Evan Leonard

MS, MMS, PA-C

Dr. Leonard is a Doctor of Medical Science and a clinical anatomist. He has practiced in both internal and emergency medicine and has published several, peer-reviewed articles and a medical book chapter.

Alcohol use disorder in the U.S.
Our alcohol recovery program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.

What Makes Alcohol Treatment Effective?

Even though recovering from alcohol addiction can be challenging, it is not impossible. The right treatment can make such a big difference in people’s lives. It is an effective way to address alcohol use disorder and help move people from being active alcoholics to living lives of sobriety.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several principles of effective treatment. They are:

  • Understanding that alcohol addiction is a disease that is known to be complex, but treatable. It affects a person’s brain function and behavior, and these can persist even after the problem has been treated.
Photo of an educational toy of the brain
  • Understanding that there is no single “right” way to treat alcohol addiction. Every person is an individual with their own unique needs. It is important for people to find the method of treatment and recovery that will work best for them.
  • Understanding that treatment needs to be readily available and easily accessible. Otherwise, people may change their minds and decide not to go to alcohol rehab after all.
  • Understanding that treatment should address a person’s needs as well as their substance abuse issues. There could be many issues surrounding alcohol addiction, including mental health, legal problems and medical conditions. Every aspect needs to be properly addressed.
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  • Understanding that remaining in treatment is vital for long-term success. Research has shown that most people need to devote about three months to substance abuse recovery, at minimum. Those who are able to remain in recovery are those who continue to get help and support.
  • Understanding that behavioral therapies are a critical component of the addiction recovery process. They can address several vital areas, such as a person’s motivation to quit using, improving problem-solving skills and facilitating better communication with loved ones.
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  • Understanding that medications play an important role in the treatment of alcohol addiction. Some medications can be prescribed to help with withdrawal. Others may be used to assist people in abstaining from alcohol.
  • Understanding that during recovery, people’s needs change. When they do, treatment plans should be altered to reflect those changes. This keeps their treatment plan current and provides the level of support that is needed at that time.
  • Understanding that mental health issues are often present for people with alcohol addictions. They are often the root cause of the problem, and as such, they need to be properly addressed with dual diagnosis treatment.
  • Understanding that while medication assisted treatment is important, it should never be considered the answer to addiction recovery. People who do not go on to complete rehab are very likely to not experience long-term recovery.
  • Understanding that a person does not have to voluntarily go to rehab in order for treatment to be effective. People enter rehabilitation programs for many reasons. Sometimes the criminal justice system requires them to go, or family members finally convince people to get help. Getting a person into treatment is the key.
  • Understanding that close monitoring is needed during addiction recovery because of the risk of relapsing. This is why many treatment programs require drug and alcohol testing. It gives people more accountability to help them reach their goals.
  • Understanding that testing for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and other infectious diseases is important. Many addictive behaviors involve taking risks that could put people at risk for these conditions. Counseling should be offered to help people reduce their risk.
Photo of three HIV tests
Alcohol related deaths

Treatment Options for Alcohol Rehab

Because there is no single “right” way to treat addiction, there are several treatment options available for people who need alcohol rehab. This is because people all have very different needs when it comes to recovery. It is critical for those needs to be properly addressed. It is always best for people to discuss their need for treatment with a professional. They can provide a recommendation for the proper level of care based on the information they are given.
Alcohol rehab treatment options
A lot of people begin recovering from alcohol addiction by going through an inpatient rehab program. Inpatient treatment provides people with a high level of support through every phase of the recovery process. It offers residential treatment for a period of about 28 days. During that time, patients receive constant care and supervision. There are several types of inpatient rehab programs that are available. There are public treatment options that tend to be larger in size. There are also luxury rehabilitation centers that may feel more like a vacation or spa experience than going to rehab. Finally, there are private rehab facilities that offer a more homelike experience, but that still have many nice amenities. Many inpatient rehabs also offer detox as a part of their programs. Not all of them do, and those that do not should always provide their patients with a referral. This is especially true for people who are addicted to alcohol.

There could be any number of reasons why a person might choose to go to an outpatient rehab as opposed to an inpatient program. Fortunately, this has become a viable option; even for those who have never been to treatment before. It just depends on the level of care they receive.

There are three main types of outpatient rehab that people can access as they recover from alcohol addiction.

