Alcoholism treatment is often the best course of action for helping the alcoholic arrest their alcoholism and issues related to alcohol abuse and addiction.  Learn about the various approaches to treating alcoholism here at the Alcoholic Helpline

When someone drinks alcohol too often, too quickly, and/or in large quantities, alcohol-related problems start to occur. This is one of the greatest public health issues facing our country, and one that many people will face at some point or another. In fact, it has been estimated that around 17 million people in this country currently have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and that some 10% of all children live in an alcoholic household. Luckily, alcoholism treatment is available.

A man who is suffering from alcoholism to the point of ignoring a child nearby

A man who is suffering from alcoholism to the point of ignoring a child nearby

Different Levels of Care

There are many common forms of treatment available for those with a drinking problem, and most people have heard of both rehab and 12-step programs such as that offered by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). However, over the past six decades or so, when alcohol problems have become recognized, several studies have been conducted into effective methods of treatment, resulting in a lot of other options becoming available as well.


It is now understood that alcoholism is a disease that affects different people in different ways, which means that there is no possible one-size-fits-all treatment option. That said, the SAMHSA Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) is seen as a governing principle for all forms of treatment.

“It is an important challenge for detoxification service providers to find the most effective way to foster a patient’s recovery. Effective detoxification includes not only the medical stabilization of the patient and the safe and humane withdrawal from drugs, including alcohol, but also entry into treatment. Successfully linking detoxification with substance abuse treatment reduces the “revolving door” phenomenon of repeated withdrawals, saves money in the medium and long run, and delivers the sound and humane level of care patients need.”

TIP contains eight guiding principles:

1. Detox is not the same as substance abuse treatment, but rather an element of it.
2. Detox starts with evaluation, followed by stabilization, followed by helping a patient prepare to enter full treatment, in order for it to be classed as effective.
3. Detox can occur in a range of different settings, and different intensities must be made available.
4. Those going through detox must be able to access effective detox in appropriate settings.
5. Anyone requiring detox should, after completion, be put in touch with a full treatment program, even if they choose not to remain with the detox provider.
6. Insurance programs should provide coverage for detox as this will ultimately be more cost-effective.
7. The ethnic and cultural backgrounds of all patients must be recognized in detox services.
8. Detox can be classed as successful if someone enters and remains in treatment, and complies with the program.

Call us at 1-866-225-8502  and talk to a treatment specialist who can provide guidance and support.

The first step of detox, as stated, is evaluation. This is an opportunity for a physician to determine the extent of the alcohol abuse, and whether you also have any co-occurring disorders. In so doing, appropriate detox and follow-up treatment can be advised. One option, for instance, is medically monitored detoxification

“If you have a long history of alcohol abuse, including multiple withdrawal periods, you may be advised to enter a medically monitored detoxification program.”

Assessments can be performed by a primary care physician or at a detox center. Routine questions will be posed to determine whether co-occurring disorders are present. In the case of alcohol addiction, this period is absolutely essential, as alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. This is why it is also vital to be open and honest with the person asking the questions.

When you enroll in a detox program, you will have a second evaluation at the clinic itself. This provides you with an opportunity to ask questions and gain an understanding of what will happen next. You may be prescribed medication if a physician is able to determine that this would be an appropriate form of treatment.  Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to help prevent seizures and tremors, agitation, and anxiety. You will be monitored for the duration of your detox process, ensuring that you are safe and relatively comfortable. This particular period will be hard, but it can be managed with the right support.

Residential or Inpatient Treatment

Following detox, you should enroll for further treatment. One option that you have available is residential or inpatient treatment. With regards to inpatient treatment facilities, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes several differences:

“Treatment can be provided in inpatient or residential sessions. This happens within specialty substance use disorder treatment facilities, facilities with a broader behavioral health focus, or by specialized units within hospitals. Longer-term residential treatment has lengths of stay that can be as long as six to twelve months and is relatively uncommon. These programs focus on helping individuals change their behaviors in a highly structured setting. Shorter term residential treatment is much more common, and typically has a focus on detoxification (also known as medically managed withdrawal) as well as providing initial intensive treatment, and preparation for a return to community-based settings.”

There are some clear benefits to be obtained from inpatient residential treatment, including:

• That you will be properly physically and psychologically assessed on intake.
• That you can be supported through your period of withdrawal.
• That you may be able to access medical interventions, both for alcoholism/alcohol dependency and for any co-occurring disorders.
• That you can receive appropriate treatment should you have a dual diagnosis.
• That you remain in a safe environment free from the distractions and triggers you were exposed to.
• That you can take part in both individual and group therapy every day.
• That treatment usually includes nutritional counseling.
• That certain specialized centers exist with holistic treatment.
• That you can take part in skills training and family therapy.
• That excellent aftercare options are in place.

a man who is now clean and sober

The joy of becoming clean and sober

Partial Hospitalization or Day Treatment

For some people, inpatient rehab treatment is not appropriate, but they do require more intensive care. For them, partial hospitalization, classed as a form of outpatient treatment, may be relevant. This is also known as “day treatment” and is suitable for those who have a reasonably serious alcoholism history and/or co-occurring disorders. These people may be able to live at home and participate in professional or educational opportunities, while still receiving treatment on a near-daily basis.
Often, this treatment is offered to those who have undergone inpatient treatment but have been struggling with relapse. Those who require medical treatment, such as laboratory services, are also offered partial hospitalization. It requires a significant time comment, with people generally expected to attend treatment every day for between two and eight hour sessions.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Slightly lower on the scale of intensity than partial hospitalization is intensive outpatient treatment. This is most suitable for those with a mild to moderate drinking problem who have not been to inpatient treatment yet. This treatment can also address co-occurring disorder. Again, a significant time commitment is required, although most people attend just five days a week.

Outpatient Treatment

The least intensive form of treatment available is outpatient treatment. It is generally seen as appropriate only for those who have mild alcoholism problems. That said, there are some key benefits offered by outpatient treatment, including:
• That it can be delivered in a range of different settings (community clinics, doctor’s offices, dedicated addiction clinics, or even over the telephone).
• That it offers a more flexible schedule, so that people can continue to meet their other responsibilities.
• That is more affordable.

How to Choose the Best Treatment Option

A number of factors determine which form of treatment is most suitable for someone with a drinking problem, including:
• Whether they require (medically assisted) detox.
• Whether they require ongoing medical treatment, for instance, if they have experienced alcohol poisoning.
• Whether they require family therapy and other forms of skills training to reintegrate into a sober society.
• Whether they require further therapy for co-occurring disorders.

Of vital importance is that the treatment is right for the individual. Furthermore, a comprehensive aftercare plan should be put in place to help prevent relapse. Lastly, relapse is seen as part of the journey to recovery, so people must know what to do should they experience it.
If you require further information about alcoholism treatment, please call our alcoholism hotline1-866-225-8502 and talk to someone who understands and who can help.

Alcoholic Helpline Team – July 3, 2017