Although there may be no easy cure for alcoholism, with ongoing treatment and continued recovery efforts, it can successfully be managed. Treatment for alcohol use disorders typically takes place within one of two settings: inpatient or outpatient.
Within those two settings there exists a variety of treatment approaches to better serve each person’s individual needs. One such option is inpatient or residential alcohol treatment which provides 24-hour rehabilitation and care, while giving patients access to on-call medical and psychiatric services during their stay.
By entering a residential treatment center, outside influences are largely eliminated during this important early stage of your recovery. Residential facilities vary in amenities and services, but commonly incorporate a range of recovery programming including individual and group behavioral therapy, coping skills education, and relapse prevention classes.1
Depending on a patient’s individual needs, those entering rehab may choose between short-term and long-term residential treatment. Many patients will remain within a facility for 7-30 days; though studies have shown that patients remain in a program for a substantial length of time—often 90 days or longer—have improved outcomes.2,3
If you or someone you know is considering a residential alcohol treatment center, call our toll-free hotline to discuss your available options for treatment.
Alcoholism Management in Residential Facilities
Patients who enroll in a residential facility will have a recovery program tailored to meet their needs. During the screening and intake process, patients will undergo a full assessment of their substance use history and their patterns of use from the first time they used until the present.
This includes which drug(s) have been used, any family history of alcohol and drug abuse, and the reasons for use.2 Any concurrent medical or mental health issues should also be discussed at the start of the program, as it will help shape the appropriate management of all issues while in treatment. Your comprehensive treatment plan may involve the following elements of care:
When a person with significant levels of physical alcohol dependence decides to quit drinking, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal.4 Alcohol-associated withdrawal effects can be severely unpleasant and/or life-threatening. In such instances, medical supervision is critical during the detoxification phase to ensure a patient’s safety and comfort.4
Medical detox allows the body to rid itself of the influence of alcohol in a controlled and comfortable environment. Along with supervised care, this process within a residential facility may include withdrawal management with medications such as benzodiazepines to minimize the risk of complications such as seizures and to reduce any discomfort felt during the detoxification process.5
Residential facilities allow staff to closely monitor patients and administer medication in ways that would be difficult on an outpatient basis. This allows the patient to be kept as safe and comfortable as possible during the detoxification process, and facilitates quick adjustments to withdrawal management medications, when needed.
Following the successful completion of detox, patients will start their recovery programming within the residential facility. During this time, aside from medications used for managing the acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome, other medications may be used to treat alcoholism in the longer-term such as disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate.6
Though their mechanisms of action vary—naltrexone helps to minimize the rewarding effects of alcohol; disulfiram will result in physical discomfort if drinking takes place; acamprosate helps to balance to certain types of brain chemistry disrupted by prolonged alcohol us—all of these medications can be used in conjunction with a behavioral therapeutic regimen to decrease drinking behavior and lessen the risk of relapse. Residential treatment facilities can help patients by initiating the use of these medication and addressing any side effects to arise.
Individual or group therapy is often a major component of residential facility programming. Unlike the group experience common to in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, group therapy at a treatment center will have a trained leader who will gently guide each session.7 Group therapy can be helpful in enabling members to witness the recovery of others and reduce isolation.7 Group sizes are also often much smaller than peer-led self-help groups, with sizes ranging from 8-15 members at one time.7
Treating Polysubstance Abuse
In some cases, patients may have also be addicted to, or dependent on, illegal drugs and/or prescription medications as well. This is called polysubstance use. Since withdrawal from multiple substances can be more complicated than with just alcohol alone, a supervised medical detox is an appropriate level of care in these situations.
Many inpatient facilities will be vigilant for and ready to appropriately manage polysubstance addictions. Safe detoxification from multiple substances is possible, and commonly proceeds with management of the most acute associated withdrawal syndrome first.8 Once detox is complete, similar to treating solely an alcohol use disorder, patients will then work toward recovery through a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
With any substance abuse treatment program, it must be tailored to the individual and should be customized to address all of the person’s needs, not just those immediately related to their substance abuse. For those with polysubstance use, identifying what may have led them to abuse those substances in the first place is essential to working toward recovery long-term.
Getting Help for Alcoholism
If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is ready to talk with you about your treatment options. Alcohol.org is a subsidiary of AAC, a nationwide provider of treatment facilities offering personalized addiction services to those struggling with drugs and/or alcohol.
Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to discuss your options today and answer any questions you may have about treatment, our facilities, or how to pay for rehab. Read more about AAC’s approach to alcohol treatment or check if you or your loved one’s insurance covers treatment at an AAC facility by filling out the form below.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). A Treatment Improvement Protocol No. 45. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of effective treatment.
. MedlinePlus. (2019). Alcohol Withdrawal.
. Martin, K., Katz, A. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). The Role of Barbiturates for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Psychosomatics; 57(4): 341-347.
. Williams Ph.D., Steven H. (2005). Medications for Treating Alcohol Dependence. Am Fam Physician, 1;72(9):1775-1780.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.