Alcohol Rehab Treatment

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, is one of the most widespread substance use disorders in the world. Addiction to alcohol poses significant risks to health, relationships and overall well-being, with the lives of both sufferers and those around them deeply impacted. Alcohol is both psychologically and physically addictive, and stopping drinking can be extremely challenging without professional help.

Effective alcohol addiction is about more than just giving up drinking; it requires a comprehensive approach to treatment, which helps to break the immediate dependency and establish solid foundations for lifelong sobriety. This approach requires both personal commitment and professional medical support to avoid the potential dangers of alcohol withdrawal and prevent relapse in the future.

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Understanding alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction is a complex brain disorder characterised by the compulsive desire to drink regardless of the negative consequences of doing so. Alcoholism is a multi-faceted condition involving both physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.

Physical dependence is when a person’s brain comes to rely upon the presence of alcohol for normal functioning, with the danger of withdrawal if alcohol is suddenly removed from the system. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and potentially even life-threatening in some cases. They include:

  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) – the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal can begin as early as a few hours after the last drink and may last for weeks, often resulting in relapse if not professionally managed.

Psychological dependence, on the other hand, involves an emotional or mental need for alcohol. This can include using alcohol to relieve stress, cope with problems or feel more at ease in social situations. Over time, the person may start drinking more frequently and in larger amounts to achieve the desired effect, a process known as tolerance. This increased consumption can further reinforce both the physical and psychological dependencies of alcohol.

Signs of alcohol addiction

While it is never too late to begin alcohol rehab treatment, the sooner help is sought, the better the chances of recovery. While recognising the warning signs of alcohol addiction can be difficult, early detection can be crucial for prompt intervention. Common signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Prioritising drinking over other activities or choosing activities specifically because drinking is involved
  • Drinking alone or lying about how much is being drunk
  • Feeling irritable or otherwise in a bad mood when not drinking
  • Growing apart from loved ones and friends as a result of drinking
  • Experiencing accidents or injuries resulting from alcohol consumption
  • Finding it difficult to sleep without alcohol
  • Relying on alcohol for everyday functioning
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Continuing to drink despite these issues

An overview of alcohol addiction treatment

As alcohol addiction has physical, psychological and social aspects, treatment requires a comprehensive approach that addresses all these facets of the condition. There are two main options for alcohol rehab treatment in the UK: outpatient NHS rehab and a private alcohol addiction treatment centre.

Outpatient alcohol rehab treatment

Outpatient treatment is provided for free by the NHS and involves regular visits to a healthcare facility for treatment and counselling sessions while living at home. This type of treatment allows individuals to maintain their daily routines, including work and family responsibilities, while receiving support for alcohol addiction.

Outpatient programmes may include a variety of services such as alcohol detox, group therapy and educational sessions about addiction. The flexibility of outpatient treatment can be beneficial for those with mild to moderate alcohol dependency who have a strong support system at home.

Inpatient alcohol rehab treatment

Private alcohol treatment centres offer residential programmes where individuals live at the facility for the duration of their treatment. These centres provide an immersive rehabilitation experience in a structured environment, away from the triggers and stressors of everyday life.

Treatment in a private alcohol addiction treatment centre typically involves a detox phase followed by a combination of therapies designed to address the psychological aspects of addiction. Private rehabs often offer a more diverse treatment plan and a higher staff-to-patient ratio, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with severe addiction or those who have not responded well to outpatient treatment.

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Medical alcohol detox

As explained above, when someone has been drinking significant quantities of alcohol regularly over some time, their brain and body become accustomed to a certain level of alcohol and require it to function normally.

Suddenly stopping alcohol use can then cause levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine to fall out of balance, which produces unpleasant withdrawal symptoms until systems can re-stabilise and return to normal. Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous forms of substance withdrawal, as symptoms can be fatal without urgent medical attention.

How long alcohol detox and withdrawal last depends on several factors, including the severity and duration of the addiction and the physiology of the user. Usually, symptoms begin to manifest between eight and 24 hours after the last drink, peaking between one and three days later and usually persist for a few days after that.

Some individuals, however, go on to develop the condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), in which some symptoms can last months or even years.

Medical alcohol detox is the cleansing of alcohol from a person’s system with medical support and guidance to mitigate the risks of withdrawal. It involves 24/7 supervision and, in some cases, medications to help alleviate the severity of symptoms. In the most severe cases of alcohol dependence, a period of managed tapering (reducing doses over time), potentially assisted by medication, may be required to minimise the stress placed on the system.

Alcohol rehab treatment

Following detox, various forms of therapy and support groups can aid in addressing the underlying factors that have led to alcohol addiction. These factors can be diverse and include genetic, psychological, social and environmental elements, all of which need to be considered during treatment.

Genetics can play a significant role, with individuals having a family history of alcoholism being at a higher risk. Psychological factors such as trauma, stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can also contribute to the development of alcoholism. Social and environmental factors, including peer pressure, the availability of alcohol, cultural norms and social isolation, can all influence drinking behaviour as well.

Due to these complex factors, alcohol rehab treatment is rarely a quick fix and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s progress through the programme. The length of stay in rehab is often tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual, with the understanding that longer programmes have been shown to result in better outcomes for those struggling with severe alcohol addiction.

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Therapies used during alcohol rehab treatment

Alcohol rehab treatment involves a range of different therapies and treatment approaches which help individuals understand their addiction, develop coping strategies to deal with cravings and triggers and build a foundation for long-term recovery.

