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.
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).
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.
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.
Alcohol rehabilitation and detoxification are two of the main components of an alcoholism treatment program. They provide services, medications, and expert guidance that will enable you to get through the incredibly uncomfortable process of giving up alcohol permanently.
In most cases, partnering with a professional alcohol treatment program will ensure you have the absolute best chances of staying sober for good.
But there’s more to them than that – the withdrawals from alcohol addiction can actually be life-threatening in some cases. And without the support of professional help during this time, you might actually be risking your life.
Alcohol Detoxification Programs – Your alcohol treatment timeline will begin with an alcohol detox program. This stage is when you first abstain from drinking and let your body readjust to life without the constant influence of beer, wine, or liquor.
During this stage, you’ll likely go through what are known as withdrawals – especially uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, fatigue, tremors, and increased heart rate. The main focus of an alcohol detoxification program is to keep you comfortable and safe while it goes through these withdrawals and flushes out the toxins that your addiction has created.
Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs – This is the second stage of alcohol addiction treatment. Once your detox is complete, you’ll likely need to check into a rehabilitation center. While detoxification helped heal the body from your alcoholism, rehab is more about healing the mind.
Here you’ll undergo intensive one-on-one counseling, group therapy, numerous behavioral therapy treatments, and many other activities. While they will each tackle a specific aspect of your addiction individually, they combine to help you learn how to restructure the way you think, give you a better perspective on your addiction, and get to the heart of your addiction.
Over your months, years, or even decades of being addicted to alcohol, your body has changed in some pretty fundamental ways.
You’ve likely built up a substantial tolerance to drinking, have experienced a number of physical changes (weight changes, broken capillaries, poor hygiene, etc.), and you might even be suffering from internal organ damage thanks to alcohol’s inherent toxicity.
And for some of the problems associated with alcoholism, detox alone may be enough to reverse them. But an addiction to alcohol isn’t just about physical dependency. In fact, as the National Institutes on Drug Abuse point out, addiction is about more than just being physically hooked on a drug.
It’s about being mentally hooked.
Addiction is defined as "a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences." That means that alcoholics find themselves absolutely unable to stop drinking – it’s compulsive.
Scientists have been researching exactly why it’s so hard for an alcoholic to quit. And using brain imaging scans and studies, they’ve found that physical changes in the brain occur in areas that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control.
Addiction, then, essentially rewires your brain so that you can’t stop using and regain control of your life. At least not without help.
Alcohol rehabilitation focuses on teaching you ways to reverse those changes or to compensate for them so that you can stay sober. Beyond that, it can teach you ways to identify potential triggers, show you how to cope with cravings, and ultimately give you back a bit more self-control.
And without professional rehab for alcoholism, you don’t stand much of a chance at long-term sobriety. In fact, even detox alone does little to change substance abuse in the long run.
So, whether you’re just getting out of alcohol detox or you’re thinking of kicking your alcohol problem on your own, the truth is that in either case you still need to check into alcohol rehabilitation.
It doesn't take long for alcohol dependence to develop. It’s available everywhere you go, and most people see it as a way to relax or unwind on the weekend, or after a long day at work. The issue is that so many people turn to this substance of abuse for solace during difficult times in their lives, or they think of it as something to celebrate with while they're with their friends.
And at first, alcohol has a lot of positive feelings associated with it. Students like it because they feel it gives them more confidence and perhaps helps them enjoy fun times with their peer groups. For adults, it can be a source of relaxation, and it often provides comfort during tumultuous moments in their lives.
Both instances, however, are breeding grounds for addiction, and once that dependency takes hold, it's very difficult (if not impossible) to overcome on your own.
But beyond just the physical dependency of alcoholism is the much more powerful psychological aspect to addiction.
Once you use alcohol so often that it becomes linked to other situations (e.g., going out with friends, recovering from a long day, numbing emotional pain), the brain gets used to these associations. And every single time you abuse it in that same way, the association gets stronger and stronger.
Eventually, your brain becomes absolutely dependent on alcohol in order to function normally in these situations. And if you don’t have it, you begin to crave it.
