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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Alcohol Detox Programs

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Alcoholism is a chronic disease. Like other chronic diseases, if left untreated, alcoholism can have serious, life-threatening consequences. Fortunately, there are effective treatment programs for alcoholism. While details vary from program to program, alcohol detox and alcohol rehab programs share certain essential components.

What Is Alcohol Detoxification?

Alcohol detox is an important preliminary step in the management of alcoholism. It is a medically supervised period of alcohol withdrawal. During this period, a doctor may administer medications to control symptoms, and the individual is monitored by health professionals to ensure his or her safety. In addition to medical care during withdrawal from alcohol, the person usually also receives education about his or her alcohol problem and its treatment.

Medical management of alcohol withdrawal for people who are alcohol dependent is often necessary, because the symptoms of withdrawal can be dangerous. They can include:

  • Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Not everyone has all these symptoms, and symptom can range from mild to severe. Typically, alcohol detoxification takes place in a regular medical ward of a hospital, a specialized detoxification unit, or in an outpatient clinic. Detox, which may last a few days to more than a week, is an important and necessary preparation for treatment.

What Are the Different Kinds of Alcohol Rehab Programs?

Alcohol rehabilitation takes place in a variety of settings:

Hospital- or medical-clinic-based programs. These programs offer both alcohol detox and alcohol rehab on an inpatient basis in specialized units. They are less common than they used to be, primarily because of changes in insurance.

Residential rehab programs. These programs can last from a month to more than a year and take place in a residential environment. Often, the treatment is divided into a series of stages that the person goes through. For instance, in the beginning, a patient's contact with others, including friends and family, is strictly limited. The idea is to develop a primary relationship with the other residents who are also recovering from alcoholism. Eventually, the person will be allowed more contact with people outside the residential community and may even go back to work or school, returning home to the treatment facility each day.

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