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Alcohol Rehab: Your First Step to Recovery

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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a serious and widespread disease in America, which makes alcohol rehab so important. Drinking is a large part of our culture, and it permeates all aspects of our social fiber. If you’re out to eat, at a sports arena, a social gathering, a wedding, or almost any activity where people congregate, you will be exposed to alcohol. The temptations of alcohol also remain omnipresent because of advertisements on television, its depiction in movies, and visuals in periodicals.

This contact with alcohol often begins at an early age and continues throughout adulthood.1 You may experience more exposure to alcohol during certain time periods, such as during school, but it is inescapable. Partying in high school and college is usually associated with alcohol, and sometimes underage drinking is considered normal.

This may be part of the reason that approximately 14.1 million adults in the United States experience alcoholism.2

Since alcohol circulates in the blood and blood travels throughout the body, excess drinking affects almost every organ.3 Some of the areas of the body adversely affected by alcohol include the:4

  • Liver
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Nervous system
  • Brain
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • Sexual system
  • Bones
  • Esophagus

Call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers today to connect with a treatment specialist who can find you the right rehab center and start you on your road to sobriety.

Alcohol Detox

Alcoholism is a treatable disease. After you accept the problem and consent to treatment, detox is an important—and first—step to treatment. Since alcohol misuse can be mild, moderate, or severe, detox may vary from person to person, but the objective of this step is to rid the body of alcohol completely.

Because detox can have side effects such as withdrawal, inpatient care is frequently necessary. You and your health care specialist decide the best course of action for your situation. In general, providers often recommend inpatient care so that medical staff can remain close by in the event of a complication.

During detox, you are observed closely for withdrawal symptoms. These may be mild, but they vary from person to person. The symptoms may include:6

  • Tremors
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium

Please be aware that the majority of these symptoms, if they occur, are mild. If necessary, medications can be used to control these occurrences. After detox is completed, rehab can continue. Call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to speak to a treatment specialist about your options for alcohol rehab and detox.

What Alcohol Rehab Looks LIke

Alcohol rehab provides a comprehensive, structured, individualized, program to help you get sober. Because alcohol use disorder frequently coexists with other illnesses, you’ll be given a treatment plan that addresses these underlying issues as well.

Alcohol rehab programs can vary, ranging from a stay of 30 to 90 days. In this safe, controlled, and structured environment, the journey to recovery can continue.

Alcohol rehab also distances you from bad influences and much of the stress that everyone experiences in this hectic world. This can be a time for you to reflect and assess the important things in life.

Many providers cover alcohol rehab insurance. Each insurance plan is unique, so you should speak with your insurance carrier or read your insurance policy to understand your specific plan and coverage.

In alcohol rehab, you’ll have time for both physical and psychological healing. Thanks to limited distractions, you can concentrate on getting better and avoiding negative triggers.

During treatment, you will evaluate the causes of addiction and set reasonable goals. Specific programs in alcohol rehab may include:

  • Counseling
  • 12 Step meetings
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medications
  • Non-traditional therapies


Both individual and group counseling are an integral part of alcohol rehabilitation. Counseling is sometimes referred to as talk therapy and each type of talk therapy has its benefits. Individual counseling can go into greater depth since it is a one-on-one, private session, while group sessions provide peer support and a camaraderie that can form lifelong bonds and friendships.

The specialists who run these sessions are trained to educate you about making better decisions and coping in a productive way.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) allows you to identify thoughts that may manifest in poor decisions.7

This treatment deals with present-day issues and how it can make your life better in real-time. Strategies are developed for coping with the problems that might be present on a daily basis. CBT has been known to work quicker than some other forms of counseling.

The 12-Step Program

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) established this set of principles. It is a cornerstone of treatment for alcoholics and has also been used for other addictions. The program asks members to admit that they have a problem with alcohol and are powerless to manage it by themselves. It has a spiritual aspect to it, and members ask for divine help. A person in recovery acts as a mentor to new members, and this can be a powerful influence on the group.8

Lifestyle Changes

Rehab allows you to change and adjust many aspects of your personal life. A safe, structured environment, free from alcohol, allows you to concentrate on improving your general health. A balanced diet with vitamin supplements can help your body heal.