And when you’ve lost all self-control and can’t fight off those cravings anymore, that’s when you’ve truly become an alcoholic.
Overcoming alcoholism on your own can be incredibly difficult.
That’s because alcoholism, like other forms of substance abuse, often brings with it denial – denial that you have a problem, denial that your life is falling apart, and denial above all else that you’ve completely lost control.
To put it into perspective just how common denial is among alcoholics, SAMHSA found that almost 14 million Americans met the clinical criteria for needing alcohol use treatment but didn’t end up receiving it. Around 1.4% of them tried to get treatment while 1.9% knew they had a problem but didn’t do anything about it.
However, an astounding 96.7% of addicts who needed help simply didn’t think they had a problem. That’s 13.5 million alcoholics who were in complete denial about their addiction.
Part of what’s at play here is the fact that addiction essentially rewires your brain to become an alcohol-seeking machine. Your substance abuse becomes compulsive, overwhelming, and devours nearly every aspect of your life.
And when an alcohol-seeking machine like the addicted brain is confronted with the possibility of giving up the one thing it craves the most, it simply refuses to acknowledge the truth – that your drinking has actually become a problem.
Learning how to spot the signs of alcohol abuse in friends or loved ones is the first step in getting them the help they need. After all, since denial is so common among addicts, it might take someone they care about intervening to finally help them realize they have a problem.
Spotting the signs of alcoholism in others can be difficult to be sure. But it’s even harder to admit that you’re the one with the problem. And in many cases, you’re actually usually the last one to know.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find out by yourself if you’re an alcoholic. It just takes looking at your behaviors objectively. And there are a number of resources available to help you determine just that.
Short Online Alcoholism Quiz – One of the easiest ways to get a read on whether your abuse has turned into an alcohol addiction is by taking a quick online alcoholism quiz.
This questionnaire doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete, gives you your results right away, and can end up being the first push you need to really start seeing your alcohol use for the addiction it really is.
NIDA’s Online Screening Tools – The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a number of self-assessment tools that are open to the public. The majority of them are free to use while there are more comprehensive options that you can use for a small fee.
The list of tools is long so there’s bound to be something for everyone here – whether you just have a few minutes to spare or you’d rather take a deeper dive into your alcohol addiction.
The DSM-V Addiction Criteria – Used by professional physicians and psychiatrists all over the world, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders offers a clinical approach to diagnosing your addiction to alcohol.
It consists of 11 different scenarios. If you have experienced more than two of these scenarios in the past year, you likely have an alcohol abuse problem.
A Professional Alcoholism Assessment – And finally, you can also contact an addiction treatment facility directly for a free professional consultation. These assessments usually only take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and they're 100% free of charge and require no obligation.
This is the best method for getting your specific questions answered and receiving personalized advice that matches your unique situation.
The majority of your symptoms of alcohol withdrawals are going to happen during the detoxification phase. It’s here that your body is first going trying to reverse the physical changes that have occurred as a result of your alcoholism. And as a result, detox is also when these symptoms are the most severe.
According to MedlinePlus, you’ll likely start experiencing some of the alcohol withdrawals around 8 hours after your last drink. However, everyone’s recovery process is a bit different, so some people may start feeling the symptoms days later.
They most certainly can be. In fact, alcohol is one of the only three substances of abuse that has withdrawal symptoms that can be a direct threat to your life.
For alcohol, the problem comes from a condition known as delirium tremens, also called the DTs. This severe form of alcohol withdrawal can lead to symptoms like:
But most importantly, the DTs can also cause grand mal seizures which can have lethal consequences. Besides the physical risks that come with falling during these seizures, they can also lead to permanent brain damage, coma, and even death.
Anywhere from 5 to 25% of patients exhibiting signs of the DTs will die from complications brought on by the condition in fact.
In the end, it’s just one more reason why alcohol detox at home is not only a terrible idea, it can actually end up being fatal.
One of the biggest threats of going through withdrawal from alcohol is the risk of potentially fatal seizures.
These seizures are brought on by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain as your body readjusts to life without drinking.