These therapies include:

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that are driving their alcohol addiction. It can teach individuals how to cope with cravings, avoid situations that trigger drinking and replace unhealthy behaviours and habits with healthy ones.

Motivational interviewing (MI)

MI is a counselling approach that helps individuals increase their motivation to change. It is particularly useful for those who are ambivalent about stopping drinking and helps them move through the stages of change towards recovery.

Family therapy

Since alcoholism affects not just the individual but also their family and close relationships, family therapy can be an important component of rehab. It helps to address and mend the relationships damaged by alcoholism and involves family members in the recovery process.

Group therapy

Participating in group therapy sessions allows individuals to share their experiences with others who are facing similar challenges. This can provide a sense of community and support, which is crucial for long-term recovery.

Holistic therapies

Many alcohol rehab treatment programmes also offer holistic therapies such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture and art therapy. These are designed to help individuals find balance and peace, reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Alcohol relapse prevention

After completing rehab, many alcohol addiction treatment centres provide aftercare programmes to help individuals make the transition back to normal life. Aftercare can include outpatient therapy, support groups and sober living environments, all designed to help individuals navigate the challenges of sobriety. Many rehab centres also help their clients create a relapse prevention plan before they leave with strategies that include:

Identifying triggers

Recognising the specific situations, emotions or people that increase the risk of relapse is crucial. By understanding these triggers, individuals can develop strategies to avoid them or cope with them in healthier ways.

Developing coping strategies

Learning and practising coping skills for dealing with stress, anxiety and other negative emotions without alcohol is essential. This can include techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, exercise, or simply participating in productive hobbies.

Building a support network

Maintaining connections with supportive friends, family and peers who understand the challenges of recovery can provide crucial encouragement and accountability. Participating in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other recovery communities can also offer valuable support and camaraderie.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

A healthy diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep all play a role in managing stress and emotions can all help to manage stress, and emotions, which can reduce the risk of relapse.

Setting goals

Having clear, achievable goals can provide direction and a sense of purpose, which is vital for maintaining motivation in recovery.

It is important to understand that recovery from alcohol addiction is a long-term process that can involve multiple relapses. While relapses can seem like failures, they can provide valuable learning opportunities.

Each relapse can offer insights into triggers, weaknesses in coping strategies and areas where additional support may be needed. It is therefore crucial for individuals in recovery and their support networks to view relapses not as setbacks but as stepping stones towards lasting sobriety.

Alcohol addiction treatment medications

There are various forms of medication that may be prescribed at different stages of the treatment process.

Medicines prescribed during detox to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Various benzodiazepines – To help ease symptoms such as seizures, insomnia, pain, anxiety, panic and nausea. Commonly prescribed examples include chlordiazepoxide, diazepam, oxazepam and lorazepam.
  • Antidepressants and anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) – Used to deal with some of the more problematic and persistent psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Medications can also be used to reduce alcohol consumption over time. Some approved by the NHS for the treatment of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Acamprosate – Reduces cravings by targeting the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain also affected by alcohol)
  • Disulfiram – Causes immediate hangover symptoms when alcohol is consumed to deter alcohol use and prevent relapse.
  • Naltrexone and nalmefene – Drugs used to reduce cravings by blocking opioid receptors in the brain.

Begin alcohol rehab treatment today

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s important to know that help is available and recovery is possible. Reach out for professional support today and begin your journey to a healthier, sober future. Contact your GP or a private alcohol addiction treatment centre to discuss your options and find the best starting point for your path to sobriety. Remember, it is never too late to seek help and make a change.

Get Confidential Help Now

Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.


Why is alcohol so addictive?
Alcohol is physically addictive because it triggers the release of dopamine and endorphins in the brain, chemicals that produce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Over time, the brain starts to rely on alcohol to produce these feel-good chemicals, leading to physical and psychological dependence. Psychological dependence can also develop when alcohol is used as a crutch or coping mechanism for stress, trauma, mental health issues or other underlying difficulties.
Do alcohol users recover?
Yes, many alcohol users do recover. Recovery from alcohol addiction is a personal journey that varies from one individual to another, involving a combination of medical treatment, therapy, lifestyle changes and support from others. With the right help and commitment, long-term recovery is achievable.
What percentage of those with alcohol use disorder stop drinking for good?
The percentage of those with alcohol use disorder who stop drinking for good varies widely and can be influenced by many factors, including the severity of the addiction, the treatment approach and the individual’s support network. Some studies suggest that between 20-50% of people treated for alcohol addiction remain sober for at least a year.
What is the most effective alcohol rehab treatment programme?
The most effective alcohol rehab treatment programme is one that includes medical detox, therapy, support groups and aftercare planning. A combination of these treatments tends to be more effective than any single approach for addressing the complex nature of alcohol addiction.
What is the average time for alcohol rehab?
The average time for alcohol rehab can vary, ranging from short-term programmes of about 30 days to long-term programmes that can last 90 days or more. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the addiction, the individual’s progress and their specific needs.
How do I know I have a problem with alcohol?
Signs that you may have a problem with alcohol include drinking more or longer than you intended, trying unsuccessfully to cut down or stop drinking, experiencing cravings, neglecting responsibilities due to drinking, continuing to drink despite it causing problems in your relationships and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. Recognising these signs is the first step towards seeking help.