, but they are still possible up to 20 days after you stop drinking.

Delirium tremens most commonly occurs within 48 to 96 hours after your last drink, but the onset of symptoms may be delayed as far as 7 to 10 days after you quit drinking. While transient hallucinations associated with the condition will generally start within the first 48 hours, the confusion and disordered sensory perceptions will likely begin around day 3 of your detox from alcohol.

As you can see, the deadliest effects of alcohol withdrawal can often appear several days into detoxification. It’s vital, then, that you decide to partner with a professional program so that they can monitor your health throughout the entire process.

How to Stay Sober

Once you've made it through detox, you'll likely feel far better than you have for quite some time. And if you've used a holistic program, your body might be healthier than ever thanks to the nutritional meals and exercise regimens used in these programs.

In fact, you may even be tempted to stop the recovery process right then and there since you’re feeling so refreshed and revitalized. However, this would be an enormous mistake.

Research has shown that while detoxification can be invaluable for starting you down the path to sobriety, it is only the first step in the process. In fact, NIDA even states in their principles of effective addiction treatment that:

Although medically assisted detoxification can safely manage the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal and can, for some, pave the way for effective long-term addiction treatment, detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicted individuals achieve long-term abstinence. Thus, patients should be encouraged to continue drug treatment following detoxification.

As such, you simply must enter into an alcohol rehabilitation program to ensure the best chances of staying sober for the long run. Rehab will give you the tools you need to get to the root of your addiction problem, tackle cravings, and find healthier life strategies to replace your substance abuse.  

Beyond that, you may also want to look into joining an Alcoholics Anonymous group in your area. These groups can be vital in giving you the continuing support and guidance you’ll need to stay clean long after your rehab program is complete.

Recovery from alcoholism isn't a one-step process. You can't expect to stay sober if all you've done is gone through detox. But with a complete recovery program, you ensure the very best chances of success and sobriety.

How Much Does Detox Cost?

There are a variety of factors that play into the final costs of your detox from alcohol. The severity and duration of your addiction, the extent of your necessary amenities and treatment, any additional medications or therapies, and more will all play a role here.

Consequently, everyone’s detoxification from alcohol is bound to be priced a little bit differently. And that means estimating your particular costs is impossible.

That being said, most alcohol detoxification programs will end up costing around $250 to $500 per day of detox.

And while that might seem like a bit outside of your price range, the truth is that alcohol detox facilities are more than willing to work with you directly to find a payment plan that works. Financing, monthly payment plans, and even sliding scale costs are extremely common among facilities so don't be too scared off by the price.

Beyond that, there is also insurance which, as we’ll see, can end up making detox from alcohol not only surprisingly affordable but even free in some cases.

But more than anything else, remember that your stay in an alcohol detox facility is an investment in your future.

What Do I Look for When in an Alcohol Detox Facility?

Choosing an alcohol detox facility that can meet your individual needs is essential when it comes to your long-term recovery. But actually finding such a facility can be a bit tough.

That’s why we’ve put together this short list of qualities to be on the lookout for when deciding on an alcohol detox program for you. So, be sure to seek out programs that have each of the qualities below to ensure that your detoxification from alcohol is as safe, successful, and comfortable as possible.
  • Qualified staff and accredited facility
  • Uses evidence-based protocols to treat alcohol withdrawals
  • Has a high staff-to-patient ratio
  • Can treat co-occurring disorders during alcohol withdrawal
  • Has a variety of rehabilitation and aftercare connections
  • Offers individualized plans rather than a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Numerous activities throughout the detox from alcohol program
  • Various support options including counseling
  • Nutritional programs to help your body heal during alcohol detox
  • 24/7 nursing care

A clean and inviting treatment facility

Alcoholism Treatment & Rehabilitation: Changing the Way You Think About Addiction

If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, it's critical that you get the professional treatment you need. And no treatment program is complete without a comprehensive rehabilitation program.

Rehab is one of the most crucial steps on the road to recovery. While detoxification can undoubtedly set the stage for healing and future sobriety, the real work begins in rehabilitation.

Here you'll undergo many different therapies aimed at giving you the tools, strategies, and support you need to truly tackle your alcoholism head on. Ultimately, it's a vital piece of the puzzle that all fits together to form long-lasting sobriety.  