Partial hospitalization programs offer the highest level of care that is available on an outpatient basis. Clients live at home and during the day, they come to the treatment facility. PHPs offer many services that people in recovery need, such as:

  • Medication management services
  • Treatment for mental health conditions
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Therapeutic activities and events

Partial hospitalization programs typically require people to remain at the facility for the entire day. This time requirement might be lessened as time goes on.

Intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs, also offer a high level of care. Many experts believe that it is very similar to what people experience when they go to inpatient rehab. IOPs are typically about 12 weeks in length. They require people to attend regular appointments, usually between 3-5 times per week. Each one could be a few hours long.

During IOPs, clients participate in various types of therapy. They can receive treatment for co-occurring disorders as well as for their addictive behaviors. Individual and group counseling sessions provide people with a well-rounded treatment plan that is personalized to meet their individual needs.

Many people gravitate toward IOPs because they have so many benefits. They work well for people who work or go to school during the day because the appointments are during the evening. They also make it possible for parents to care for their children during the day.

A more traditional outpatient alcohol treatment program may not be best suited for people who are new to recovery. This level of care tends to offer less professional support, and there may not be any peer support available at all. It is usually reserved for those who have gone through an IOP, PHP or inpatient program in the recent past.

But traditional outpatient rehab does have its place in addiction recovery. It typically involves regular individual therapy sessions with an addiction treatment specialist. Some may also have group therapy sessions available, but most do not. This type of treatment can work well for people as a form of follow-up, but it can also work for those who milder addictions.

Sober living homes are often essential for people who are in addiction recovery. While they do not provide any in-house alcohol treatment, they do offer safe places to live for those who need them. Many people are not able to return home after going to rehab because of the risk of relapsing, domestic violence, or for any number of reasons. Having access to sober living homes gives people the added security they need during this critical time in their lives.

For many people, sober living homes provide them with opportunities they would not have had otherwise. They can serve as a helpful way to transition back into ordinary life. They can also help people who want to relocate to a new city or state once they are in recovery.

Residents are required to pay rent every month, and there may be other rules that need to be followed as well. It is not uncommon for many sober living homes to have curfews and require chores. Every resident may need to submit to drug and alcohol testing and secure their own outpatient addiction treatment program.

Your health insurance plan may cover your recovery at SpringBoard. Verifying your insurance is quick and easy!

The Importance of Alcohol Detox at the Beginning of Recovery

The first step in alcohol addiction recovery is going through the detoxification process. Alcohol detox is critical for a few different reasons. The first is because of how severe withdrawal symptoms can become. The second is because of the risk of potential complications that can occur when they stop drinking. Most alcohol rehab programs require supervised alcohol detox for their patients’ safety. It can effectively treat withdrawal and reduce the risk of possible complications and emergency situations.
alcohol withdrawal symptoms
alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person stops drinking for any period of time. Over time, the body gets used to having its “regular” dose of alcohol. When that stops, it can cause the body to become off balance. The result is withdrawal symptoms that can become rather severe and even dangerous.

Some of the common signs of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Feeling anxious or nervous.
  • Symptoms of depression.
  • Extreme fatigue or exhaustion.
  • Feeling more irritable than normal.
  • Feeling shaky or jumpy.
  • Having mood swings.
  • Having nightmares.
  • Problems with thinking clearly.
  • Clammy, sweaty skin.
  • Headaches.
  • Problems with sleeping at night.
  • Loss of appetite, and possibly weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A rapid heart rate.
  • Hand tremors.

Most heavy drinkers will begin to have alcohol withdrawal in as little as eight hours after their last drink. Although this is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes people do not start going through withdrawal for a few days. Symptoms tend to peak within 24-72 hours, but they could last for several weeks at a time; especially without proper treatment.

As we mentioned earlier, complications can arise as a person goes through alcohol withdrawal. Delirium tremens, or DTs, is a condition that can affect people when they stop drinking. It is more likely to impact a person if any of the following are true:

  • They have a history of heavy drinking.
  • They have a history of heavy alcohol use and have sustained a head injury, illness or infection.
  • They have gone through alcohol withdrawal in the past.
  • They have been drinking excessively for several months.
  • They have been using alcohol for more than ten years.

The symptoms of DTs typically occur between 48 and 96 hours of the individual’s last drink. But it is possible for them to occur as long as ten days after they stop drinking. The symptoms of DTs can include:

  • Sudden severe bouts of confusion.
  • Visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations.
  • Delusions.
  • Body tremors.
  • Changes in the way a person thinks.
  • Random bursts of energy.
  • Deep sleep that can last longer than 24 hours.
  • Sudden, severe mood swings.
  • Feelings of restlessness.
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and touch.
  • The onset of seizures.

