Key Steps in Alcohol Rehabilitation

According to community surveys, over 13% of adults in the United States will experience alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse at some point in their lives. Alcohol abuse refers to excessive or problematic use of alcohol and:

  • Failure to fulfill obligations at work, school or at home
  • Recurrent use in situations where alcohol use can be hazardous (driving a car)
  • Legal problems as a result of the alcohol use
  • Continued use of alcohol despite having social, family, or interpersonal problems caused by or worsened by the use of alcohol

Alcohol dependence refers to a more serious disorder and involves excessive use leading to three or more of the following:

  • The need to drink more alcohol in order to achieve the desired effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms following a reduction or cessation of use of drinking alcohol
  • Drinking more alcohol over a longer period of time than actually intended
  • Inability to cut down or stop drinking alcohol
  • Spending a large amount of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking alcohol
  • Giving up things that were once important to you
  • Continuing to drink despite the consequences

Due to the serious nature of alcohol addiction, alcoholism is best treated by a medical professional trained in addiction medicine. Several levels of care are available for alcohol rehabilitation depending on the severity of the case.

The first step in alcohol rehabilitation for most patients is detoxification, whereby the individual is provided with a supportive environment for withdrawal from the alcohol.

Once detoxification is complete and all the alcohol is eliminated from the person’s body, then the individual can begin their treatment program. During an alcohol rehabilitation treatment program, the individual learns to accept the disease and begin developing skills needed for sober living. During the alcohol rehabilitation treatment program, the alcoholic acquires the following skills:

  • Learning how to identify their cravings for alcohol
  • Learning how to manage their cravings for alcohol
  • Learning how to resist the social pressures revolving around the use of alcohol
  • Learning how to change their health care habits and lifestyle by improving diet, getting proper exercise and avoiding high-risk activities
  • Learning to challenge the alcoholic way of thinking
  • How to develop a support system for coping with the disease
  • How to deal with the emotions that may accompany the alcohol abuse and cope with stressors without using alcohol as a crutch
  • How to identify and manage relapse warning signs before using alcohol
  • How to anticipate a relapse and address high-risk factors for a relapse

Whether the individual suffering from alcohol addiction chooses an inpatient program or an outpatient alcohol rehab program, there are several effective treatment options available.

Inpatient programs may last as little as 4 weeks or as long as a year. These types of programs provide therapy, education, skills training and long-term planning to prevent relapse.

Outpatient addiction counseling for alcohol rehabilitation can be used as a primary method for treatment or as a “step-down” technique for individuals coming out of inpatient treatment. Outpatient counseling can provide information on alcohol and recovery and can help the individual learn new skills to avoid drinking alcohol.

There are also several effective individual treatments available for outpatient treatment clinics including 12-step programs, Motivational Enhancement Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Coping Skills Therapy.

No matter what method of alcohol rehabilitation the individual chooses, another key indicator of success is that the alcoholic has an excellent support system in place. Friends, family members and loved ones need to be educated and counseled about the disease as well and they need to work just as hard on their recovery as the alcoholic does. When properly educated, family/friends can be an excellent resource during the recovery process.

Another key step to alcohol rehabilitation is continued support after completion of an inpatient or outpatient program. Whether this continued support is provided via counseling or a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, it is very important that the alcoholic stay committed to their sobriety and continue to educate themselves on this devastating disease.