Alcohol Detox and Rehab Programs: What to Know

Everyone has specific needs in terms of treating alcohol use disorder (AUD), a condition that can be treated when the alcohol use history becomes irregular and causes severe distress. This can range from mild to extreme, depending on how many symptoms you encounter. The treatment you’ll need partly depends on where you are within that spectrum.

Some people with AUD are alcohol dependent and have signs of withdrawal when they quit drinking all of a sudden. The consequences of withdrawal can be both unpleasant and dangerous to the body and mind. This is where detox begins.


Detox alone is not a cure, but it is the first step in the recovery process for those dependent on alcohol. It is essentially cleansing your body of toxins that are damaging your body. 

When someone with an alcohol dependency unexpectedly stops drinking, typically within 6-24 hours from their last drink, they may exhibit symptoms of withdrawal. It might occur as their blood still contains alcohol.

The symptoms of withdrawal are minor for some but much more significant and dangerous to others. This is why it is recommended that when going through alcohol detox, it should be done under the supervision of a medical professional. The following are the symptoms you might experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening problem that can make you anxious, distressed and disturbed as well as triggering nausea, hallucinations and seizures
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations, when you see or hear things that aren’t there
  • Sleeping issues
  • Shakiness, particularly in your hands
  • Erratic changes in blood pressure and heart rate


According to studies, alcohol and drug addiction is a degenerating brain disease which is defined by a psychological and also physical dependence on drugs, alcohol or a specific behavior. Addiction is more than just a behavioral disorder and it impacts a person’s way of interaction, feelings and cognition. Someone that has addiction is also having a hard time relating to other people, the community, their family and even  understanding their own psychological state. 

When we talk about drugs, other than triggering chemical changes in the brain, it also heavily impacts the way a person thinks, feels and acts.  More often than not, addiction is misunderstood to be a result of a person’s “bad choice” and being unable to get out of addiction is perceived as a lack of will power and moral values. On the other hand, studies have proved that addiction is characterized by a compulsive drug seeking behavior despite its negative reaction.

Addiction is a result of a repetitive use of drugs and/or alcohol that can soon lead to a chemical reaction in the brain. This chemical shift interferes with a person’s self control, way of thinking and the inability to resist drugs or alcohol. The more and longer your brain is exposed to these substances, it will become extremely difficult to quit using drugs or drinking alcohol. This results in people relapsing even after many years of being sober from drugs and alcohol.


Being totally free from addiction may involve taking specific medication to battle withdrawal issues. Medications used in detox will help keep former users feel comfortable as drugs leave their body. Drug and alcohol detox, group, individual therapy and group therapy is recommended for various lengths of time

Detoxification, or detox is a process of totally eliminating drugs or alcohol in the body. The primary purpose of detox is to safely manage any potential withdrawal symptoms when someone addicted to drugs and alcohol suddenly stops using them. Detox severity will vary among different clients. Detox lasts longer for some clients than it does for others. There are numerous factors that will impact how long it takes for an individual client to complete detox. Factors like how long that client has been struggling with substance abuse, the amount consumed, frequency of consumption, and any underlying medical or mental health conditions.


If you have thought about detox programs, it gives you a chance to look a step ahead to being in rehab. That’s because you’ll also need treatment to break your addiction, and some programs combine the two. Extensive research and studies on addiction treatment usually have classified programs. Currently, treatment approaches, individual or group programs continue to evolve and diversify. Here are some levels of care and types of detox programs.

Detox – Detox treatment, also commonly called simply detoxification or detox, is the process of removing toxic substances from the body. Detoxification in humans is used for addictions to both drugs and alcohol. Often mistaken as a comprehensive treatment, alcohol or drug detox is the first step in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. In order for a rehabilitation program to have a reasonable chance of success, the first step is getting the individual struggling with addiction physically stable through detox treatment. When addiction is more pronounced, a detox approach may be undertaken to better manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Voluntary detox treatment is generally provided through inpatient programs at alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities. These facilities have varying approaches depending upon the scope of one’s addiction, how long one has been struggling with drugs or alcohol as well as the facility’s capabilities.

Residential Treatment – Residential treatment programs are commonly used by individuals who may need to complete a detoxification process before other treatment work can begin. These facilities typically offer medical detox services in addition to housing and mental health capabilities. The functioning of residential treatment rests in part on the ability to provide clients with a safe and drug free living community. 

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – Partial hospitalization, also known as PHP (partial hospitalization program), is a type of program used to treat mental illness and substance abuse. In partial hospitalization, the patient can reside at the facility or they can choose to reside at home or a halfway house/sober home, but commutes to a treatment center up to seven days a week. Partial hospitalization focuses on the overall treatment of the individual. Treatment during a typical day may include group therapy, psych-educational groups, skill building, individual therapy, and psychopharmacological assessments and check-ins.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP) Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are treatment programs used to address addictions, depression, eating disorders, or other dependencies that do not require detoxification or round-the-clock supervision. They enable patients to continue with their normal, day-to-day lives in a way that residential treatment programs do not. Whereas residential treatment requires that clients reside on site, clients in intensive outpatient programs live at home.

IOPs are sometimes used in conjunction with inpatient programs as a way of helping clients to more smoothly and seamlessly adapt back into their families and communities. They are designed to establish support mechanisms, help with relapse management, and provide coping strategies.

Outpatient, where you get some treatment during the day but live at home. This might be as simple as visiting your health care professional regularly to get meds.


Start by listing your needs. If you have a medical or mental health condition, for instance, you’re going to want treatment for that. Or if you’ve had years of hardship and don’t have a good support network, it could make sense to have an inpatient program.

You will look at both quality and cost from there. Ideally, you want to find a rehab plan that has approved trained workers and a high rate of success that you can afford.

You may want to write a list of questions to ask various services, such as:

  • Which insurance plans do you accept?
  • What is your Accreditation?
  • Do you provide medical and counselling services?
  • What is a typical day like in your program?
  • Is there aftercare after I finish the program?


Some programs will usually be provided but how much you will have to pay out of pocket depends on your specific insurance plan and the treatment program you want. The insurance company will cover only those programs which are medically necessary. They will focus on your individual case and determine which level of care, and length of time in each level of care based on medical necessity.

Medicare Part A provides hospital mental health services and medication for AUD. Part B under Medicare provides for outpatient alcohol-use disorder treatment.

The best decision you can make is to grab a pen and paper to take notes and call your health insurance company. Query about:

  • What are my benefits for substance abuse?
  • What treatment programs are in my network?
  • Do I need a referral?


As you work your way back into the groove of your daily life, after your drug and alcohol detox from a drug rehab clinic, the thought of using or drinking can start to creep back in. It is recommended that once you complete a treatment program you continue with aftercare. This includes additional support groups such as AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, Smart Recovery, and others. 

Author Credits

Court Nichols is the program director for detox and addiction rehab treatment facilities. He helps others focus on a lifestyle of sober living with healthy diet and exercises and many other mental and physical health habits.

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