To explain, alcohol enhances the potency of one brain chemical in particular called GABA. It's this neurotransmitter that calms the brain down, resulting in tranquility, sedation, and fewer inhibitions.
Over time, though, the mind boosts the power of another chemical called glutamate to counteract the stronger GABA. And the more addicted you become, the more your body strengthens that glutamate.
The problem happens when you go through alcohol withdrawal. Right when you quit, your GABA levels go back to normal (since it was the alcohol that made them stronger). However, your glutamate takes a bit longer to drop down to safe levels. And this imbalance (stronger glutamate, weaker GABA) launches the brain into a flurry of electrical activity and possibly seizures.
These seizures are most often seen in individuals who are going through delirium tremens, but they can also occur in individuals who aren’t showing other symptoms.
In fact, these seizures usually happen before the most noticeable signs of the DTs show up. According to the NIAAA, delirium tremens tends to develop anywhere from 1 to 4 days after your last drink. The overwhelming majority of seizures, on the other hand, happen during the first 48 hours – around 90% of them in fact.
That being said, just because you got through alcohol detox and the first two days of treatment without experiencing a seizure doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Studies have actually shown that individuals can still go through alcohol withdrawal seizures up to 20 days after quitting.
And if you decide to skip rehab, that means you’re still at risk after detoxing!
While you’ll experience most of your symptoms of alcohol withdrawal during the detox phase, some of these side effects will carry over well into alcoholism rehab.
In most cases, the symptoms that do show up during rehabilitation are the psychological ones – depression, anxiety, cravings, etc. Your time in a professional alcohol treatment program will help you cope with these symptoms and even shorten their duration.
For some, though, they may experience these symptoms for weeks, months, and even years at a time.
This is what’s known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the symptoms of PAWS may include:
And as you might expect, experiencing these symptoms for weeks and months on end can be disheartening and even debilitating, making it even easier for recovering addicts to turn back to drinking again.
For individuals with PAWS, it’s especially important that they receive the proper care that a professional rehab for alcoholism program can offer. These programs can give you invaluable information and tools to combat the symptoms of PAWS and even shorten their duration in some cases.
It’s just one more reason why rehab is so essential.
There are a lot of reasons why it's much better for you to participate in a professional alcohol rehab program rather than trying to stop drinking on your own. It's easy to underestimate the power of an alcohol addiction because most people associate addiction with substances that are illegal for the general population.
However, thousands of people die every year from alcohol poisoning, mixing it with other drugs, or because they have made a poor decision while drinking, such as getting behind the wheel of a car. The risks of death due to alcohol abuse are very real, and as we’ve seen, it can be a deadly addiction to kick when you try to go cold turkey.
Going to a professional alcohol rehab center allows you to take advantage of some of the best treatment options out there for recovering from alcohol addiction. The best treatment program will offer a variety of methods for treating this dangerous substance use disorder. Some of these treatments may include:
Nutritional Therapy – When you're addicted to alcohol, chances are pretty good that it's been a while since you've paid close attention to your nutritional needs. It's possible that because you drink so regularly that you've lost touch with what your own body's hunger cues are. This is quite typical for anyone who battles an addiction on a daily basis.
With alcoholics especially, the problem with nutrition can be quite pronounced. Many severe alcoholics will skip several meals in a day in favor of drinking more. This practice is what's called a "liquid lunch," and it can lead to some serious nutritional deficiencies.
When you're eating enough food, and you're eating the right kinds of food, you're giving your body what it needs to perform at its best. And when you’re in recovery, following a nutrition-rich meal plan can give your body the fuel it needs to power through the worst of times and recover from years of abuse.
Regular Exercise – Exercise is good for the heart, and drinking alcohol every day has probably done your heart quite a bit of damage. While you might not be able to do much at first, getting started with a physical fitness program slowly can help you get back into the swing of moving your body. Also, as you sweat, more toxins from the alcohol will leave your body.
But there’s more to it than that. Exercise has also been proven to be one of the best ways of naturally boosting your brain's serotonin levels and releasing endorphins throughout your body. And that can mean some serious benefits for your mental health.