The symptoms of DTs can get worse very quickly. This is a potentially fatal condition that needs medical treatment right away.

Medication assisted treatment, or MAT, has been shown to be very effective at treating alcohol addiction. Many rehab programs will utilize MAT to treat patients who present with this substance abuse problem. For many people, it has meant the difference between a life of recovery and a life that involves constantly relapsing.

MAT for alcohol addiction includes the use of medications to help with withdrawal symptoms. Some medications can also be prescribed to help people avoid going back to drinking alcohol again in the future.

Some medications that can be used to treat alcohol addiction include:

Behavioral therapy should always be a part of any MAT program. The combination of medications and therapy can help to give people the support they need to recover long-term.

Holistic detox is also an important part of the recovery process for many people in recover from alcohol addiction. The body is very capable of detoxing itself as long as it is healthy enough to do so. Treatments such as nutrition therapy and physical exercise can allow the body to detox on its own. It helps people feel better faster and works very well in combination with MAT.

How Does Alcohol Rehab Work?

Alcohol rehab has shown to be effective at treating this addiction. It promises a much better and safer outcome than quitting on one’s own, but as with most everything else in life, consistency is the key. People need to become motivated to stop drinking and go through the steps of recovery.

Alcohol rehabilitation programs can work for people by:

  • Doing a preliminary assessment, usually by phone. This can help determine what level of care is right for each individual person.
  • Providing them with personalized treatment plans. Addiction recovery is very subjective, and people all have very different needs that should be addressed.
  • Safely helping them through the detoxification process. Detoxing is critical for alcohol addiction recovery, and it is a step that should never be skipped.
Photo of a pensive and confused looking woman
  • Providing a secure environment that is free of drugs and alcohol.
  • Helping people to understand why they started using alcohol and identifying any triggers that could be contributing as well.
  • Providing people with relapse prevention information that will help them stay in recovery.

What Types of Therapy are Offered During Alcohol Rehab?

During alcohol rehab, various types of therapy will be offered to people in recovery. While every person will receive their own personalized treatment plan, it could include a combination of the following.
Types of therapy offered during alcohol rehab
Types of therapy offered during alcohol rehab

Individual counseling sessions provide people with the one-on-one interaction they need with staff. These sessions are critical, and many even refer to them as the cornerstone of recovery. They involve meeting regularly with a therapist for the purpose of treating the underlying cause of the alcohol addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of therapy that targets negative thinking patterns in relation to behaviors. It can help people identify their faulty or problematic thinking patterns and it allows them to see how they impact what they do. Through treatment, people learn how to change the way they think in order to produce better outcomes in their lives.

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. It can help people learn how to cope with and change their unhealthy behaviors. It involves individual therapy sessions, group therapy and crisis intervention if necessary.

Motivational enhancement therapy, or MET, has been shown to be extremely effective with people who are not motivated to get treatment for alcoholism. It can help them to better engage with rehab by evoking changes in their perspectives that are internally motivated.

Biofeedback is a form of therapy that can help people overcome their reliance upon alcohol. It involves using electronic sensors on the person’s skin that monitor their brain’s activity. As treatment continues, patients learn new ways of thinking that can help them change their behaviors.

There are many other forms of therapy available during alcohol rehab as well. Art and music therapy have both been found to have many benefits for people in recovery. Experiential activities can be used to help people gain more self-confidence and grow as they continue to abstain from alcohol.

Our outpatient drug treatment program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.

Alcohol Rehab and Health Insurance Coverage

Many people never get the recovery help they need for alcoholism because they believe they cannot afford to get treatment. But what they may not realize is that when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, it included a requirement for insurance companies to offer this type of coverage. Anyone with health insurance has the benefits to help cover the cost of addiction treatment. This includes both alcohol rehab and detox. Every policy is different as far as how much it will cover. It is always best to have insurance benefits verified so that people know exactly how much they will be responsible for, which should be minimal.
Sober living homes

Take the First Step Today: Alcohol Rehab Offers Hope for Recovery

At SpringBoard Recovery, it is our goal for people to experience what it is like to live free from alcohol addiction. Going to rehab can make such a difference in a person’s life. It can provide them with the support they need to be successful and finally experience life without being imprisoned to alcoholism.

Would you like to learn more about alcohol rehab? Perhaps you have been thinking about getting treatment, but you were not sure where to begin. We can help. Please contact us today.

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