Alcohol Rehabilitation


Depending on the parameters of the program, alcohol rehabilitation refers to the psychotherapeutic, medical, social, and/or educational treatment processes necessary for alcoholism recovery.

The ultimate goal of alcohol rehabilitation is to help the alcoholic stop his or her addiction so that he or she can avoid the social, emotional, financial, physical, and legal, consequences that are commonly caused by alcohol dependency.

Tolerance and How Alcohol Affects the Brain

With the regular ingestion of alcohol, the brain eventually adjusts to the alcohol in order for normal functioning to take place.

This goes a long way in explaining two of the most important characteristics of alcoholism: first, how physical tolerance develops and second, why increasingly more alcohol is required to get the same "buzz" or high."


When an excessive drinker abruptly stops drinking alcohol, he or she typically encounters alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can last days or weeks before the body returns to "normal."

At this juncture it is important to emphasize the following: all people who have a "drinking problem" need to obtain professional assistance when they decide to quit drinking.

Withdrawal symptoms are simply too critical to undergo without top-rate medical intervention.

The Alcohol Rehabilitation Process

The alcohol rehabilitation process has two main focal points: psychological dependency and physical dependency. Treating psychological dependency typically involves training the alcoholic new ways of functioning in an alcohol-free environment.

From a different perspective, treating physical dependency usually involves controlling the person's alcohol withdrawal symptoms in a harm-free environment while letting the person's body naturally rid itself of the alcohol that remains in the body. This latter aspect of the rehab process is known as alcohol detoxification.

Types of Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs

There are numerous therapeutic programs that provide alcohol rehabilitation such as local support groups, residential treatment (in-patient care), out-patient facilities, sober houses, and extended care centers.

Within these protocols are different sub-approaches including the following: medical model rehab programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, religious-based rehabs, and therapeutic community alcohol rehabs.

Successful Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs

Similar to other diseases and medical illnesses, alcoholism can be overcome with prevention, quality treatment, and substantially increased research.

By providing more people with access to effective treatment, the costly burden on society and the financial, physical, and psychological demands made upon families can be substantially minimized or reduced.

To highlight some of the successes that are possible in various alcohol rehabilitation programs, consider the following.

Research studies have demonstrated unquestionable evidence that prevention and effective alcohol rehab intervention result in substantial reductions in strokes, cancer, child abuse, HIV, traffic fatalities, hearth disease, cancer, and unwanted pregnancy.

Moreover, quality treatment and professional drug and alcohol rehab programs have been found to improve an individual's heath, job performance, and quality of life while at the same time reducing drug abuse, family dysfunction, and interactions with the criminal justice system.

Alcohol Rehabilitation Approaches

There is a variety of different traditional alcohol rehabilitation programs that are relatively well established and widely available. The following is a sample of these programs.

Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of alcohol while regulating and controlling the withdrawal symptoms in a safe atmosphere.

Alcohol detox treatment is usually done under the guidance of a medical practitioner and is often the first step initiated in an alcoholism treatment protocol.

Due basically to the relatively long time-span necessary for alcohol detox, these therapeutic approaches are usually part of a residential alcohol rehab program.

Behavioral Rehab. Behavioral programs such Motivation Enhancement Therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy mainly focus on changing the behavior or the drinker.

It should be noted that according to a study that was recently undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), each one of these behavioral rehabilitation therapies greatly reduced drinking in patients the year after treatment.

Although all of these programs were considered "successful," none of them, however, could be singled out as the "most effective" rehab intervention by the NIAAA.

Therapeutic Medications. This rehabilitation approach is based on doctor-prescribed medications administered to people in an attempt to help them go through the treatment process more effectively and less painfully.

More than a few research scientists and doctors believe that chronic alcoholics who cannot sustain their sobriety and those who experience excessive alcohol withdrawal symptoms need to receive various medications to manage and control their withdrawal symptoms.

It is worthy of note furthermore, that by using doctor-prescribed medications, alcoholics are less likely to encounter possible brain damage and/or seizures.

According to the numerous research findings, the medications with the highest probability of producing successful outcomes when treating severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the benzodiazepines.

Examples include the shorter-acting benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Serax and the longer-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium and Librium.

From a traditional vantage point, when doctors have administered benzodiazepines they have employed a protocol calling for a progressive decrease in dosage throughout the withdrawal process.

Since, however, the shorter-acting benzodiazepines do not remain in the person's system for an extensive amount of time and since they can be administered in measurable dose reductions, a number of research scientists and medical practitioners have asserted that short to intermediate half-life benzodiazepines should be employed when treating serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

After the individual has prevailed over his or her withdrawal symptoms and effectively completed the detox process, other doctor-prescribed medications such as naltrexone (ReViaT) or disulfiram (Antabuse) can be administered to help prevent the person from returning to drinking after he or she has encountered a drinking relapse.

For instance, the drug antabuse can be administered to alcoholics and works so effectively because it is such a powerful deterrent to drinking.

Why? Because antabuse elicits extremely uncomfortable consequences such dizziness, vomiting, nausea, and flushing if alcohol is consumed.

The drug, naltrexone (ReViaT), on the other hand, is utilized in an entirely different manner. More to the point, because it targets the brain's reward circuits, naltrexone can effectively reduce the craving the alcoholic has for alcohol.

Outpatient Alcohol Treatment and Counseling. There are various counseling methodologies that train alcoholics how to become cognizant of the situational and emotional "hot buttons" that trigger their problematic drinking behavior.

Armed with this information, alcoholics can thus develop different ways in which they can respond in more favorably to situations that do not include the use of alcohol.

It can be noted that alcohol rehab programs such as these, unlike detox rehab approaches, are usually offered on an outpatient basis.

Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs and Inpatient Alcohol Rehab. If the individual's withdrawal symptoms are excessive, if the individual needs alcohol poisoning treatment, if there's a need for drug AND alcohol abuse rehab, or if outpatient and support-oriented programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are not productive, the individual will more likely than not need to check into a hospital or into an alcohol rehabilitation facility and obtain inpatient alcohol detox treatment.

Programs such as these are targeted for alcoholics and usually include doctor-prescribed medications, counseling, education, and support to help the individual get through the alcohol detox process and through his or her alcohol withdrawal symptoms in a safe and effective manner.

Conclusion: Alcohol Rehabilitation

With all of the devastating and wide-ranging social, financial, physical, psychological, and health effects related to alcoholism, it is logical for people with a "drinking problem" to learn how to refrain from drinking, to involve themselves in the alcohol rehabilitation process, and to re-establish their lives.

Whether an individual needs residential alcohol detox, alcohol abuse rehab, or outpatient alcohol counseling, the goal of alcohol abstinence is worthy of pursuit.


Stated differently, under most circumstances it really does not make any significant difference whether the individual chooses a behaviorally oriented program such as the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program or one of the many other quality and professional alcohol intervention protocols.

What matters most is this: alcoholics need to acknowledge that they have a drinking problem, they must want to stop drinking, and they need to find an alcohol rehabilitation program that effectively and appropriately "works" for them.