And if you’ve been affected by alcoholism, whether it’s a friend, family member, or even your own addiction you’re struggling with, you know just how damaging this disease can be.

In addition to the seemingly endless health problems that come from dependency, this legal drug can also cause you to lose your job, your home, your money, and even your freedom.  

According to the Washington Post, if you go through a six-pack every night, you're sinking more than $3,500 per year just because of your drinking problem.

And when you look at the economic burden of excessive drinking in general, the U.S. economy is bearing the brunt of almost $250 billion due to the effects of too much alcohol.

But beyond that, it can also tear apart your family, isolate you from your friends, and burn any bridges you may have built up over the years. That’s because alcoholism is an all-consuming disease. It invades nearly every aspect of your life and turns you into a drink-seeking slave to the bottle.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact, alcohol is by far one of the most widely abused substances across the United States.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 14 million American adults are struggling with an alcohol use disorder.

But beyond that, almost one-third of all addicts don’t get the help they need simply because they don’t know where to turn.

That’s why it’s so critical that you educate yourself about the various kinds of alcoholism treatments available. More importantly, you need to realize that sobriety is possible. You don’t have to live with this problem forever. You can recover.

And alcohol rehabilitation is the answer.

What Is Alcohol Rehabilitation?

Alcohol treatment and rehab is a key component of any effective recovery program. It usually comes right after detoxification and right before aftercare support groups like 12-step programs.

During alcoholism treatment, you'll go through many different therapies, workshops, counseling sessions, and other activities all aimed at helping you become more familiar with your addiction.

Some treatments may focus on the earlier emotional trauma that may have influenced your risk of developing alcoholism. Others may teach you tactics for coping with overwhelming cravings. And others still might provide your body with the nourishment it needs to recover from the physical damage your addiction has caused.

Ultimately, though, alcohol rehab is meant to help you change the conscious and subconscious patterns of thinking that led to and supported your alcoholism in the first place.

To explain, detox can be thought of as the process of ridding your body of its addiction. As your tolerance builds up, your body changes on a physical level. And when you stop drinking, your body has to re-adapt to functioning without the help of alcohol.

But your alcoholism has also fundamentally altered your mind as well. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse(NIDA):

Brain imaging studies of people with addiction show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the mind works and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction.

To truly recover, then, you need to find ways to change your ways of thinking to either alter or adapt to the psychological modifications caused by addiction.

And the bestway to do that is by going through alcoholism rehabilitation.

Is Alcoholism Treatment Really Necessary?

You may be wondering, “Is alcohol treatment really necessary?”

In fact, if you’ve already gone through alcoholism detoxification, you're probably hoping that your addiction is essentially cured already. After all, once your body is no longer dependent on alcohol doesn't that mean that you aren't addicted anymore?

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t how alcoholism and addiction in general work. While the physical dependency that often goes along with addiction can certainly be powerful, it's usually the psychological addiction that fuels your drink-seeking behaviors.

In fact, addiction and physical dependency don’t always go hand-in-hand. It is possible to be addicted to something without being physically dependent on it. As NIDA puts it in their definition of addiction:

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.

As you can see, physical dependency isn’t the focus. Instead, it’s the compulsive behaviors that define addiction. And if you only treat the physical dependency side of addiction, the compulsive behaviors will simply launch you right back into alcoholism before you know it.

That's why detoxification alone isn't enough to treat addiction. In fact, NIDA includes in its principles of effective addiction treatment the fact that detox alone “is rarely sufficient to help addicted individuals achieve long-term abstinence.”

However, when detox is coupled with a comprehensive alcohol rehabilitation program, nearly every aspect of the addiction (including physical alcohol withdrawals and compulsive behavioral patterns) are dealt with.

So, is alcoholism treatment really necessary? Yes, it most certainly is.

What Kinds of Treatment Programs Are Available?

If you’ve done even the smallest amount of research to find an alcohol treatment center to help you get over your addiction, you’ve probably noticed that there are an enormous variety of types of programs to choose from.

And if you don’t know the difference between each, you may have even been tempted simply to choose one based on price or proximity alone. This, however, would be an enormous mistake.

Not all alcoholism treatment programs are the same. And in fact, there are four main categories for alcohol rehabs that nearly every treatment program will fall into inpatient, residential, outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs.

