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Alcohol Detox Programs

What Happens in an Alcohol Rehab Program? continued...

Relapse prevention training. It's important that the person recovering from alcoholism learn to recognize situations that can trigger a relapse and how to avoid them.

Orientation to self-help groups. Most alcohol rehab programs require participants to join a self-help group after the program ends to help them continue on the path of recovery. Taking part in a self-help group is not considered part of treatment, but rather an essential part of maintenance.

Most people are familiar with 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, which has been highly successful at helping people stay sober. But there are people who don't like the 12-step approach for a variety of reasons, including its spiritual or religious overtones. So, most rehab programs include orientation to other programs such as SMART, which uses cognitive methods to help people stay sober, Women for Sobriety, which is a support program for women that focuses on issues that are specific to women in recovery, and Moderation Management, which is a program for people who want to moderate their drinking rather than stop. Moderation Management does recommend abstinence for people who aren't successful at moderation.

In addition to the above elements, many programs also include treatment for mental disorders.

Medications are also sometimes used to help a person stay sober, such as the older drug, disulfiram (Antabuse), which is not used as much due to its unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects if a person drinks while taking it. Naltrexone (Vivitrol, ReVia), used more commonly, reduces the craving for alcohol.

What Are Follow-up and Aftercare Programs?

Experts emphasize that it's important to consider someone who has had a problem with alcohol dependence and is now sober to always be in recovery -- no alcohol treatment program can guarantee a person will not relapse and begin drinking again. 

To help prevent relapse, people who have gone through treatment for alcoholism will periodically meet with a counselor or a group. The purpose is to assess how well the person is managing and to offer help in dealing with the challenges of daily living without alcohol.

How to Choose an Alcohol Treatment Program

The federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a list of 12 questions people should consider when selecting a treatment program:

  1. Does the program accept your insurance, and if not, will they work out an affordable payment plan?
  2. Is the program run by trained professionals who are state-accredited or licensed?
  3. Is the facility clean, organized, and well-run?
  4. Does the program cover the full range of individual needs from medical through vocational and legal?
  5. Does the program address sexual orientation and disabilities, and provide age, gender, and culturally appropriate treatment services?
  6. Is long-term aftercare encouraged, provided, and maintained?
  7. Is the treatment plan continuously assessed to ensure it meets changing needs?
  8. Are there strategies to engage and keep the individual in longer-term treatment, which increases the chance of success?
  9. Is there counseling and other behavioral therapies that enhance the ability to function in the family and community?
  10. Is medication, if appropriate, part of the treatment?
  11. Is there ongoing monitoring of possible relapse to help the person return to abstinence?
  12. Are there services or referrals offered to family members to ensure they understand the process and support the individual in recovery?



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on August 13, 2012

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