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Does Rehab Work As A Treatment For Alcoholics?

Published on August 2, 2021
Does Rehab Work As A Treatment For Alcoholics?

Despite the harm that alcohol use disorders (AUDs) can yield, overcoming alcohol dependence and alcohol withdrawal symptoms is no easy task, not to mention achieving long-term abstinence. 

In fact, even after some individuals get professional help and complete detoxification, it can take multiple attempts and years of work before they find lasting success, if ever. And this common pattern leads many to question whether rehab works as an alcoholic treatment at all.

Understanding Alcohol Rehab Programs

Alcohol addiction treatment programs can vary significantly, with services tailored by treatment providers to fit a participant’s condition, needs, and priorities. 

They may be hosted as inpatient treatment, in which a participant lives inside the center for the length of their treatment, or as an outpatient or intensive outpatient treatment in which participants commute to treatment sessions while living at home.

A Foundation For Recovery

Depending on the program and services offered, rehab can provide individuals entering recovery with:

  • medical care and supervision during detox
  • a temptation-free environment
  • a break from your normal setting and habits
  • focus and structure
  • comradery 
  • group therapy
  • family therapy
  • new coping skills
  • mental, spiritual, or emotional growth
  • encouragement and emotional investment
  • aftercare
  • a foundation to build a lasting recovery

Relapse Is Real & Recovery Is Hard

Just like family members and friends can’t force someone to recognize that they have a problem and commit to change, rehab center staff can’t magically stop drinking problems or cure substance use disorders in participants.

Drug addiction is a powerful force. Relapse can occur among those who: 

  • attempt to fix a drinking problem alone
  • attend peer support recovery programs
  • seek professional care in a treatment facility

This is a hard truth for addiction recovery, but relapse is not considered a failure. Recovery is a difficult journey, featuring any number of ups and downs over time.

Benefits Of Alcohol Treatment

Even if relapses do occur, evidence suggests that alcohol rehab programs still “work.” Alcoholism treatment provides a number of benefits even if an individual isn’t able to maintain total abstinence in the weeks, months, and years that follow.

 These benefits are known to include:

  • reduction in quantity and frequency of substance abuse
  • increased time between relapses
  • improved workplace performance
  • fewer medical visits
  • improved mental health
  • improved relational and social connection
  • reduction in vehicle accidents, injuries, and arrests
  • increased participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs and support groups

Many of these positive outcomes can be attributed to specific aspects of rehabilitation, including counseling, the introduction of beneficial coping strategies, and treatments provided for co-occurring disorders and dual diagnoses.

How To Increase The Effectiveness Of Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Rehabilitation programs offer a variety of services and options that can help increase the effectiveness of addiction treatment, especially when someone is on board and motivated to change.

Longer Treatment

The longer inpatient rehabilitation lasts, the better the outcomes tend to be.

While thirty-day recovery programs are common, most experts agree that this timeframe may not be enough to break down problematic habits. Sixty-day sessions are better and ninety-day sessions are considered best. 

These longer programs can be strictly inpatient or a combination of both inpatient and outpatient care.

 A Full Continuum Of Care

Effective alcohol rehab blends a variety of evidence-based interventions including motivational interviewing, behavioral therapy, counseling, and more.

Treatments often begin with some of the most intensive sessions, before continuing on into less intensive techniques and eventually aftercare after a participant returns to their daily life.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Three separate medications have been approved by the FDA for treating AUD: 

  • acamprosate
  • disulfiram
  • naltrexone

While these medications are not considered effective treatments on their own, research shows they improve long-term outcomes when included as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

 Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

AUDs and other substance use disorders often co-occur with mental health conditions.

Co-occurring conditions like schizophrenia, ADHD, major depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD can hold back recovery if ignored. However, treating both addiction and mental health at the same time can improve the chances of lasting recovery.

The Final Word On Alcohol Rehab

As with so much else in life, you get out of substance abuse treatment what you put into it.

And while comprehensive figures on the effectiveness of different alcohol treatment centers simply don’t exist, there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that rehab is an important step in many individuals’ roads to recovery.

For more information, treatment options, and availability, please contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Types of Alcohol Treatment
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Types of Treatment Programs
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Alcohol Use

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