Each of these programs has their own strengths and weaknesses. And the more you know about each, the better able you'll be to find the program that matches up with your particular needs.

Inpatient Alcohol Rehabilitation – Largely considered to be the “gold standard” when it comes to treatment for alcoholism and other addictions, inpatient facilities immerse patients in their recovery. Recovering alcoholics are typically required to stay on campus grounds at all times and the bulk of their daily activities usually revolve around treatment.

The intensive nature of inpatient alcoholism treatment cuts off patients from any sources of alcohol thus lowering the risk of relapse. Beyond that, these types of facilities may also be able to offer prescription drugs that a less intensive program could not.  

An inpatient program will also typically last for around 28 days on average.

Pros

  • An immersive recovery experience that allows patients to forget about other problems and focus on their alcoholism treatment
  • A variety of treatments, workshops, therapies, and activities all centered on facilitating recovery
  • 24/7 nursing care to treat any continuing alcohol withdrawals
  • Guided social interactions to help foster support and reduce isolation

Cons

  • Requires a substantial time commitment where patients are usually unable to attend schooling or their job for a period
  • More expensive than some other options due mainly to the costs of lodging and meals
  • Lack of freedom may be off-putting for some

Residential Treatment – A type of inpatient care program, residential alcohol rehab is usually an even more intensive type of treatment. These programs may end up lasting for several months at a time and even half of a year. As a result, the level of care is a bit more extensive.

As these programs are usually much longer than typical inpatient care, the amenities that they offer are also more comfortable and even lavish. Some residential programs, for instance, may provide luxury amenities like spas, cutting edge exercise facilities, gourmet catered meals, and upscale private residences.

However, the comforts of these programs often come at a heavy financial price.

Pros

  • Extended alcohol treatments in most cases which can improve the chances of long-term sobriety
  • Especially comfortable amenities that can make the recovery process much easier to bear
  • A longer period of abstinence from alcohol can make it easier to transition into normal life after alcohol treatment

Cons

  • Exceptionally high price tag
  • An even longer period away from obligations (family, school, career, etc.)
  • Generally fewer options to choose from

Outpatient RehabWhile inpatient and residential programs will typically require patients to stay on campus grounds at all times, an outpatient alcoholism treatment center is far more flexible. Patients in these types of programs can fulfill their obligations during the day while attending a few treatment sessions per week in the evenings.

While these types of programs let patients maintain a semblance of their normal life, the risk of relapsing during treatment is much higher. That’s because staff won’t be monitoring your every move throughout the day. Consequently, you may be more tempted to turn back to the bottle as a result.

These programs will generally last for several months at a time as well.

Pros

  • Superior flexibility – patients can attend to their daily obligations while still receiving treatment
  • These programs are usually more affordable than inpatient or residential alcoholism treatments
  • Longer duration than some programs may help patients maintain sobriety further down the line

Cons

  • The temptation to relapse might be greater as alcohol is available since you are free to do as you wish during the day
  • Since medical staff isn’t available 24/7, alcohol withdrawals can be harder to handle in some cases
  • May not be able to provide certain medications to help cope with withdrawals since there’s less medical oversight

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) – A step down from inpatient alcoholism treatment but a step up from outpatient alcohol rehab, an IOP is perfect for individuals who need extra care but can’t commit to the full duration of an inpatient program.

Like outpatient alcohol treatment, an IOP will require patients to attend meetings throughout the week but allow them to fulfill obligations like schooling or work during the day.

However, treatment sessions are typically longer than a normal outpatient program, and they usually happen more frequently throughout the week as well.

These programs usually last for around the same amount of time as regular outpatient programs but tend to cost a bit more due to the increased level of care.

Pros

  • Balances the flexibility of outpatient and the intensiveness of inpatient
  • A more rigorous schedule may improve the chances of maintaining sobriety
  • Less expensive than inpatient and residential alcoholism treatment programs

Cons

  • Patients still may not have access to certain medications for treating certain alcohol withdrawals
  • Requires superior self-control since exposure to alcohol is possible outside of treatment sessions
  • May not include the variety of treatments and amenities of inpatient and residential alcohol rehabs

Is Treatment the Same as Therapy?

