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Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Rehab Programs, Insurance Coverage, & Starting Treatment

Alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a medical condition in which a person cannot control or stop consuming alcohol even when it negatively impacts their life in major areas such as their occupation, relationships, or health.1

Depending on the number of symptoms present, alcohol addiction can range from mild, moderate, to severe.1 Given that alcohol misuse is a public health concern—over 14 million adults struggle with alcohol addiction—alcohol rehab can be a vital component in helping people achieve and maintain recovery.2

This article will cover topics about alcohol addiction treatment including alcohol rehab settings, medication and behavioral therapy for alcohol addiction, the admissions process, and how to find an alcohol rehab center.

Rehab Options for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Treatment of alcohol use disorder should be tailored to a person’s unique needs and treatment goals.1 Both inpatient and outpatient treatment settings can provide therapeutic support and medical oversight to those recovering from alcohol addiction at varying levels of intensity.1

Inpatient or residential treatment entails living in the facility, unlike outpatient treatment, where a person lives at home and then travels to an outpatient clinic for treatment.2

Neither inpatient nor outpatient is better than the other. However, one alcohol addiction treatment setting may be more clinically appropriate depending on the severity of the AUD, whether a person’s living environment supports their recovery, and other factors.8

Medical Detox for Alcohol Addiction

Detoxification from alcohol is the process by which the body is cleared of alcohol. It can be accompanied by uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures.3, 7 Suddenly stopping drinking after prolonged periods of alcohol use can be fatal if a person experiences severe withdrawal symptoms and doesn’t receive treatment.  Therefore, anyone who is at risk of experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms should contact a doctor before they abruptly quit drinking or significantly reduce the amount they drink.7

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:3

  • Hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system (e.g., heart palpitations, increased heart rate, or sweating).
  • Increased hand tremor.
  • Insomnia.
  • Stomach upset, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations.
  • Psychomotor agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Seizures.

The symptoms above can sometimes, although rarely, progress to a severe, potentially life-threatening medical condition associated with alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens (DTs). This condition is characterized by:3

  • Severe autonomic hyperactivity, including significant elevations in pulse rate, increased tremors, profuse sweating, and high fever.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Agitation and marked psychomotor activity.
  • Profound confusion and disorientation.

Undergoing alcohol withdrawal in a controlled environment like a treatment facility or detox center can be critical to one’s safety after a person quits drinking following sustained heavy alcohol misuse.7 Detoxing at home or quitting cold turkey can be extremely dangerous for anyone at risk of experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. A person’s withdrawal symptoms can be safely monitored and managed with medication and other necessary interventions in a hospital or appropriately equipped alcohol detox center.7

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

After completing an alcohol detox program, a person may transition into inpatient alcohol rehab treatment. Inpatient rehab typically entails living in an alcohol rehab facility for 30, 60, 90 days, or longer, depending on the program and level of care needed.2

Although programs vary, inpatient programs typically offer:1, 2

  • Detox services.
  • Individual or group behavioral therapy.
  • Mutual support groups.
  • Treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Medication management.
  • Various amenities and alternative therapies like yoga or art therapy.

It may be beneficial to inquire about these services before entering a particular alcohol addiction treatment program.2

Inpatient care can be beneficial for anyone needing close supervision.1 When living in a treatment facility, people are typically monitored day and night. This intensive approach may prove helpful for those struggling to maintain abstinence while living on their own, who have co-occurring mental health disorders or medical issues, or with more severe addictions.8

Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Outpatient alcohol rehab typically offers the same treatment interventions as inpatient rehab. The main difference between inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab is that outpatient enables people to live at home or off-site (e.g., recovery housing) during treatment.1 Like inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment may offer:1

  • Detox services.
  • Individual or group behavioral therapy.
  • Mutual support groups.
  • Treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Medication management.
  • Various amenities and alternative therapies like yoga or art therapy.

It is important to ask about mental health treatment if a person is experiencing co-occurring mental health conditions. Some outpatient rehab programs may be equipped for mental health disorders that co-occur with addiction as part of their offerings, while others may partner with other facilities or mental health providers such as a psychiatrist to coordinate integrated care.2

When a doctor or healthcare professional assesses a person with AUD, they may find outpatient care to be clinically appropriate given the individual’s needs.1, 8 Others may transition into outpatient treatment after completing an inpatient alcohol rehab program, but still need support in maintaining recovery.

