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Individuals concerned that they have a pattern of problem drinking or full-blown alcohol addiction should seek alcoholism treatment before the problem gets any worse. Alcoholism can be mild to severe. It is advisable to seek some type of help as early as possible, as addiction to alcohol is known to be progressive. If you think you or a loved one have some or all of the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, it is a good time to begin formulating a plan for recovery, and that plan should have professionally-administered alcoholism treatment at its core.

Where to Find Help for Alcoholism

  • Support from clergy or a spiritual foundation
  • Retreats
  • Mutual help groups, such as the 12-step groups, or SMART recovery
  • Counseling
  • Evaluation by a specialized medical doctor for the prescription of medications that treat alcoholism
  • Formal treatment, such as outpatient or inpatient treatment
photo of people all holding hands in a circle

How Does Alcoholism Treatment Work?

Since alcohol withdrawal can pose significant health risks, up to and including death, it is advisable that a physician is seen prior to the initiation of any treatment for alcohol addiction. It may be recommended at this point that, depending on the duration, frequency and amount of drinking and the patient’s signs and symptoms, alcohol detoxification be the first step in treatment. Although alcohol detox is often the critical first step in alcoholism treatment, it is by no means the only step. Individuals looking for a successful long-term recovery from alcohol addiction should commit themselves to the full course of alcoholism treatment and not see detox as a “quick fix” to their problems. Oftentimes, alcoholism is part of a much larger web of physical and mental health issues that need to be unraveled in order to be completely addressed. Detox, alone, will rarely be successful for the long term.

A Medical Case Study:
The Intersection of Alcoholism & Mental Health Issues

A 50–year–old man presents to the emergency room complaining: “I’m going to end it all . . . life’s just not worth living.” The doctor elicits an approximate 1–week history of depressed mood, feelings of guilt, and occasional suicidal ideas that have grown in intensity since the man’s wife left him the previous day. The man denies difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, or any changes in his appetite or weight prior to his wife’s departure.

He appears unshaven and slightly unkempt, but states that he was able to go to work and function on the job until his wife left. The scent of alcohol is present on the man’s breath. When asked about this, he admits to having “a few drinks to ease the pain” earlier that morning, but does not expand on this theme. He seeks help for his low mood and demoralization, acknowledging later in the interview that “I really don’t want to kill myself; I just want my life back to the way it used to be.”

The questions facing the doctor in this case study include:

  • Is the patient clinically depressed in the sense that he has a major depressive episode requiring aggressive pharmacological and psychosocial treatment?
  • What role, if any, is alcohol playing in the patient’s complaints?
  • Can one tease out whether drinking is the cause of the man’s mood problems or the result of them?
  • If the man’s condition is not a major depression, what is it, what is its likely course, and how can it be treated?

The Dangers of Alcohol Detox

During alcohol detox, a physician will monitor the alcoholic and determine the appropriate course of medications and other medical interventions to maintain patient safety and comfort. This stage can be potentially very dangerous without proper medical supervision. During the alcohol detox phase of alcoholism treatment, there are a number of distinct stages of alcohol withdrawal that the individual goes through. Each of these has their own set of symptoms and dangers to look out for.

Different Levels of Care in Alcoholism Treatment

After alcohol detox, the next appropriate level of care will be determined. Regardless of the level-of-care that is recommended, the treatment components are typically similar. The differences are in the intensity of services and the qualifications of the staff providing the services. Each of these alcoholism treatment options has different pros and cons, making different solutions optimal for specific individuals. An experienced alcoholism treatment professional is best-suited to help you determine which approach will work best for you or your loved one. Some of the possible options are listed below.

Alcoholism Treatment Options

  • Inpatient Alcohol Rehab includes around-the-clock medical monitoring
  • Residential Alcohol Rehab includes around-the-clock observation by staff, with on-call medical services
  • Partial Hospitalization Program is an alcohol treatment level-of-care that provides treatment during daytime hours
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment includes programming for 3-4 hours per day
  • Outpatient Treatment typically offers 1-2 outpatient groups and one individual session per week
infographic showing a hourglass with sands representing withdrawal symptoms from alcohol detox

Source: [2] WebMD

Alcohol Rehab Starts with an Assessment

When you enter an alcohol rehab for alcoholism treatment, you will be exposed to a wide range of treatment services, each designed to address different aspects of the recovery process. The first step is always an assessment of your individual needs. This assessment will enable the professional staff to design an individualized program that addresses your specific needs, including any medical or mental health issues that may be intertwined with your addiction to alcohol. Based upon your individual assessment, you will be enrolled in various group and individual therapies, as well as educational sessions covering the nature of your addiction and life skills that will help you avoid relapse and construct a positive and successful life post-rehab.

Alcoholism Treatment Services

  • Assessment – Psychosocial, case management, medical, psychiatric, and sometimes nursing (depending on the level-of-care)
  • Counseling
  • Educational groups
  • Life skill groups
  • Nutritional groups
  • Medical care
  • Psychiatric care
  • Relapse prevention education and counseling
photo of people crossing the finish line at a track race

Setting Goals for Effective Alcoholism Treatment

The overall goal of an alcohol treatment program is to decrease or stop all use of alcohol. However, the true purpose underlying this major goal is to restore mental and physical health and to promote the restoration of a productive lifestyle. These major goals are the most common reasons that patients initially seek alcoholism treatment in an alcohol rehab. However, it is also critical that, during treatment in an inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab, one develop further, more specific goals. This list of specific goals will provide meaning and structure to the individual’s recovery, giving them personal signposts to judge how far they have come and how far they still need to go on their personal journey of recovery.

Examples of Recovery Goals

  • The resolution of specific medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, or liver disease
  • Decreasing depression or anxiety, or stabilizing bipolar disorder
  • Repairing legal issues
  • Improving one’s financial situation
  • Developing stronger personal relationships
  • Increasing work productivity
  • Returning to previous leisure activities
  • Maturing in one’s spirituality
  • Finding the ability to help others

Begin Alcoholism Treatment Today!

If you or a loved one is in need of alcoholism treatment, call BWR at 800-683-4457 to get help from our experienced team of substance abuse treatment professionals. Our operators are available 24/7, and can get you or our loved one started on the road to recovery before alcoholism does any more damage than it already has. Don’t wait until it’s too late; call today!


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

Your decision to regain your life helps and heals your entire family. Do it for them. Do it for you.


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