You may be under the impression that alcohol rehabilitation is just a glorified name for therapy. Maybe you’ve even heard that a professional alcoholism treatment program doesn’t offer anything that traditional therapy can’t provide.

Alcohol Addiction – How to Detox and Rehabilitate

However, the truth is that while there are similarities between the two, rehabilitation moves beyond just typical counseling and therapy. Instead, these programs provide a focused lens whereby your addiction to alcohol is the primary concern.

What’s more, during alcoholism treatment you’ll also undergo a variety of other treatments that can help support your long-term sobriety as well.

That being said, during your treatment for alcohol addiction you'll probably go through many different therapies throughout your program. The three most common types of therapy you'll likely experience are 1-on-1 counseling, group therapy, and behavioral therapy.

1-on-1 Counseling – One of the main pillars of treatment during alcohol rehabilitation is 1-on-1 counseling. It’s during this time that you’ll really get at the heart of your alcoholism as well as why you continue to fall into the cycle of addiction time and time again.

This type of treatment is especially critical in fostering healing because many people use their addictive tendencies as a way to self-medicate to treat the symptoms of past trauma.  

In fact, recent research has shown that one of the most common factors among addicts of all types is the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACES. One study, in particular, found that having an ACE score of 4 (i.e., 4 types of childhood trauma) increased the risk of alcoholism by a whopping 700%.

And while more research still needs to be done on the connection, it seems clear that emotional trauma can have a lasting impact on how you cope with stress and whether or not you’re at risk of developing alcoholism.

During your time in alcohol treatment, your 1-on-1 counseling sessions will help you examine these emotional traumas and any other source of your addiction that you may not have known about. Dealing with the root problem can make maintaining sobriety even easier in the future.

Group Therapy – Group therapy is another essential type of treatment you’ll likely experience during your alcohol rehabilitation.

In fact, group therapy is what most people think of when they imagine rehab. And for good reason – it’s a proven method of building a foundational support network, fostering social interaction, and working through one’s own issues relating to alcoholism.

And if there’s one thing that’s absolutely necessary for getting through alcohol treatment successfully and staying sober, it’s being emotionally and motivationally supported along the way. That’s what group therapy is for.

One of the most common forms of group therapy support is via 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. As you probably know, these groups are incredibly common and hold meetings thousands of times a year across the country.

Beyond that, though, 12-step groups are also driven by the core principle of sharing your story with others. And in doing so, you’re expanding your support network, discovering more about yourself and your addiction, and building self-worth by helping others.

With all of these benefits, it’s no wonder group therapy is such a common practice in alcoholism treatment.

Behavioral Therapy – Last but not least, your treatment program will also likely make use of many different behavioral therapies throughout treatment.

While counseling and group therapies help build confidence, understanding, and motivation, behavioral therapies deal with the more practical side of maintaining sobriety.

For instance, one of the most common behavioral therapies used today is called cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT teaches alcoholics to anticipate future problems and exerting self-control by engaging in a range of specific coping strategies to help prevent relapse.

The power of CBT comes from becoming aware of unconscious behavioral patterns that lead to alcohol abuse and using tools to prevent them entirely.

CBT is just one of many evidence-based behavioral therapies for alcoholism that you may encounter during your alcohol rehabilitation.

Your program may also use many other therapies to help you become better at exerting self-control and grabbing the reins of your addiction. Mindful meditation, for example, is common in many programs.

This practice helps patients become more acutely aware of the thought processes that they may not have even realized were happening. And once you recognize a problematic mode of thinking, you can work to change it effectively.

Are 12-Step Programs a Part of Treatment?

As we've seen, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous may, in fact, be a part of your alcoholism rehabilitation. Depending on your chosen treatment program, you may engage in some group therapy sessions that are guided by the same principles outlined in the AA 12 steps.

12 step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have become heavily scrutinized over the past few decades. Some people claim that such support groups are exclusionary and believe that to truly attain sobriety, you have to believe in the same religious principles that these groups were founded on.

However, many atheists and agnostics alikehave found these groups to be beneficial despite their spiritual appearance. In fact, members with differing spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) are encouraged to “pray” not necessarily to a god of any kind. Rather, they should think of a “power greater than themselves” more as the power of addiction, to love, or even to science.

