Alcoholism, known clinically as alcohol use disorder, is a medical condition that drives unhealthy use of alcohol. This disorder impacts millions of Americans and requires professional treatment to beat. Because alcohol is so readily available and there are social pressures encouraging its use, those who wish to stop using the substance must be prepared to work hard to remain in recovery for life. The first step on the road to a healthier life is alcohol treatment at a rehabilitation center.
Do I Need Help?
It can be difficult to determine if someone is suffering from alcohol use disorder, problem drinking, or is just drinking in a normal and healthy manner. In the past, alcoholism was thought of in terms of the amount drank and the frequency with which the user drank; if someone drank excessive amounts frequently, they were an alcoholic and in need of alcohol rehab.
Now, the way in which alcohol use disorder is framed means being an alcoholic has less to do with how much and how often a person drinks and more to do with their relationship to alcohol. This means even social drinkers may, in fact, be alcoholics. There are eleven criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder; two or more are needed to be diagnosed with the disorder.
In the past year, the person has:
- Drank longer or more than intended
- Wanted to cut back on drinking or stop but was unable to; consumed different ethanol-containing substances (tried drinking mouthwash, for example)
- Spent significant time drinking and/or dealing with the aftereffects of consuming alcohol; did not see alternatives to drinking alcohol
- Wanted a drink badly enough they struggled to think about other things or complete tasks
- Found that drinking and its effects interfered with family, friends, work, and other parts of life
- Continued to drink despite its negative impacts
- Given up or reduced activities they derive pleasure from in order to drink
- Gotten into situations while drinking that are risky, such as drinking and driving or engaging in unprotected sex
- Continued to drink despite alcohol triggering feelings of depression and anxiety
- Had to drink more in order to achieve the same effects
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms as the effects of drinking wore off
While these are the symptoms needed to make a formal diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, they are not the only signs of a problem. Books on alcoholism list other signs there is a problematic relationship with alcohol are drinking to distress, feeling like alcohol is needed in order to have fun, and fearing what life without drinking would be like.
Whether or not someone believes they meet the criteria of diagnosis, if someone is wondering if they need help, the answer is yes. The next step to take is finding an alcoholism treatment center so they can enter recovery.
Residential or Outpatient Treatment?
There are a lot of questions a user needs to ask themselves before they select the right treatment center based on their needs. However, one of the biggest—and often the first—questions to ask is whether they want residential or outpatient treatment for alcoholism.
Residential treatment is where the patient lives at the facility throughout all or part of the rehabilitation process, making them a resident of the alcohol rehab centers. This ensures the patient has full access to all the benefits of the center at all times. In some cases, residential treatment is needed in alcohol use disorder recovery because the physical dependence is so severe that the withdrawal process could result in death. Residential rehab for alcoholics can last as little as a few weeks or as long as 12 months.
Inpatient alcohol rehabilitation tends to have the best success rates because it isolates users from their triggers while building the skills and confidence they need to say no to alcohol. However, it does have its downsides.
The Downsides of Residential Treatment
The patient will need to take time off work; in most cases, the Federal Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act will offer at least some protection.
- Freedom is restricted, though the patient can usually gain more freedom as time goes on and they build the right skills.
- The environment is heavily structured, including bedtimes and mealtimes.
- If the patient has children or pets, care will need to be arranged.
- Insurance may not cover inpatient care, or it will but not in full.
Despite these downsides, it is possible that residential alcohol addiction treatment is still the best choice. Those who have moderate to severe alcohol use syndrome, experience severe withdrawal symptoms, or have underlying physical or mental disorders should choose residential treatment over outpatient care.
Outpatient treatment is where the patient lives at home and commutes to the alcohol abuse treatment center according to the schedule created by the center meant to be used by the patient. At first, this might mean coming in seven days a week at 10 hours a day. As a result, the patient would still need to take time off from work, but would better be able to attend to family commitments. Over time, the patient would come in less and less, and for fewer hours each time, up until the point they graduated from the program.
