Alcohol Treatment Options
Alcohol addiction remains one of the most common substance use disorders in the United States, with almost a quarter of the adult population meeting the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Fortunately, the amount of treatment options for alcohol addiction has increased significantly in recent years to help assist with this growing concern.
When it comes to finding a treatment program, there are a few questions that need to be asked to determine which path to recovery to take. Call a treatment provider to discuss all of your treatment options.
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What Is My Current Medical Condition?
What Exactly Am I Trying To Treat?
Is it strictly just alcohol or are there underlying mental health concerns or potentially even other substances as well? Knowing this upfront can ensure that all areas of concern are treated.
Can I Travel For Rehab?
What Are My Financial Options?
Having health insurance can make the process of finding a treatment center easier; however, it can still be a lengthy process finding one both in your network and within budget. There are programs for those without insurance, usually at the local state or county level that may have a waitlist to join.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin searching for a treatment center.
Choosing A Treatment Center
There are two primary options for alcohol addiction treatment: inpatient or outpatient care. Both options have their pros and cons, yet they both offer treatment that can be successful if approached correctly.
The risk of experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms increases the longer someone abuses alcohol. Due to this, most medical professionals will encourage an individual to seek medical care for alcohol detox, which may be done via inpatient settings such as hospitals or free-standing treatment centers designed for detoxification.
Inpatient rehab allows for round-the-clock care and personalized support from medical staff.
Generally, people prefer to complete their detoxification in a setting that includes 24-hour medical supervision that prevents any serious medical issues from developing.
Once the detox process is completed, the individual can live in residential treatment on-site in a substance-free location, typically for 30 to 90 days. Here they will learn more about recovery principles and receive proper care from psychiatric professionals, therapists, and other medical providers.
This will often include group therapy, individual therapy, medication management visits, case management services, and medical visits as needed. This level of treatment is often considered more “restrictive” due to living on-site with basic rules and guidelines of the facility.
Featured Centers Offering Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Outpatient detoxification programs are also available, depending on the severity of the medical symptoms or if withdrawal symptoms are absent. Outpatient settings often provide many of the same services that inpatient programs do, but with the flexibility to return home after treatment each day.
Outpatient settings are made up of day/night and intensive outpatient programs, which both provide excellent levels of care depending on the severity of an individual’s condition.
Outpatient services provide individuals an opportunity to continue living their lives while seeking treatment; however, they don’t provide the accountability or safety that a residential program can provide.
Typical Alcohol Addiction Treatment Experience
One of the more common treatment experiences includes completing an inpatient detox either at a local hospital or at a treatment center. Then, once the detoxification is completed, the individual transfers to a residential program at the facility or is referred to a local facility. Here, they often complete up to 30 days or longer of treatment, working on goals created with their medical team.
Once residential treatment is completed, many step down to outpatient levels of care to continue their recovery journey.
Every treatment process will be different for each individual based on their needs and abilities; however, most treatment journeys will involve either inpatient, outpatient, or a combination of both levels of care. Many people require inpatient detoxification from alcohol, and then some work to transition to an outpatient treatment program closer to home, choosing not to complete a residential setting beyond detox.
The best way to know what will work for someone’s specific situation is to be assessed by a qualified medical professional, who can then help explain the different options that may exist.
Alcohol Treatment Medications
Medical care for alcohol use disorder has improved through the years. Medications have become more sophisticated in treating both the physical and psychiatric needs of someone recovering from an alcohol use disorder.
There are a variety of factors when ending alcohol use that can impact how the body responds, including serious medical conditions such as seizures, hallucinations, and dehydration, among other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that require a medically supervised detox. To help manage this, a variety of medications are commonly used to maintain safety through the detox process.
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Benzodiazepines (Librium, Valium, Ativan, Etc.)
Benzodiazepines are the primary medication used for alcohol detoxification. This is because Benzodiazepines and alcohol are chemically similar in how they interact within the brain, which allows medical professionals to safely regulate the healing process when detoxing from alcohol. These medications assist with increased relaxation and sedation, like alcohol, while preventing risky medical conditions such as seizures from developing. Due to the high risk of addiction to Benzodiazepines, they are usually not offered past the detox stage.
Acamprosate is a medication that may be provided after detox has concluded safely. It assists with reducing cravings to drink alcohol by helping to regulate receptors in the brain impacted by alcohol use. It does not prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring if drinking continues.
Naltrexone is a medication that may be provided after detox has concluded safely. It functions by blocking the euphoric effects of intoxication from alcohol through binding with endorphin receptors in the brain. This medication can be taken as a daily pill or as a once-a-month injectable, called Vivitrol.
Disulfiram is a medication focused on relapse prevention by reducing the body’s ability to process alcohol, resulting in uncomfortable side effects such as nausea, headache, vomiting, and chest pains. This becomes a strong deterrent for continued alcohol use. Disulfiram is an older medication that is less frequently prescribed due to needing to take a daily pill, however, it can be effective under the right conditions.
This list is not exhaustive as other medications are useful for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. The clinical team at a treatment facility will work with each individual to determine which medications may be appropriate for them.
Developing An Aftercare Plan
While entering and completing a treatment program are the core parts of treatment for alcohol use disorder, ensuring one has a solid aftercare plan is highly recommended.
An aftercare plan is a preplanned guide for the next steps in early recovery. This plan is often created by the individual and their clinical team, which usually includes their medical providers and counselors to ensure that all needs are being met after leaving treatment.
Since recovery is a long-term journey, having a guide for managing the various needs in one’s life can help reduce the risk of relapse occurring. Some examples of aftercare planning include:
Peer Support Services
Having continued support from others who understand recovery can be essential in early recovery. 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are examples of long-term peer support programs that are available just about everywhere across the country.
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Professional Support Services
Having a counselor and psychiatrist can sometimes make all the difference while recovering from an alcohol use disorder, so it is highly encouraged to continue seeing them after completing treatment. Continuing medication management and therapy services for abstinence can play an important role in long-term recovery.
Relapse Prevention Plan
A relapse prevention plan includes learning what one’s triggers are and how to safely manage them. This is an important tool in anyone’s treatment plan and will often need to be worked on continually as new triggers are identified.
This part of aftercare addressees the environment one is in, including sobriety. If people are actively drinking at the home, it can be difficult to maintain recovery. This aspect of the plan may review different living options, employment needs, and reviewing who is supportive of the recovery process in their social network.
Common Questions About Rehab
Find Treatment Options Today
If you or someone you care about is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to know where to start. However, knowing that there are many treatment options for alcohol use disorder available can help motivate you to take the next step.
The next step in taking control of your life or helping someone you care about is by deciding to act today. Contact a treatment provider today to learn more about treatment options that can be the solution you need.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience