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What Happens After Detox?

Detoxing from alcohol is only one phase in the alcohol recovery journey. Read on to learn more about the transition from medical detox to alcohol rehab and what to expect during the process.

If you’ve just completed detox, you should feel proud for having accomplished one of the more challenging components of the recovery process. While this is a significant achievement, it’s important to remember that detox is only one phase in the recovery journey.

Know that it’s common for people to feel worn out or tired after detox, and you might feel like stopping or postponing further addiction treatment. Even though it may not be easy to continue moving forward, treatment is a crucial component of recovery, providing skills to prevent relapse, and remain sober long-term. Learn more about your next steps after detox below:

Transitioning from Alcohol Detox to Rehab

Not everyone who completes detox enters a treatment program. However, because alcohol use disorder is a lifelong relapsing disease that can affect so many aspects of a person’s life, a treatment program allows you the time to meet your specific recovery needs, including modifying your attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol use.1 Treatment programs typically take a whole-person approach, helping to identify and meet many of the medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal needs that were impacted by your alcohol use.1

Two main goals of treatment are to help you recognize the warning signs of relapse and to develop a plan to manage those triggers.2 While relapse is often a common part of the recovery process, years of research have informed the development of evidence-based methods that can help prevent it.3

detox and alcohol

Although estimated remission and relapse rates have varied across different studies, a study looking at 3-year and 16-year follow-up in a group of people who were treated vs. a group of people who were untreated, found that 62.4% of individuals in the helped group were remitted at 3-year follow-up vs. 43.4% in the non-helped group.3 In other words, people who did not seek help were less likely to achieve remission at the 3-year mark when compared to those who did seek treatment. At the year 16 follow-up, 60.5% of the 3-year remitted individuals in the no-help group had relapsed vs. 42.9% of the 3-year remitted individuals in the helped group.3

What to Expect in Alcohol Rehab

You might be curious about what to expect during treatment. While the exact structure and type of therapies you’ll receive can vary depending on your individual needs and the type of treatment you are likely to benefit from (inpatient or outpatient), some of the therapies you may receive include:4,5,6,7

  • Medication: You may receive FDA-approved medications, such as disulfiram, acamprosate, or naltrexone, to help reduce heavy drinking and prevent relapse.
  • Individual therapy and counseling: This can help you develop and reach your recovery goals, cultivate insight into your addiction, and cope with triggers to relapse.
  • Group therapy and counseling: You may participate in therapy sessions that includes others who are going through the recovery process.
  • Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or motivational enhancement therapy (MET). These therapies can help you build and maintain motivation to make positive life changes and help you to recognize and then replace unhelpful or negative thoughts and behaviors that may lead to relapse.
  • Couples or family counseling: If appropriate to your situation, family therapy sessions can help rebuild relationships that may have been impacted by your addiction.
  • Educational classes such as coping skills, parenting skills, stress management, vocational training, or relapse prevention classes. These classes can help you develop and fortify the skills you’ll need to live a healthier and sober life.
  • Mutual support meetings: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery are two well-known types of mutual support groups. In these groups, you’ll share your experiences with others and work through the steps or points of recovery with the support and guidance of a sponsor.

Benefits of Alcohol Treatment

Addiction treatment can potentially provide many benefits that may help improve your overall functioning and well-being. These include:5,6,8,9

  • Reducing alcohol and substance use.
  • Decreasing involvement with the criminal justice system.
  • Identifying and addressing any co-occurring disorders (which can include mental health problems like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or PTSD).
  • Developing healthy ways of managing stress.
  • Learning effective methods to cope with triggers and prevent relapse.
  • Improved health and wellness.
  • Job counseling and employment opportunities.
  • Reducing financial strain from spending money on alcohol and alcohol-related problems (like DWIs or legal fees).
  • Building a positive network of recovery-oriented peers, which can provide you with lifelong support.
  • Improving relationships with friends, family, and other important people in your life.

