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Rehab for Alcoholism

In 2015, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that over 15 million American adults had alcohol use disorder (AUD), defined as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” Despite how widespread alcohol use disorders are, many struggle in knowing how to treat their addiction to alcohol and remain not convinced when it comes to needing rehab for alcoholism.

Alcohol Use Disorder is multi-faceted in terms of its effect. Alcoholism will affect cognitive function, bodily function, mental awareness, interpersonal relationships, impulse control, and many other factors of living.

For more information about alcohol rehab, please visit our page Outpatient Alcohol Rehab.

Alcohol Use Disorder Should Prompt Rehab for Alcoholism

Just like any medical or mental condition, you can be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The process for being diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder is undergoing an assessment in which a licensed medical professional will ask a series of questions that indicate which criteria you meet, according to the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, laid out in the DSM-5 or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Depending on the volume of criteria met, an alcohol use disorder can be categorized into three levels of severity mild, moderate, or severe.


Diagnosing an Alcohol Use Disorder, or Alcoholism

Diagnosing an individual with alcoholism should be done by a licensed medical professional. If you or your loved one are seeking treatment, any reputable rehab for alcoholism should include a diagnostic assessment upon intake. For those who are unsure if their loved one may have an alcohol use disorder, you can find the proper information on this page to make your initial determination.

Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder may include:

  • Drinking alone and/or to de-stress
  • Craving alcohol
  • Inability to stop drinking once you start
  • Prioritizing alcohol over other things
  • Continuing to drink despite the problems it causes you
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Using alcohol in unsafe situations
  • Developing a tolerance to the effects of alcohol

Alcohol Use Disorders

AUD can range from mild to severe and typically involves drinking to the point that alcohol consumption causes distress or harm to the drinker or others. Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to many health problems and can affect the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. Alcoholism can also increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including mouth, esophageal, throat, liver, and breast cancer.

The most common association with AUD may be cirrhosis of the liver, a serious medical condition that leads to liver scarring and ultimately, liver failure, as cirrhosis is treatable, but not curable. Though AUD is highly treatable, fewer than 10% of people with the disease seek treatment.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Withdrawal from alcohol is physically and emotionally taxing, and withdrawal symptoms vary in severity depending on age, alcohol/substance use, past history of withdrawal, and peak blood alcohol levels.

Physical Dependency on Alcohol

As with other drugs, the severity of alcohol withdrawal varies from individual to individual; the longer someone abuses alcohol, the worse the withdrawal.

Alcoholism may take years to develop. Unlike cocaine addiction (which may take only a few months to develop), the person may drink for ten to fifteen years before enduring the physical consequences of being an alcoholic. Once a physical dependence has been solidified, alcoholism becomes much more dangerous to an individual’s health and well-being. Physical dependence on alcohol should signify that an individual attend a rehab for alcoholism immediately.

Emotional Dependency on Alcohol

Most people with alcoholism have been progressively drinking more and more through out their history with alcohol. After such a long time, alcohol and the addiction has been woven deeply into the fabric of the person’s life.

Compared to the illegal drugs, alcohol in one way or another has probably been associated with a wider variety of activities: weddings, family dinners, birthday parties, football games, holidays celebrations of all kinds have become associated with drinking. It is not an easy pattern to break. These events and occasions have allowed alcohol consumption (and overconsumption) to maintain an aura of being socially acceptable, further inhibiting the clarity to understand that alcoholism is a problem.

Detoxing from Alcohol

The lengthy time period and ingrained associations of alcoholism increase the difficulty of withdrawal, and no one with a severe drinking problem should try to quit cold turkey on his own. Rehab for alcoholism is a necessity; alcohol use disorders can produce life-threatening effects during the withdrawal process. Detoxing from alcohol should be done under the care of trained medical professionals, as it quite literally can make the difference between life and death.

Alcohol detox is typically broken down into three stages, each characterized by a particular set of symptoms.