Length of treatment in outpatient rehab programs will depend on the level of care a person needs and other factors like insurance and cost.2, 8

Aftercare for Alcohol Rehab

Aftercare for alcohol rehab takes place after the conclusion of inpatient or outpatient treatment. Continued treatment can help people maintain the skills they learned in rehab, remain consistent with their goals, and help prevent future relapses.4 They may also help people sustain progress made during treatment.4

Aftercare treatment can include several approaches including:4

  • Mutual-support groups.
  • Counseling sessions.
  • Behavioral therapy.
  • Case management.
  • Ongoing psychiatric care.

Mutual help groups, such as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, can encourage social support, keep people connected to others who are in recovery and promote recovery from AUD in general.4

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Medications

There are currently 3 FDA-approved medications available to assist in the treatment of alcohol use disorder.2 These medications are non-addictive, help facilitate the cessation of alcohol use, and may deter relapse.2 Alcohol treatment medications include:5

  • Naltrexone is a medication that helps people who have been unable to abstain from alcohol by serving as a deterrent to heavy drinking. It can be taken either orally daily or monthly through an extended-release injection. Naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that are involved in the pleasurable, rewarding effects of ingesting alcohol, as well as alcohol cravings.
  • Disulfiram is a daily medication that curtails heavy alcohol consumption by producing unpleasant physical reactions (vomiting, nausea, heart palpitations, and flushing of the skin) after drinking alcohol. It can help people who want a state of enforced abstinence while allowing them to engage in other forms of treatment (support groups, psychotherapy, etc.).
  • Acamprosate is a medication taken three times daily and can help maintain abstinence for those with alcohol dependence who are abstinent when treatment begins.

Alcohol treatment medications can be helpful for people trying to maintain abstinence and prevent relapse, especially when combined with behavioral therapy and social support, such as mutual support groups.5

Behavioral Therapy for Treating Alcohol Addiction

Behavioral therapy is a commonly used therapeutic intervention for treating alcohol addiction.6 Behavioral therapy promotes behavioral change by enhancing motivation and changing a person’s thoughts and attitudes about substance use, identifying triggers, and recognizing their pattern of addiction so that they can turn toward healthier habits and activities that don’t involve alcohol. Behavioral therapy can help people:6

  • Better understand their alcohol addiction.
  • Attain valuable life skills like learning how to handle stress.
  • Connect with others who understand their situation.
  • Develop healthy, alternative coping skills.
  • Gain motivation to change.
  • Be more open to treatment and recovery.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is perhaps the most common behavioral therapy in the treatment of AUD.6 The premise of CBT is that thoughts, feelings, and actions are all interconnected. If a person can modify unhelpful thought patterns, they may be able to change the way they feel and, subsequently, how they behave.6 This therapeutic approach can be applied directly to alcohol use and relapse prevention.6

Group and family therapy also can be vital components of alcohol addiction recovery. Both modalities can encourage interpersonal effectiveness, increase support systems, and improve relationships among peers and family members.2 With practice and ongoing support, enhanced interpersonal skills can help people in recovery improve their relationships—be it with family, friends, spouses, peers, or colleagues—over time.

Alcohol Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention techniques like therapy, counseling, support groups, and medication may help a person remain abstinent from alcohol. Therapy can help a person identify triggers to use and create appropriate coping strategies.6 These triggers can be internal, such as an unpleasant feeling, or external, such as time of day, people, places, or things.6 Behavioral therapy like CBT may be a part of a relapse prevention program.

Alcohol Rehab Admissions

If a person is ready to get help for alcohol misuse or AUD, they can reach out to their doctor, a trusted friend or loved one, or a treatment facility like American Addiction Centers by calling . Our caring staff can answer questions about treatment facilities and help find the right program for you.

When contacting treatment facilities, the admissions department will ask for information like a person’s name, date of birth, health insurance information, and what motivated the person to call the facility. They may then set up an intake appointment, where an admissions coordinator will get more information about a person’s history. This information may be reviewed by the program’s clinical team to help determine the appropriate level of care.

Finding an Alcohol Rehab

When choosing an alcohol rehab, various factors will be considered like cost, location, facility accreditations, and specialty programs. Taking the time to research facilities prior to admission can help a person choose the treatment that meets their needs and budget.2

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