The important part is acknowledging that you do in fact need help. And that without it, you can’t conquer your alcoholism on your own.

What Comes After Treatment?

While alcohol detoxification can help you cope with the overpowering alcohol withdrawals and alcoholism rehab can enable you to change your behaviors on a fundamental level, there’s still one more step in your recovery: aftercare.

Aftercare is an essential part of any comprehensive alcohol treatment program. Engaging in aftercare will help you maintain your sobriety once your main focus may have turned away from recovery.

Think about it: after you’ve spent a week or two in detox and a month in alcohol rehab, you may walk back into your daily life and feel like you’ve overcome your addiction. You may feel like you’ve put in enough work and that you’re finally cured. And that might lead you to drop your guard.

But over time, all the work you've done becomes more and more a thing of the past. And eventually, the lessons you've learned from treatment may float to the back of your mind rather than remained your main focus. When that happens, you're in danger of relapsing.

With aftercare programs like 12-step meetings or continuing therapy in an outpatient alcohol rehab program, you can keep your addiction in the forefront of your mind so you won’t end up slipping back into alcoholism.

So, while detoxification and rehabilitation are essential parts of any recovery program, attending an aftercare program can end up being just as important in avoiding relapse.

What Is Dual Diagnosis & Why Is It Important in Rehab?

The risk factors involved in developing an addiction aren’t fully understood today. But even though we don’t understand it entirely, we can see certain correlations that give us insight about who is at risk of developing an addiction.

One of the most noticeable factors is the existence of co-occurring mental disorders, also known as dual diagnosis. Research has shown that statistically, individuals who suffer from mental disorders like clinical depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or OCD are all at a much higher risk of developing an addiction at some point in their lives.

To give you some perspective, according to data from SAMHSA’s 2014 NSDUH, around 18.1% of the U.S. population (43.6 million) had some form of mental illness. Beyond that, 20.2 million U.S. adults met the clinical criteria for a substance abuse problem. But among that population, 7.9 million people (about 39%) had both a substance use disorder and a mental disorder.

As you can see, the rate of mental disorders among those with a substance use disorder is over twice as high.

So, why does this matter when it comes to alcoholism rehabilitation?

Well, addiction and mental disorder tend to feed off of one another because oftentimes the addiction is used to (effectively) treat the symptoms of the mental disorder. A depressed individual, for example, may drink to change their mood to something more socially acceptable or to forget about their disease for a time.

Likewise, an alcoholic may developmental disorders like depression or anxiety as a result of their substance abuse.

When it comes to treatment though, if someone with co-occurring disorders is only treated for their alcoholism, their untreated depression will likely send them spiraling back into substance abuse soon after they leave rehabilitation.

It's crucial, then, that you partner with a treatment center that is qualified to treat dual diagnosis. Not only will they be able to help you manage both your substance abuse and your mental disorder, but they'll also be able to identify disorders that you may not have even known you had in the first place.

What Is PAWS?

While most people think that the worst symptoms of alcohol withdrawal only occur during detoxification, the truth is that some people experience withdrawals long after they’ve detoxed completely.

In fact, some recovering alcoholics experience symptoms for weeks, months, or even years at a time. This especially extended period of withdrawal comes from a condition known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS.

Not all recovering alcoholics will go through PAWS. In fact, the phenomenon is only now becoming thoroughly documented, so the exact probability of developing the condition isn't known just yet.

However, researchers have been able to identify a core set of symptoms that typically occur among alcoholics experiencing PAWS. According to SAMHSA, these symptoms include:
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mood instability
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulties concentrating and thinking
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Unexplained physical pain
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Poor decision-making
  • Cravings
  • Anhedonia (lack of pleasure)

Over time, these symptoms will subside in most individuals. However, the persistence of these symptoms along with the especially extended duration can make it difficult to maintain long-term sobriety.

With the help of a professional alcohol rehab center though, the counselors, physicians, and staff members will help treat your protracted alcohol withdrawals with proven treatments and strategies to help reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Beyond that, you’ll also learn a variety of coping techniques and strategies that will give you the tools you need to deal with these symptoms long-term should they occur.

And finally, entering into an aftercare program following your alcoholism treatment will ensure that you get continuing care long after you’ve graduated from your alcohol rehabilitation program as well.

