When people get together for celebrations or events, alcohol is often included in the party. At other times, individuals may enjoy an occasional drink to accompany a meal or when relaxing at home. Sometimes, however, people lose control of drinking and develop issues around alcohol, such as binge drinking or addiction. When this happens, alcohol rehab programs can help.
When it comes to finding a rehab center, people are often intimidated by where to start and what to look for in a treatment program. It can help to learn what options are out there, what types of treatment to look for, and what to expect from the process. With this information, it can be easier to take the steps needed to find a rehab program that is the right match for the individual, which in turn can lead to abstinence from alcohol and lasting recovery.
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
When an alcohol problem is suspected, there are some signs that can help a person or loved ones recognize that help is needed and it is time to seek treatment. These signs, as described by Mayo Clinic, generally include:
- Inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed or to stop drinking habits
- Spending an inordinate amount of time seeking or using alcohol
- Having trouble with responsibilities or relationships because of alcohol use
- Having cravings for alcohol, and continuing to use it even when problems are experienced
- Needing more and more alcohol to feel its effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if alcohol use is stopped
These signs may indicate that an alcohol use disorder is present. Analysis by an addiction treatment specialist can determine what type of treatment may be most likely to help the person begin to manage the problem drinking behaviors.
Why Professional Rehab is Important
A person who is struggling with alcohol abuse may decide to just quit abruptly and try to manage the withdrawal symptoms and cravings without professional help. Often, people reason that it should be easy enough to just quit “cold turkey” and never drink again. While this may be possible for some, particularly those who haven’t been drinking for long, it is not often successful, and it can be dangerous. Those who attempt to detox on their own are more likely to relapse than those who participate in detox in a professional facility. In fact, according to a study in Addiction, people who do not get professional help with alcoholism are more likely to relapse within three years than those who do get help.
In particular, when a person has been engaging in heavy alcohol use for a long time, withdrawing from use can actually be dangerous – even life-threatening. While many of the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol are similar to those of other depressant drugs, there is a dangerous symptom that can result from alcohol withdrawal, particularly for those with a history of multiple alcohol detox attempts.
As described by the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus Encyclopedia, delirium tremens, or DTs, is a potentially life-threatening condition that can result from alcohol withdrawal. DTs can lead to the following symptoms:
- High fever
- Delirium and hallucinations
In order to avoid this potential complication of alcohol withdrawal, it is important to get help with detox through a professional treatment program. In medical detox, clients are under 24-hour medical supervision, ensuring that they are safe throughout the entire process. In addition, medications and other therapies may be given to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, helping individuals to be comfortable and relaxed.
How to Find an Alcohol Rehab Program
A number of substance abuse treatment programs specialize in alcohol use disorders. When seeking these programs, there are a number of resources and questions that can help to locate the program that is most likely to assist the specific individual in achieving recovery. These resources include:
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Clergy or other religious leadership
- Psychiatrists and medical doctors
- Local Alcoholics Anonymous chapters
- Municipal or national health departments, such as those listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Once programs have been located, it’s important to know what to look for to find a good match for the individual seeking treatment.
What to Look for in Treatment for Alcoholism
When seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or alcoholism, the individual has a lot to choose from. There are a number of drug and alcohol treatment programs, professionals, and facilities across the country that provide a wide range of services to help people recover from substance use disorders, and it can be a challenge to choose one from the many available options.
As with any service, a person seeking rehab is looking for something that will actually work. While the success of rehab has a lot to do with personal motivation and commitment to the treatment process, the program itself, of course, has a significant effect. For that reason, it’s important to know how to recognize the type of program that is more likely to support a positive outcome. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the elements to look for include:
- Evidence of successful outcomes: The programs that are most likely to result in successful outcomes tend to be those that use research-based treatments and therapies. Ask whether or not the facility uses therapies that are backed by scientific research.
- Tailored treatment plans: An older adult who is dealing with alcoholism and depression at the same time has different needs from a college student who is engaging in frequent uncontrolled binge drinking. Ask whether or not the treatment plan is tailored to each individual in need.
- Flexibility to adjust treatment as needed: If the individual should relapse, this isn’t a sign of failure. Rather, as described by NIAAA, it’s a sign that treatment needs to be adjusted. Also, as an individual progresses through treatment and improves, treatment should be adjusted to meet the person’s evolving needs. Ask if treatment plans are adjusted throughout the recovery process.
- Sufficient length of treatment: Studies have shown that an important element of addiction treatment is how long the person stays in the treatment program. Those in shorter programs are more likely to relapse than those who stay in treatment for longer periods of time. Medical and psychiatric addiction treatment professionals can determine what length of time is ideal for each individual. Ask if the treatment time depends on each individual’s needs and if there is flexibility on adjusting that time as needed.
These are just some of the elements of a treatment program that is more likely to result in long-term recovery. Make sure these elements are part of the program before enrolling.
What to Expect in Rehab
Even when a reputable, research-based program has been found, the individual may still be nervous about what to expect. Knowing what comes next can ease concerns and prepare a person to commit to and remain involved in rehab for the necessary duration of time. The following steps in the treatment process, described by WebMD, encompass the basic elements of alcoholism treatment:
- Intake: Before treatment begins, doctors and other professionals will ask questions to assess the level of the alcohol use disorder and determine the level and type of treatment that is most appropriate. Generally, intake includes a full medical and mental health assessment.
- Detox: Medical assistance can be provided during the detox process to ease symptoms and manage the dangerous aspects of alcohol withdrawal, while also helping to manage cravings. Medical detox is always required for alcohol withdrawal.
- Therapy: Therapy can begin while in detox. It is applied to help the individual identify and understand personal behaviors and triggers that lead to drinking, and learn how to manage them to avoid relapse. Individual, family, and group therapy are all part of the process.
- Other program elements: Exercise, recreational activities, journaling, and other program elements can support the person’s growing capabilities, confidence, and commitment to treatment. Skill-building and life skills workshops are often part of comprehensive treatment programs.
- Aftercare: Programs generally advocate staying involved in ongoing therapy, 12-Step or self-help groups, and other programs that are designed to support individuals in maintaining the skills learned in rehab. Aftercare is crucial to sustained recovery after leaving structured treatment.
By remaining in rehab for the designated amount of time, and continuing with one’s commitment to recovery after the treatment program is over, the chances of long-term abstinence are increased. With comprehensive care, people can leave alcohol abuse in their past and move forward to a healthier future.