Anxiety, depression, stress, and even conditions like ADHD and PTSD can all become much more manageable with proper exercise. And given that many of these mental disorders are common among recovering alcoholics, exercise is a vital part of any quality rehabilitation program.
Counseling – Most people become addicted to alcohol because they're using it to cover up pain. For many of them, it's because of some type of traumatic event they've gone through, and some people don't even really know what that event was.
In many cases, the culprit is adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs. Studies have shown that individuals with ACEs in their past are two to four times more likely to abuse substances than individuals with no childhood traumas.
Counseling can help to shed some light on that pain, and it will bring it up in a way that you can deal with it and heal from it. Your counselor will also work with you to come up with other coping strategies you can use instead of turning to alcohol when you're facing problems.
Group Meetings – You've probably heard of 12 Step Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. That's because it's one of the most popular methods of alcohol treatment in the country. The 12 Step Program has been used for decades because it works so well and one of the core components is making group talk an essential part of therapy.
At first, talking with a group of strangers about your alcohol addiction can seem very strange and unnatural. However, once you realize how vital it is to receive the support of your peers while you heal, you'll be thankful that this treatment was a part of your plan.
Group talk sessions work because they help give you a bit more perspective on what addiction is like. Added to that, these sessions are a great source of social and motivational support during your recovery. And that can mean a lot.
Behavioral Therapy – During your time in alcohol rehabilitation, you’ll also likely undergo some type of behavioral therapy as well. While counseling can help you get to the core of your addiction and group talk can put your addiction into perspective, behavioral therapies give you the tools and strategies you need to overcome your addictive behaviors.
One of the most common types of these therapies is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT. This therapy focuses on helping you identify and correct problem behaviors that often end up leading to alcohol abuse. It also teaches recovering alcoholics proven coping strategies that can help during especially high-risk situations.
You may also go through other types of behavioral therapy during alcohol rehab as well. Classes on yoga, mindful meditation, and even art therapy can all be quite effective in calming your racing mind during recovery and staying on the path to sobriety.
For some addicts going through recovery, it might be tempting to think that even if they do end up relapsing, they can just keep trying over and over again. Maybe they weren’t really ready to quit this time. Or perhaps other life stressors made it harder to quit than they anticipated, and they can try again once other parts of their lives have calmed down.
This is a dangerous way of thinking. Not only is it setting you up for failure immediately, but it's also not taking into account what's known as the Kindling Effect.
According to the NIAAA, the Kindling Effect is described as the tendency for alcohol withdrawals to become increasingly worse with each relapse. As a result, someone who has gone through rehab multiple times will have much more painful withdrawals than if it was their first time.
In fact, the Kindling Effect also increases the likelihood of developing life-threatening alcohol withdrawals like seizures and delirium tremens as well.
All this adds up to one simple fact: if you’re trying to quit alcohol, you need to make sure you’re going all in and using only the most effective method possible – professional alcoholism rehabilitation.
There are a lot of different options for alcohol rehab programs. Some people prefer outpatient treatment, mostly because they go to school or they work full-time jobs. Others have families that make it impossible to get help without an outpatient treatment option.
And still, knowing how to choose which program is right for you can be quite difficult if you don’t know what the differences between these rehab programs really are.
Below are the four main types of alcoholism rehabilitation programs available: inpatient, executive residential, outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Each of these programs has their own benefits and their own detriments, which is why it's so important to know what's involved in each.
Inpatient treatment comes with a support system built in, and the staff there are ready to assist you at a moment's notice. That’s because these programs usually operate on a closed campus, meaning you’ll eat, sleep, and spend your entire day within the program.
An inpatient program also offers a much more intensive treatment protocol. You'll undergo much more extensive therapies, and you'll also have access to support staff all hours of the day. And that can be truly lifesaving for people who are going through particularly severe alcohol withdrawal.
In addition to more extensive treatment and support from staff, inpatient rehab for alcoholism also limits alcohol exposure for former addicts since it’s a dry campus. And even though someone may think they’d be able to abstain when confronted with temptation, many people find that being physically blocked off from coming into contact with alcohol is one of the best relapse prevention strategies.