Alcohol rehab outpatient care is often favored by patients because it is more flexible than residential care and their insurance providers are more open to funding it in full. In some cases, the user may start with residential treatment and then transition to outpatient care once stable. However, strictly using outpatient alcohol addiction rehab does have some problems, especially if a person is a relapse alcoholic.
The Downsides of Outpatient Treatment
- The user is exposed to the same triggers that drove them towards their addiction in the first place.
- Alcohol is still easy to access while not at the center.
- It is easy to become distracted, reducing focus on the alcohol recovery process.
- There is not unlimited access to support staff and therapists.
- It lacks the same sense of community fostered by residential treatment.
What to Expect from Alcohol Addiction Treatment
When considering alcohol treatment programs, the user will often be worried about what treatment will be like. Ultimately, that will depend on the center chosen and the variables present in the user. As an example, a major concern of those entering rehab is how long the rehabilitation program will take. For someone with mild alcohol use disorder, rehabilitation might be complete in as little as 30 days, allowing the user to then enter the life-long recovery process. For those with severe addiction to alcohol, it may take six to 12 months.
In terms of the therapies used, these vary widely based on the approach the center looks to take with patients. However, every program will likely use a combination of behavioral and pharmaceutical therapy in their alcoholic rehab in order to give the patient the best possible basis of recovery. Some therapies which might be seen include yoga, hiking, group sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family therapy. The other important part of treatment is medically-assisted alcohol detoxification, which requires doctor’s supervision. For this reason, alcohol detox at home is not recommended.
Managing the Cost of Alcohol Rehabilitation
Rehab for alcoholics can vary significantly in cost. There are programs which are as cheap as $5,000 and those which run over $100,000 covering the full residential program. It is important that users do not allow the cost of treatment to prevent them from receiving rehab alcoholics treatment.
There are various options which make treatment affordable on any budget, including:
- Medicare and Medicaid funding of treatment
- Private insurance coverage
- Scholarships through the center or other organizations
- Discounts offered by the center
- Lending packages designed to provide the funding up front, allowing you to pay off treatment later
- Government grants
- Centers run by non-profit groups that are cheaper than other centers, or even free
Preventing Relapse After Rehabilitation Ends
After treatments for alcoholism end, recovery begins. Recovery is the life-long process of saying no to alcohol and staying clean and healthy. While many patients are tempted to go through recovery on their own, the greatest success is seen by those who implement an alcohol relapse prevention plan and continue to attend group therapy and individual therapy sessions even after alcoholics rehab is complete. Friends and family usually wonder how to help an alcoholic after the treatment. The best thing they can do is to help an addict keep to post rehab alcoholic plan developed by a doctor.
What might this post rehab alcoholic plan look like?
- Determining what people, events, or other triggers make the patient turn to alcohol
- Avoiding alcohol triggers on a day-to-day basis
- Ending associations with those who encourage drinking or see it as central to socialization. Sober living houses are helpful.
- Finding those who have successfully maintained the recovery stage and modeling behavior after them
- Seeking out nurturing environments that encourage healthier thoughts and actions
- Implementing relaxation techniques that manage stressful situations without the use of alcohol and help to stop alcohol cravings
- Taking up a hobby that helps the patient occupy their time with something healthy and fulfilling and help in building a social life after rehab
- Attending alcoholism support groups on a weekly or even daily basis
- Knowing the signs of relapse and taking action when they are spotted
- Visiting alcohol addiction counseling sessions regularly
The First Step Is Seeking Treatment
For users wanting a healthier life, the first step on the road to recovery is seeking intervention for alcoholism. There are numerous alcohol rehab facilities across the country, making it easy for patients to find alcohol detox program that works for them and their loved ones. No matter the struggles the user is facing, there are ways to make treatment affordable and successful. Helping an alcoholic might be challenging, but it totally worth it. For those suffering from addiction, the time for starting rehab for alcohol is today.