First stage (8 hours after last drink):

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia

Second stage (24-72 hours of last drink):

  • Rise in blood pressure and body temperature
  • Quickening of heartbeat
  • Diminished mental acuity

Third stage (72+ hours after last drink):

  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Risk of death

Hospital or inpatient rehabilitation detoxification provides the needed medical attention, including: fluids, vitamins, rest, sedation to ease the symptoms, and sometimes other medications to control the potential toxic effects of withdrawal, such as delirium tremens (DTs). DTs are a form of alcoholic psychosis characterized by extreme anxiety, trembling, sweating, upset stomach, and chest pain. Another more frequent need for a medical alcohol detoxification is the possibility of having a potentially fatal grand mal seizure on day three of detoxification. This is another vital reason why alcohol detoxification is not for do-it-yourselfers.

Alcohol and benzodiazepine detoxifications are the two most potentially lethal withdrawals of all drugs, including oxycodone, fentanyl and carfentanil.

What Medications are Used for Alcohol Detox?

Medical alcohol detoxification is started when the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin to present, usually within hours of the last drink. A benzodiazepine kind to the liver (Librium, generic name chlordiazepoxide) is usually used because by the time Librium is needed, the person’s liver is very much damaged. The good news is that patients can measure how well their body is detoxifying, not only by noticing a gradual improvement in attitude and mood, but also by watching their liver enzyme numbers going down.

Remember, two beers daily for one week can show measurable liver changes.

Levels of Alcohol Abuse

It can often be difficult to recognize when social drinking has progressed into alcohol abuse. It can be even more difficult deciding when it’s time to get help. It’s not always completely clear to alcoholics and their families what addiction looks like.

Being aware of the signs of alcoholism is the first step in deciding if seeking treatment is the right choice. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines the levels of alcohol abuse as follows:

  • Binge drinking occurs when someone drinks enough alcohol in one sitting to bring the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or more, which is considered legally impaired. On average, this means about five drinks for males and about four drinks for females within a two-hour period
  • Heavy drinking is about 15 drinks per week for men, and about eight drinks per week for women.
  • Alcohol abuse is generally considered to be regular drinking that can result in physical harm or damage to a person’s relationships or responsibilities. Alcohol abuse does not always mean a dependence on alcohol is present.
  • Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence is a psychological disorder that results the inability to stop drinking, even when it causes negative consequences in a person’s life.

When looking for physical signs of alcoholism there are several things to look out for. During the early stages of alcohol dependence, these signs may not be easily recognized. However, as the severity of the addiction increases, symptoms will become much more pronounced.

Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse include:

  • Blackouts or memory loss
  • Accidents and injuries during blackouts
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen face and nose
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Equilibrium problems
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms when drinking is stopped
  • Stomach pain
  • Digestive issues

Psychological symptoms will also be present depending on severity of alcohol dependence.

Psychological Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse include:

  • Loss of control over drinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep problems
  • Intense cravings
  • Guilt about drinking
  • Concealing drinking from others
  • Mood swings that range from mild to intense
  • Erratic behavior

Frequently Asked Questions about Alcoholism

  • Can you die from alcohol withdrawal?

    Yes, there are various side effects that can arise from an improper alcohol detox process which can result in death. A couple of these life-threatening side effects include: an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and grand mal seizures.

  • What medications are recommended for alcohol withdrawals?

    Usually, a mild benzodiazepine and an anticonvulsant or anti-seizure is recommended for alcohol withdrawals. These medications are commonly Librium (mild benzodiazepine) and Keppra or Lamictal (anti-seizure). The aforementioned medications are just examples using common standards, you should always consult with a doctor when determining which medication will work best for your case.

  • How long does withdrawal from alcohol last ?

    The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually last around five or six days when you undergo a professional medical detox. There are also “Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms” which can be seemingly physical symptoms brought on as a reaction to cognitive triggers of alcohol use. Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms or “PAWS” can last for months, usually three months. These symptoms will subside with the proper comprehensive treatment program and educational therapy surrounding triggers and coping mechanisms to combat them.