As with any other aspect of alcoholism, you can overcome PAWS with the right professional alcohol treatment on your side.

How Much Does Alcoholism Treatment Cost?

One of the biggest concerns for individuals seeking help for their alcoholism is whether or not they can afford the costs associated with rehabilitation. And it’s a legitimate worry – certain residential alcohol treatment centers may end up charging as much as tens of thousands of dollars per month of treatment.

However, most alcoholism treatment programs are far more affordable. Outpatient programs are typically the cheapest and can end up costing around $140 to $500 per week of treatment for a 3-month program. Inpatient alcohol rehabs tend to be a bit more, usually ranging from $400 to $900 per day.

But before you discount alcohol treatment too quickly, it’s important to remember a few points about alcoholism rehabilitation costs.

First, your treatment costs will depend on many different factors. The severity of your addiction, the duration of treatment, the services and amenities you use, and more all play a role. As a result, predicting your specific costs beforehand can be difficult.

Added to that, most if not all alcohol treatment centers will offer some flexible payment options to make rehabilitation more affordable. Monthly payment plans, financing options, and even sliding scale pricing might be available so don't be afraid to ask.

And finally, rehab programs of all kinds are typically covered (sometimes entirely) by insurance providers thanks to recent changes in U.S. healthcare legislature. As a result, you may end up paying little more than a simple copay for the entire duration of your treatment.

In the end, treatment for alcoholism has never been more affordable than it is today.

What Should You Look for In a Treatment Center?

Finding the right alcohol rehabilitation center to meet your particular needs can be tough. There are often so many options to choose from and sometimes being able to distinguish between them all can seem overwhelming.

However, it's critical that you find a facility that works for you. That’s why we’ve put together this list of questions you should be sure to ask when trying to decide on a particular alcohol rehab center.

After all, the more you know about a facility, the better able you’ll be to tell if it’s a good fit.

Is your alcohol treatment program inpatient, residential, outpatient, or intensive outpatient?

Is your staff qualified to treat continuing alcohol withdrawals?

Does your alcohol rehabilitation facility use evidence-based treatments?

How long does your program for treating alcoholism last?

What kinds of amenities does your program provide? Are they included in the final cost or do you pay for them as you use them?

Does your alcohol treatment include dual diagnosis treatment?

Can my family visit me during alcohol rehabilitation?

Are treatment plans individualized or is it more of a one-size-fits-all approach?

What is your staff-to-patient ratio?

The Role of Alcohol Rehab in Ensuring Long-term Sobriety

If you’re struggling with an addiction to alcohol, the absolute best way of getting sober for good is by checking into an alcohol rehab program.

When combined with a proper detox program to help you manage the worst of your alcohol withdrawals, rehabilitation can give you the tools and strategies you need to kick your drinking habit for good.

Alcoholism: America’s #1 Addiction

While there are a lot of different drugs on the market, alcohol addiction continues to outrank all the others as the most common form of substance abuse by far. In fact, over 6% of all U.S. adults meet the clinical criteria for alcoholism according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Here are a few more surprising statistics from the NIAAA about the abuse and effects of alcohol to help you put the problem into perspective.
  • An estimated 15.1 million adults struggle with alcohol addiction.
  • Only about 6.7% of alcoholics actually receive treatment in a given year.
  • An estimated 623,000 children aged 12 to 17 meet the criteria for being an alcoholic.
  • In 2015, 26.9% of people 18 and up reported binge drinking in the last month.
  • An estimated 88,000 U.S. citizens die from alcohol-related causes each year. It is the third leading preventable cause of death in the country after tobacco use and poor diet and physical inactivity.
  • Drunk driving causes almost one-third of all driving fatalities.
  • The economic burden of alcohol misuse in 2010 was estimated to be as high as $249 billion.

The reasons why addiction to alcohol is so widespread are pretty clear: it's readily available, socially acceptable and even expected, and it isn't too hard to get for those who are underage. In fact, more and more young people are starting to drink alcohol at younger ages than ever before.

