Understanding Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Misinformation about alcohol addiction and treatment is widespread. Getting the facts goes a long way toward overcoming the barriers that individuals may face as they seek help for their alcohol problem. Those who do seek treatment will start their time in detox before advancing through an individualized rehab program and ultimately maintaining long-term sobriety with the help of an aftercare program.

This alcohol addiction resource is designed to help you understand what to expect from alcohol treatment, what the full scope of potential health consequences are and how to protect your family from the toxic nature of alcoholism.

What Are the Dangers of Alcohol Abuse and Withdrawals?

A binge-drinking episode can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, anxiety, trembling and possibly hallucinations. These symptoms usually begin six to eight hours after the last drink. Of course, someone who routinely drinks will require more of the substance to feel buzzed or drunk, and drinking heavily and frequently can lead to dependence.

Alcohol can even cause some life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. People who routinely abuse the substance may experience the following dangerous symptoms during acute withdrawal:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Overwhelming sense of fear
  • Seizures
  • Extremely high blood pressure

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?

Alcohol dependence leads to major changes in the body’s chemistry. Eventually, an individual who abuses alcohol needs to keep drinking to simply stabilize their mental faculties and stave off severe physical symptoms like vomiting, physical pain, and shakes.

In worst-case scenarios, the body will shut down without alcohol present, putting a person at risk for death if they are cut off from drinking without medical supervision. That’s why the detox process is so important.

During professional detox treatment, patients undergo medically supervision. This may involve taking medication to get through their withdrawal symptoms safely, and the start of therapy to help them stop drinking for good.

The acute withdrawal process range in length anywhere from three to 10 days. Several factors determine how long an individual will stay in detox before moving on to a recovery program. These factors include:

  • Diet and fitness
  • Mental health
  • Pre-existing complications
  • Current medical prescriptions
  • Illegal drug use
  • How long and heavily the individual has been drinking

Keep in mind that post-acute withdrawal symptoms may sporadically arise for several months to one year after the initial withdrawal phase.

In some cases, severe or deadly withdrawal symptoms can set in within a few hours of an individual’s last drink. That’s why it’s wise for families to make arrangements for detox and treatment before confronting a loved one about their substance abuse problem.

What Do I Need in an Alcohol Treatment Program?

The types of therapies, accommodations and amenities available in a recovery treatment center will vary widely from facility to facility, so families are encouraged to perform a thorough search before committing to one program.

Generally speaking, however, alcohol recovery treatment programs will offer some combination of the following benefits:

  • Individual therapy with a counselor
  • Group therapy with fellow patients
  • Education on addiction, alcohol’s impact on the body, healthy relationships, etc.
  • Workshops dedicated to addressing and avoiding addiction “triggers”
  • Therapy sessions incorporating family members
  • Life skills training

Through this mixture of therapies, good nutrition and abstinence from alcohol, individuals can replenish their strength, both mentally and physically.

How Long Does Alcohol Treatment Take?

Similar to the detox process, how long an individual needs in formal rehabilitation varies from person to person. Thankfully, there are many program lengths available among rehab facilities across the country.
Patients can expect most programs to fall within one of the following categories:

30 Days or Fewer

Programs that last a month or less are the most common. Many individuals prefer these programs because it allows them to get back to their lives or into a more flexible outpatient program as quickly as possible. These programs are most often covered by health insurance plans.

60 to 90 Days

Many studies show that seeking treatment for up to 90 days can actually improve a person’s chances for making a full recovery. Likewise, patients dealing with an extended detox process, co-occurring mental health issues and other unique circumstances may be better off taking their time during the recovery process. The more education and practice they receive during treatment, the more prepared they will feel as they transition back into their regular lives.

120 Days and Beyond

There are times where patients seek treatment beyond the three-month period. This approach works for many, but spending such an extensive amount of time in a dedicated rehab program may be cost-prohibitive. That’s why most begin an aftercare program and move home rather than continue living in an inpatient facility or sober home after 90 days.