An inpatient program will usually last for around 28 days in most cases. However, during this time patients usually won’t be able to attend to daily obligations like a job, schooling, or even certain family activities. And that can make choosing inpatient a bit harder for some.
However, it's been shown that this method of alcohol addiction treatment is generally the preferred method by experts and former patients alike, especially when addiction is quite severe.
A type of inpatient treatment program, an executive residential alcohol rehab is usually much longer in duration and offers much more luxurious amenities.
These programs can end up lasting for several months at a time up to even a year. Added to that, they may also provide their patients with private living quarters, gourmet meals, and even spa services like facials and massages.
And while longer treatment programs are often considered to be more effective than shorter ones, an executive residential rehabilitation for alcohol can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars per month – a price that’s far out of range for many.
Outpatient programs provide flexibility where inpatient programs can’t. Patients in this type of treatment will often attend sessions several times a week for a few hours at a time. This, of course, let’s them maintain their career, go to classes, and keep up with family activities as well.
However, it can be incredibly difficult for some not to give in to the temptation to simply go out and buy a few bottles of alcohol. And in an outpatient program, there’s no one to stop you from doing so. When you choose an outpatient alcohol rehab program, then, it's essential for you to have a strong support system at home to help you stay on the right track. Not everyone has that.
An outpatient program will usually last for several months at a time.
Similar to a regular outpatient program, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) offers flexible treatment sessions that generally happen just a few times a week.
In an IOP, however, these sessions will generally last for a bit longer than just a few hours. Added to that, they may happen more frequently as well – perhaps four times a week rather than two.
This is a great option for anyone who thinks they need a bit of extra recovery help but just can’t afford to take off the time necessary to attend an inpatient alcohol rehab program.
According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost one-third of addicts seeking treatment didn’t get the help they needed because they weren’t able to afford the costs.
However, alcohol rehabilitation services have actually become cheaper than ever before. In fact, The Affordable Care Act has set certain requirements in place that have changed the way insurance companies cover alcohol treatment. The way the current law states, anyone who is in need of alcohol rehab will have insurance benefits to help pay for it.
Not all insurance companies cover alcohol addiction treatment in full, but many of them do. Those that don't generally only require a minimal copayment amount to cover the rest.
This law means that anyone who has health insurance can get the help they need for their alcohol addictions. It's a wonderful benefit, and it has made alcohol rehab available to those who were not able to get help previously.
Added to that, many alcohol addiction centers will also offer flexible payment options to make it even easier for you to afford the treatment you need. Monthly payment plans, sliding scale costs, and even financing options are all widely available.
In the end, rehab for alcoholism has never been more affordable than it is today. And that means this is bar none the best time to finally get the treatment you need to kick your addiction for good.
If you have health insurance, it's possible that you never really looked into finding out what your benefits offer as far as coverage for alcohol rehab. Don't worry. You don't have to concern yourself with finding out about your benefits on your own.
All you need to do is verify your insurance with this handy form.
Or you can contact Northpoint Washington directly. We will gladly talk with you about your insurance and even talk with your insurance company to fully understand your benefits.
You’ll also receive a professional recommendation for treatment once you speak with one of our addiction specialists. That person will take down information about your addiction history and then contact your insurance company. We’ll let you know exactly how much you will need to pay for our services. It really does help to have that information, and it will allow you to start making the necessary plans and arrangements so that you can get treatment much sooner.
Here at Northpoint Washington, it is a pleasure for us to be able to provide alcohol rehab services to the people of Washington State. Our professional staff is determined to help you through each step of the process, and we'll give you the unconditional support you need from the beginning of your alcohol treatment to the end.
If you're struggling with alcoholism, the most important thing you can do is to reach out for help. No one should have to feel as though they're trapped in addiction, and if that's the way you feel right now, we want to encourage you to contact us. Sobriety is possible, and we can help.
We're confident that you'll find Northpoint Washington to be the place you've been looking for to finally help you recover from alcohol addiction. To start your recovery, contact us today.
Our facilities currently open for services:
Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Boise, Idaho.
Our National Medical Detox and Inpatient Addiction Facility.
Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Washington State.