And when it comes to Washington, alcohol addiction is just as rampant. Recent statistics indicate that:
  • Since 2004, heavy drinking by adults has gone up substantially in Washington while the remainder of the country has remained relatively steady.
  • Just under 1/5th of all high school students report being drunk at school sometime during the last year.
  • By the time they're seniors in high school, one out of five students already had an alcohol addiction.
  • Teens who start drinking by the age of 15 are four times more likely to have an alcohol addiction as adults.
  • Underage drinking costs the State of Washington almost $1.5 billion per year.
  • Students report an average of four days of drinking per month in Washington.
  • The drink of choice for most Washington students is hard liquor, rather than beer.

So, if you or someone you love is struggling with an alcohol problem, it’s important to realize that they are not alone. And with the help of a professional alcohol detoxification and rehab program, it is possible to get clean – permanently.

Let’s take a look at how these programs can help.

Sean Shares Her Story of Recovering From Alcoholism

While Sean was growing up, her relationship with her parents was quite rocky. Her father was distant, and her mother was a serious Catholic, and Sean did not agree with her religious beliefs. The result was that she grew more isolated. She started trying to “find herself” in music, and with her friends. Although she had a very difficult time keeping the same group of friends.

She had her first alcoholic drink in middle school. She was thirteen years old, and she was very excited to try it. Neither of her parents drank, so it was all very foreign to her. She would drink with her friends, and she was thrilled when it helped all her worries disappear.

Sean’s story is very similar to the one that others tell about their experiences with alcohol abuse. For her, alcoholism was a slippery slope, but fortunately, she got help to recover. She has now been sober for five years, and she is eager to share her story with the world.

Northpoint Washington’s Alcoholism Recovery Program

At Northpoint Washington, we know how difficult it can be for an alcoholic to admit that they need help. It is extremely difficult to stop drinking because of the way that addiction works in the brain.

We offer one of the best 28-day programs in the State of Washington, as well as in our entire region. That is because we believe that our patients need and deserve personalized attention during recovery.

All of our patients receive their own dedicated treatment plans. This ensures that they get the type of help that is right for them. They go through multiple types of counseling and therapy, and we use the most modern treatment methods.

We believe that most people need to begin recovering from alcoholism in an inpatient treatment center. That is mostly due to the dangerous nature of alcohol withdrawal, and the risk of delirium tremens and other serious symptoms. We offer a modernized inpatient facility that helps people feel right at home while they are getting treatment.

Many of our staff members are also addicts who have recovered from addictions. That gives them an advantage when it comes to treating our patients. They have the ability to understand what our patients are going through when they come to us for help. They can put them at ease, and relationship of trust is built almost immediately.

Our facility only has 22 beds, which may seem small for an alcohol rehab center. But a smaller patient population allows us to devote a lot of time to the people we serve. Our goal is to provide them with the support they need to be successful on a long-term basis.

When new patients come to us for help, they are often nervous because they do not know what to expect. The first step for recovery is to go through detox, which we discussed earlier. Everyone responds differently once they stop drinking, and delirium tremens can happen to anyone. Detoxing allows us to make the patient feel as safe as possible while relieving their withdrawal symptoms.

During rehab, therapy is the primary focus. Most of our patients spend about 21 days in rehabilitation. During that time, they will work with a therapist who will help to determine the cause of their addiction. They will also have group therapy, family therapy and other forms of treatment.

Once the program has been completed, the next step is to move on to aftercare. Our staff carefully and diligently makes arrangements for proper follow-up appointments. We always encourage our patients to keep these appointments because recovery is not accomplished when rehab is over. There is no cure for alcoholism, which means ongoing treatment is necessary.

Many of the patients we see are suffering from co-occurring disorders or cross addictions, or both. It is essential for them to get the help they need during rehab. If they do not, they will typically go back to drinking once their 28-day program is over.

As a refresher, a co-occurring disorder is a mental health condition that often coincides with substance abuse. A cross addiction occurs when a person is addicted to more than one drug. Attempting to treat just the alcoholism is an exercise in futility. Every issue surrounding the addiction must be addressed for the person to be successful.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Get More Information About Alcohol Addiction, Abuse, Detox and Rehab

Right now it may seem impossible to stop drinking and live a full and happy life. But we want to assure you that it is not. You can accomplish your goals, but you must first take the proper steps to recover from alcoholism.

Do you have questions about alcohol abuse or addiction? Do you need more information about detox and rehab? We are happy to help in any way that we can. Please contact us today.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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