  • How much do you have to drink to become an alcoholic?

    Being an alcoholic doesn’t only depend on the amount of alcohol you consume, although consuming more alcohol for a longer period of time is indicative of developing a physical dependence on alcohol. This process is different for everyone, as it may take one person 3 months of heavy drinking to become physically dependent on alcohol, while it may take another person who has been heavily drinking for ten years to develop physical dependence. Physical dependence relies on medical history, family history, volume and frequency of alcohol consumption, and other factors like diet, pre-existing conditions and predisposition. In generic terms, being an ‘alcoholic’ apart from physical dependence, can be determined through one’s use of alcohol as their primary (or sole) coping skill.

  • Is there a rapid detox from alcohol available?

    No. You should never trust any source that claims to have a rapid detox from alcohol available. ‘Rapid detox’ is a marketing scheme, there is no such thing as an effective and successful rapid detox. Considering the detoxification process from alcohol is dependent on an individuals medical history, drinking history, etc. there is no way to pre-determine a set length of time in which a detox will be complete, until all information is taken into account and the individual begins presenting symptoms of withdrawal. You should expect any reputable detox program to claim a length of at least 4 days, and that is if you require no medical taper using narcotic medications like a mild benzodiazepine or barbiturate.

  • How long is a medical detox program for alcohol?

    A medical detox program for alcohol will range from 4 days on. Your length of stay in a medical detox program will be determined by various factors, including: your medical history, personal history of alcohol abuse, volume and frequency of drinking, tolerance to alcohol, and severity of your withdrawal symptoms. At Royal Life Centers, we have a medical detox program that is 4 or 8 days in length. The difference in length is determined by the factors mentioned above.

  • What are DTs?

    DTs are Delirium Tremens, a condition marking the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. DTs are identified through extreme confusion, uncontrollable shaking, hallucinations, seizures, skyrocketing blood pressure, and fever. Delirium Tremens are treatable with the proper medical care, but untreated they may last for around ten days and are likely life-threatening. In a setting well-equipped to handle alcohol withdrawal with the proper care and medication, it is unlikely that an individual detoxing from alcohol will experience DTs, although it is still possible.

  • Can the brain heal itself from alcohol?

    Excessive drinking, both short term and long term, can cause damage to the brain. Luckily, it is possible for the brain to heal itself from alcohol and the cognitive effects from alcohol. Usually, it takes around 18 months of abstinence to optimally recover some brain functions and the brain’s structure, although brain volume can begin regenerating around the 2-week mark of recovery. Keep in mind that some of the brain damage caused by alcoholism is irreversible.

Choosing The Right Rehab for Alcoholism

Sometimes the difference between the right facility, and the wrong one, can be a matter of life and death. It’s very important to choose the right fit for yourself in an alcohol rehab center.

You’ll be much more likely to complete a program that you actually enjoy as opposed to one you dislike. You’ll also absorb more knowledge and be likely to apply the new skills you learned when your experience is positive. While getting sober and maintaining that sobriety beyond treatment should be most important, you should also have a say in what you want to get out of treatment.

There are some simple steps to take to help narrow down the long list of alcohol rehab centers.

The first step is to determine what your treatment goals are. A good place to start is to decide which substances you want to stop or behaviors you wish to change. If you are able to, writing them down can be helpful when talking to different alcohol rehab centers. Different facilities have different specialties, so not every program will be right for you and your goals. Sometimes programs will offer something you want, and perhaps take a different path to achieve that goal. It’s important to find out all the information you can about your potential options in order to best decide.

Cost of Rehab For Alcoholism

Of course, cost and finances will play a large role in deciding which facility you attend. In fact, it’s usually the single biggest factor when deciding on a rehab. The first thing most people will do is check with their health insurance provider to see which facilities are compatible with their plan.