Exercise can prove beneficial to both physical and mental well-being. Even a slow walk in a quiet, peaceful area relaxes and soothes the body and mind. Writing in a journal can not only be cathartic, but it can sometimes help a person work through a difficult time. Rehab may also help establish a productive routine that can be continued upon discharge.

Medications Used in Alcohol Rehab

Various medicines may help you abstain from alcohol. You’ll make this decision in consultation with a health care provider. Some medications (all non-habit-forming) may decrease your cravings and make it easier to remain off alcohol.

Disulfiram (Antabuse) 

If this drug is used, it should be taken daily.9 If alcohol is taken along with Antabuse, a very unpleasant reaction occurs. A person may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, a flushed feeling, shortness of breath, dizziness, an irregular heartbeat, and vision problems. Antabuse will cause this discomfort even with a small amount of alcohol. This medicine can still be effective 14 days after it is stopped. It is definitely a deterrent to drinking alcohol.

Acamprosate (Campral)

This is used to help with cravings. It is thought to work by stabilizing brain chemicals. It works best when combined with psychological support. It does not help with withdrawal.10

Naltrexone (Revia)

This medicine binds to endorphin receptors and blocks the effects of alcohol. It attempts to block the “high” a person can get from alcohol. It can be administered in a daily pill form or by injection once a month. This medicine also works better when used in conjunction with counseling.

In addition to these pharmaceuticals, other medicines are used “off-label” for alcoholism. This means that physicians are prescribing medication for uses other than what the FDA has approved. It is a legal practice as they are being used for illnesses not specifically approved by the FDA in the package insert but allowed under the law.10

Nontraditional therapies

Many treatment modalities are used as adjunct therapies in treating alcoholism. Music therapy, art therapy, meditation, yoga, spiritual awakening, acupuncture, and animal therapy are some of the popular activities that might be helpful in recovery. These modalities allow positive expression.11

Aftercare: What Happens After Alcohol Rehab?

When preparing to leave rehab, you can make arrangements to continue treatment on an outpatient basis. You should continue the important aspects of treatment such as individual and group counseling and AA meetings.

Follow-up appointments with a specialist are important since relapses can occur and monitoring by a trained professional is imperative. Medication may also have to be regulated. If you take prescription medicines, observation and occasional lab tests may be necessary.

You should continue to rely on your developed support system to improve your chances of success. Coexisting illnesses such as depression or anxiety still need to be treated. These conditions may need continued medication and follow-up. It is important that the beneficial results of inpatient rehab not be lost.

Find an Alcohol Rehab Near Me

If you are struggling with alcoholism, call 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to speak to a recovery specialist who can provide treatment options.

When choosing the right rehab program for you, you should consider things such as:

  • Location: Sometimes attending a rehab center further away from your home city is more effective.
  • Cost: Rehab can be expensive, so it’s important to take the cost and what your health insurance covers into consideration.
  • Facilities: Some rehab centers offer special facilities that can help you on your journey to sobriety, such as a fitness center, pool, and space for holistic therapies.
  • Specialized care: If you’re struggling with more than just alcoholism, you should choose a rehab center that offers additional medical care to treat both of your conditions simultaneously.


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Underage drinking. Retrieved 2021.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Alcohol facts and statistics. Retrieved 2021.
  3. Cohen, E., Feinn, R., Arias, A., & Kranzler, H.R. (2007). Alcohol treatment utilization: Findings from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 86(2-3):214-221.
  4. Rehm, J. (2011). The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism. Alcohol Res Health. 34(2): 135-143.
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017). Strategic Plan 2017-2021. Retrieved 2021.
  6. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. (2019). Alcohol Withdrawal. Retrieved 2021.
  7. Fenn K, Byrne M. (2013). The key principles of cognitive behavioural therapyInnovAiT. 6(9):579-585.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous. (n.d.) A.A. Guidelines. Retrieved 2021.
  9. Wright, A., Moore, R.D. (1990). Disulfiram treatment of alcoholism. Am J Med 88; 647-655.
  10. Johnson, B.A., O’Malley, S.S., Ciraulo, D.A., Roaches, J.D., Chambers, R.A., Sarid Segal, O., Couper, D. (2003). Dose ranging kinetics and behavioral pharmacology of naltrexone and acamprosate, both alone and combined, in alcohol dependent subjects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 23:281-293.
  11. White, A. (2013). Trials of acupuncture for drug dependence. Acupunct med. 31(3): 297-304.
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