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Alcohol Rehabilitation

Alcohol rehabilitation is a process designed to help alcoholics achieve sobriety and learn to live their lives free from the negative consequences inherent to alcohol abuse.  For most alcoholics it begins with a detoxification program to safely withdraw the alcohol from the user's system.  This process can be very dangerous, is almost always extremely uncomfortable, and depending on the severity of the alcoholism, often requires detox medications and medical monitoring to be done safely.  After detox, most alcohol rehabilitation programs consist of behavioral counseling and therapy, education, and relapse prevention.  While philosophies and methods of providing these essential components vary between rehab programs (see methodologies), the ultimate goal of most alcohol rehabilitation programs (the exception being harm-reduction model programs) is to help alcoholics recover from the unmanageability of active addiction, and teach them the tools needed to live in mainstream society without allowing stresses and pressures to prompt a relapse.

Alcohol Rehabilitation Centers

An Alcohol rehabilitation center, or alcohol rehab for short, is a place where people addicted to alcohol can get treatment for their addictions and gain the knowledge and tools to live a productive and alcohol-free life.  For most people, alcoholism recovery is a life-long journey.  There is no cure for alcoholism, but alcohol rehabilitation programs save thousands of lives every year by teaching life skills that when practiced enable alcoholics to live life alcohol-free.  Alcoholism is a progressive disease that causes physical and psychological addiction.  It directly effects virtually every organ of the body and creates a devastating physiological dependence that results in extreme withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped suddenly.  Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include cold sweats, nausea, headaches and delirium tremens.  Few alcoholics can stop the vicious cycle of addiction on their own, making rehabilitation necessary for successful recovery and prolonged sobriety.  There are many different types of alcohol rehab programs, but the various programs can be categorized by their financial parameters.  There are government funded centers, where the rehab program offers a sliding fee scale, payment assistance, or treatment free of charge.  Alternatively, private treatment centers require payment up-front in the form of cash, credit card or medical insurance. 

Alcohol rehabilitation not only deals with addiction and addictive behaviors, but also co-occurring mental disorders (dual diagnosis) which often contribute to the unmanageability of alcoholism.  Alcohol rehab programs employ a myriad of treatment philosophies and methodologies.  Depending on the individual and the severity of the alcoholism, different levels of care may be indicated.  In most cases, detox is the first step in the treatment process.  Detoxification is the process of breaking the alcoholic's physical dependence on alcohol.  Once the detox process has been completed, the biological, psychological and social recovery process can begin.  At alcohol rehabilitation programs, alcoholics learn that they have a disease rather than a character weakness, and gain the knowledge and tools necessary to live an alcohol-free life after the rehabilitation process has been completed.


As the addiction treatment field progresses, it has been shown time and again that one blanket approach to rehabilitation does not work for all alcoholics and addicts.  There are many different personalities and lifestyles in our society, and for each, there is a rehabilitation process and methodology that best suits the individual. To this day, the majority of alcohol rehabilitation programs utilize the traditional 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, combined with counseling and group therapy.  More recently, rehab centers have emerged employing holistic methodologies, specific religious practices (faith-based treatment), as well as programs tailored for alternative lifestyles such as GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender).  These varying kinds of rehabilitation centers serve a very important need for many alcoholics in need of treatment .

Levels of Care


Recovery from alcoholism begins with breaking the physical dependence on alcohol, and removing the substance from the user's body.  This process, called detoxification (detox), is characterized by a potentially fatal withdrawal syndrome.  Because of this, in all but the earliest stages of alcoholism, medical assistance is necessary to safely undergo the detox process.  Many alcoholics quit drinking "cold turkey" without medical assistance, but once alcoholism has progressed to the point at which withdrawal symptoms include the DT's (delirium tremens), a drinker runs the risk of experiencing a seizure and potentially dying as a result.  Alcoholics also can die from aspiration pneumonia as a result of vomiting while under the influence or withdrawing from the substance.

Some alcohol rehab centers offer in house detox services, while others have standalone detox facilities separate from the primary treatment program, and still others that do not offer this service at all, requiring alcoholics and addicts to seek detox at independent hospitals and facilities.

Treatment / Rehabilitation

Alcohol rehab programs are primarily categorized by the time spent participating in the structured treatment process being provided.  


Outpatient alcohol rehab is considered lower intensity treatment, generally serving alcoholics who have less advanced cases and can endure a mild withdrawal process.  For early-stage alcoholics, effective treatment can take place in an outpatient setting. These programs consist of a number of hours participating in counseling/therapy per week (usually 2-3 hours/day 2-3 days/week for intensive outpatient, and 1-2 hours/day 1-2 days/week otherwise).  Patients return home following counseling sessions, and can still attend work and maintain normal lives while participating in the rehabilitation process.

Inpatient / Residential 

While outpatient alcohol rehabilitation is effective for some alcoholics, many need more intensive treatment.  Often, alcoholics are advised to attend residential alcohol rehabilitation centers for short-term or long-term treatment. At these programs, alcoholics receive intense care from therapists, counselors as well as constant support from other alcoholics residing with them and outside support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.  Generally, inpatient alcohol rehabilitation programs have a standard length of stay of 28-30 days.  Many alcoholics, however opt to stay longer and most rehabilitation programs offer lengthy stays of several months to a year.  Research has shown that the longer the alcohol rehabilitation program, the greater the chances for prolonged sobriety. 

Sober Living / Halfway Houses

Sober living homes exist to support recovering alcoholics and addicts following completion of treatment in an alcohol rehab center. Here, recovering alcoholics reside in a group home with other recovering alcoholics and maintain a drug and alcohol-free living environment.  The residents are monitored with curfews and random drug testing.  They must get a job, pay rent and are allowed off premises to perform their work duties and maintain some sense of a social life before returning at a specified time for the rest of the night.  This is an almost seamless method of reintegrating back into society, stronger and more prepared to abstain from alcohol.  It has been shown that alcoholics residing in sober living facilities after completing rehabilitation programs have had more success in sobriety.  A common phrase used in rehabilitation is that the addict or alcoholic only has to change one thing – everything.  This includes associates, social hangouts, habits, thought process, health and lifestyle.  At the onset of alcoholism, it is unclear as to what the triggers may be to cause the abuse, so the best bet in most cases is cleanse life of all prior unhealthy habits associated with drug abuse or alcoholism. 

Getting Help

It is important to research rehab programs thoroughly, and not simply choose the first center with an opening.

We invite you to explore our site to get all the information needed to make an educated choice.  If you still find yourself with questions, feel free to call or email us and we will do all we can to point you in the right direction.

If you have questions about a loved one or your own alcohol abuse, please call us at 1 or fill out our confidential assessment and one of our addiction professionals will get back to you immediately to discuss your situation and the best course of action.  We're here to help!

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