The outcomes and benefits of rehab will look different for each person. What remains true, however, is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people struggling with alcoholism can benefit from some form of treatment.4

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What Happens During Rehab for Alcohol

Every facility offers different structures and schedules that will vary depending on your needs. At American Addiction Centers (AAC), our facilities offer a range of evidence-based approaches to treatment and specialized tracks to help individuals better work toward recovery.

group therapy

We focus on addressing our patients as a whole person, which includes treating co-occurring mental health conditions and uncovering the underlying issues that may have contributed to the development of the disease of addiction in the first place.

Though schedules, amenities and alternative therapies vary by center, a typical day in treatment with us may look like:

  • Breakfast.
  • Medication administration (if necessary).
  • Recreational time (which might include exercise, yoga, meditation, or free time).
  • Reflections.
  • Groups or educational classes.
  • Lunch.
  • Medication administration.
  • Groups or educational classes.
  • Reflections.
  • Recreational time.
  • Dinner.
  • Community meetings or mutual support groups.
  • Medication administration.
  • Free time.

How Effective is Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol addiction treatment can be very effective, however, keep in mind that you’ll need to make fundamental changes to the thoughts and behaviors that contributed to or caused your addiction, and that isn’t always easy. You may relapse, but that is a normal part of the recovery process.

While treatment success rates, as well as the definition of what constitutes success, varies from study to study, follow-up research comparing those who undergo treatment vs. those who don’t typically shows higher relapse rates for people who do not undergo treatment vs. those who receive treatment.3

Those who relapse may benefit from repeated attempts at treatment, as recovery is not a simple process. Addiction is a chronic disease and successful treatment requires an ongoing commitment to recovery.10 It’s more than just stopping drinking for a few days and hoping for the best.

The good news is that researchers know that treatment works, After tracking individuals in treatment over extended periods, research shows that most people who receive and remain in treatment stop using alcohol, decrease their criminal activity, and demonstrate improvements  in social, vocational, and psychological functioning.11 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that around one-third of people who undergo treatment for alcoholism have no symptoms one year later. They are able to significantly decrease alcohol consumption and report fewer alcohol-related problems.4

Regardless of how bad things might seem, most people struggling with alcoholism can benefit from some form of treatment.4 Medications like naltrexone or disulfiram may be used as an adjunct to behavioral therapies, and may help you stop or decrease drinking as you go through the treatment process.10

Additional components of a relapse prevention plan might include:2,4

  • Developing awareness of and learning to cope with triggers.
  • Avoiding people with whom you used to drink.
  • Attending mutual support groups like AA or SMART Recovery.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Reaching out to recovery-oriented people for support.
  • Using self-care and stress management techniques.
  • Re-engaging in formal treatment should you experience relapse.

Get Help for Alcoholism is a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, a nationwide provider of addiction treatment centers. If you’ve made the life-changing decision to quit alcohol or still have questions about what a sober life could mean for you, our admissions navigators are eager to speak with you.

In fact, some of our navigators are also in recovery and can empathize with how you may be feeling about starting down this path. Call us 24/7 at 1-888-685-5770 or get a text to discuss your treatment options, learn more about our facilities, and get help verifying your insurance coverage. All calls are 100% confidential and there is no pressure to make any decisions during your first call.

While it may seem intimidating, getting help for alcoholism may be the best thing you do for yourself, your family and your loved ones. Fill out the form below to instantly verify your insurance now!

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[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Treatment and Recovery. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

[2]. Melemis, S. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332.

[3]. Moos, R. H., & Moos, B. S. (2006). Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Addiction, 101(2), 212–222.

[4]. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.

[5]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Principles of Effective Treatment.

[6]. McHugh, R. K., Hearon, B. A., & Otto, M. W. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(3), 511–525.

[7]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2005). Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy: Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41: 1. Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment.

[8]. Jung, Y. C., & Namkoong, K. (2006). Pharmacotherapy for alcohol dependence: anticraving medications for relapse prevention. Yonsei medical journal, 47(2), 167–178.

[9]. Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Chapter 6: Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders.

[10]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts

[11]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): How effective is drug addiction treatment?