Each health insurance plan is different, which means that your options will vary based on your individual coverage. For those with limited financial means, there are state funded options and free local clinics that can help. Some programs will even offer some form of financing or installment payments. At Royal Life Centers, we are a private rehab for alcoholism, and work with many private insurance providers and commercial insurance plans. If an individual does not have health insurance, rehab for alcoholism is still an option. Here at Royal Life Centers, we have extremely affordable self-pay pricing. We also can help you find a facility that has sliding-scale fees or scholarship opportunities if you are unable to finance the cost of rehabilitation. Everyone struggling with alcoholism deserves quality care and the tools needed to overcome alcohol addiction.

Recovering from Alcohol Use Disorder

When you stop drinking and start to recover from alcoholism, your mind, body and spirit will begin to heal. Not long after you stop consuming alcohol, the body begins to try and stabilize itself. Your brain will also undergo a long list of changes in order to return to a healthy state. Your emotional well-being will likely be up and down for a bit, while all these changes are happening.

The best place to handle these rapid changes is in a safe place such as a drug and alcohol treatment center. During detox and inpatient treatment, you’ll have resources and professionals available to you 24/7 to guide you through unfamiliar or uncomfortable feelings.

Alcoholism Recovery

What your recovery looks like will probably be different from your peers. In fact, everyone has a personal process when it comes to getting and staying sober. More often than not, the process begins in an alcohol recovery treatment center but not everyone will have this luxury. When this is the case, it’s especially important that you have a strong program of recovery in place to help you through early sobriety. Factors of a strong program will strengthen your overall recovery and help you navigate a newly-sober life.

Where or how to build this foundation of recovery can be unfamiliar. Twelve step meetings, private therapy, and alternative support groups are all a great place to start.

To find out where to access these resources, an internet search will provide all the information you need. If you don’t have internet access at home, local libraries provide free access and may even be able to provide a list of local twelve step meetings.

12 Step Programs for Alcoholism: Alcoholics Anonymous

One of the most common forms of recovery help are twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. AA encourages you to attend meetings regularly, where you can connect with other alcoholics in various stages of recovery. Sharing your recovery in a meeting is a way to help others as well as help yourself. Alcoholics Anonymous operates on the premise that one alcoholic helping another is the most effective way to stay sober long-term.

In AA, you are encouraged to find a “sponsor” who will guide you through the twelve steps. A sponsor is another member of AA who has completed the steps with their own sponsor. The idea being that you will complete the steps with them and pass your knowledge and experience onto another alcoholic in need. Although not a religious program, another fundamental of AA is that you have a “spiritual awakening” as a result of the twelve steps. This can mean anything from a simple change in your thought process, to a complete reliance of God in everything you do. The process will be different for each person and there is no right or wrong way to approach the twelve steps and recovery.


Similar to other medications used for the result of blocking a desired effect, like the Naltrexone for opiate abuse, Antabuse is a medication that discourages alcohol abuse.

Occasionally, the prescription medication Antabuse (generic name disulfiram) may be used for brief periods to help patients through the cravings associated with recovery from alcoholism. Antabuse should only be used to help patients maintain sobriety while receiving other forms of supportive and psychological treatment.

Antabuse and its relatives are sometimes useful after inpatient treatment, because they discourage alcohol consumption by producing extremely unpleasant symptoms whenever the two substances are combined. Antabuse should only be used under close medical supervision and for a short period of time. By no means is Antabuse a cure for alcoholism—in fact, it is unlikely that the medication by itself will have a long-term effect on the drinking patterns of the alcoholic. Overcoming an alcohol use disorder should be much more dependent on a recovery lifestyle, like programs of recovery, being an active member of a community, support groups, etc. as opposed to pharmaceutical preventatives.

A comprehensive, collaborative approach to treatment designed to support physical and mental wellness and promote a lasting, sober lifestyle should be what a recovering alcoholic relies on.


Alcohol Facts and Statistics: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. [cited on August 20, 2020]

Drinking Levels Defined: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. [cited on August 20, 2020]

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