Alcohol dependency affects over 15 million Americans, with a shocking half a million of those between the ages of 9 and 12. Alcohol and alcohol related problems contribute to at least $100 million in annual health care costs and loss of productivity. Nearly a quarter of those admitted to hospitals have some type of alcohol problem or are diagnosed for alcohol related consequences. With the statistics at crisis levels, it’s important to examine the role that alcohol rehab centers can play in solving these problems.
There are three main approaches to alcohol rehabilitation: Behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and pharmacological treatment. Most inpatient rehab centers employ a combination of approaches to provide more comprehensive treatment.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the most well-known 12-step program. Most treatment programs, whether outpatient or inpatient, encourage patients to attend one of these self help groups. Some even offer 12-step meetings within their facilities or educate the patient about the program in a learning environment. Behavioral therapies are designed to prevent relapse by teaching the skills necessary to avoid temptation and function normally once their initial treatment is complete. Pharmacological treatment includes the use of medications such as disulfiram and naltrexone to combat the physical symptoms and urges of alcohol dependency.
In 1999, more than 700,000 people received treatment for alcohol each day. A vast majority of them were treated in outpatient facilities. The more intense type of this treatment involves the patient visiting a hospital treatment program for several hours a day on several days a week. The less intensive form of outpatient treatment focuses on counseling sessions once or twice a week, sometimes involving group sessions and family therapy as well as individual counseling.
The advantages of outpatient treatment include lower treatment costs, shorter treatment programs, and the ability to maintain outside relationships and activities while undergoing treatment.
Inpatient alcohol rehab traditionally lasts for 28 days. However, with rising health care costs, this number is diminishing. Studies in the mid 1990s found that inpatient treatment is especially helpful for patients with additional medical and/or psychiatric conditions (also known as dual-diagnosis patients) or for those whose environments are not supportive of rehabilitation.
In addition to the 28 day rehabilitation program, some alcohol rehab centers offer extended stay treatments. These programs allow a patient to enter a therapeutic community for six to twelve months, providing the time necessary for both detoxification and counseling as well as social and occupational therapies that can help them function better once they return to society. These programs are ideal for patients with longer histories of addiction, impaired social functioning, or involvement in serious criminal activities. Alcohol rehab programs that treat adolescents and children also provide for continuing education, such as high school and college courses during the inpatient stay. The longer treatment plan allows for the slow re-socialization of patients to a drug-free and crime-free life.
One of the cornerstones of successful alcohol rehab is detoxification. The symptoms associated with cessation of alcohol consumption are collectively referred to as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. These can include insomnia, irritability, tremors, seizures, delirium tremens, and hallucinations. As a result of the dangers of these sometimes life-threatening symptoms, many alcohol rehab programs require an initial period of detoxification. Even if an alcoholic will be getting outpatient treatment, they may require inpatient detox first. However, there are some detox programs that are administers on an outpatient basis, when the alcohol withdrawal syndrome is less severe.
A successful alcohol rehab center will have a trained, professional staff that ensures quality individual support of patients while maintaining an alcohol and drug-free environment. It will provide comprehensive counseling, education, and referrals to community resources for continuing recovery after treatment. It will offer alcohol and drug education to its patients while conducting outreach to reduce the stigma of addiction and alcoholism in its surrounding community. Most importantly, a quality alcohol rehab center will have a documented record of success rate in rehabilitating patients and the ability to demonstrate the longevity of their patient recovery.
The ultimate goal of alcohol rehabilitation is a productive and sober life for the alcoholic once they complete treatment. The ability of a rehab program to provide the addict with treatment and usable skills to help them abstain from alcohol (or to consume in controlled moderation) is their true measure of success.