Alcohol Rehab

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What Is Alcohol Rehab?

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KEY TAKEAWAY

Alcohol rehab is typically a 28-day residential treatment programme for:

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Rehab Facilities For Alcoholism - What Is Alcohol Rehab Treatment?

Illustration of a man sitting at a table with empty beer bottles.

Alcohol rehab focuses on tackling the problems underneath alcoholism, such as grief, trauma, depression, and emotional difficulties, in order to reduce relapse [2].

Inpatient services at an alcohol rehab programme provides 24 hour access to specialist care.

An alcohol rehab clinic provides a safe place away from access to alcohol, and those enabling addiction.

Process Overview

Illustration of a man sitting at a table drinking beer from a bottle. Empty bottles are on the table.

Before Rehab

Pre-requisites for rehab are:

  • Being aware of the need to change - being ready to take responsibility for past actions and deal with emotions experienced as a result of being in recovery
  • Funding - those in active addiction typically have financial difficulties, so will need support from others to fund alcohol and drug rehab
  • Understanding recovery - learning about the steps involved in alcohol detox and rehab before admitting, reduces stress and allows the individual to become more open to getting support for every aspect of addiction
  • Communicating with friends and family - managing expectations of the physical and psychological recovery journey and how to be supportive towards recovery 
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In Rehab

Detox

Detox allows the body to process any remaining alcohol, with the professional administration of medication that mimics the effects of alcohol, to minimise withdrawal symptoms caused by cravings for alcohol [3].

Therapy

Therapy in a drug and alcohol rehab helps us understand the psychological aspects behind addiction, identify triggers for addictive alcohol consumption, and the impact of behaviour during active addiction, upon others.

Aftercare Planning

Aftercare is put in place before you leave alcohol rehab to prevent alcoholic regression, through continuing support groups, ongoing therapist help, and community meetings.

Day In The Life

A typical day in rehab clinics across the UK begins with breakfast and medication.

Morning sessions in a residential drug and alcohol rehab can include mindfulness or meditation, group therapy and nature walks.

The afternoon agenda in a residential treatment centre may include discussions with other residents about their relationship with alcohol, alcohol cravings and the damage caused by alcohol, keywork, or breakout sessions from group discussions if there is something that is discussed that needs further attention alone.

There is then an evening meal, followed by either free time or an organised movie night.

In Abbeycare, timings and activities in rehab varies depending upon attendance at either our Gloucester and Scotland clinics [4] [5].

After Rehab

Before leaving rehab, an aftercare plan will be created and individualised to help the alcoholic adjust to a recovery lifestyle and the face the challenges of remaining abstinent, including:

  • Defining achievable goals for life after going through addiction
  • Joining support groups to meet others in recovery from alcohol use disorder
  • Recognising and dealing with cravings and previous associations with drug and alcohol addiction
  • Providing multiple resources to fall back on, to help with daily stressors after a stay at rehab

When Is Rehab Required? (When To Go To Rehab For Alcohol)

The suitability of residential alcohol treatment, as compared to other treatment and recovery options, depends on alcohol intake, dependence on alcohol, pre-existing support for those going through alcohol addiction in place, enablers, and previously unsuccessful detoxes. 


In most cases, because it is an end-to-end provider, with continuity of care, rehab in a clinic setting is the most appropriate option for treatment.

Compare the most appropriate alcohol recovery options:

Header

AA

Outpatient Treatment

Detox Only

Residential Inc Detox

Consuming 14+ units/wk [6]

No

No

Yes

Yes

No pre-existing supports [7]

Yes

No

No

Yes

Addiction is enabled by social group [8]

Yes

No

No

Yes

Prev unsuccessful detoxes [9]

No

No

No

Yes

Types Of Treatment Centres - Where Does Alcohol Rehab Happen?

Illustration of a woman being interviewed by another woman prior to admitting for rehab treatment.

Quasi-Residential

Clients at a quasi-residential service go to a drug and alcohol rehab centre during the day, but then spend the night either in a sober living house with other clients, or returning to the community for the course of treatment. 

Factors of quasi-residential approach to treatment that make it unsuitable for some are:

  • Having to live with others - potential for conflict
  • Being self-sufficient in all aspects of self-care
  • Lacking supervision - inappropriate for those struggling with alcohol cravings
  • Reduced medical supervision available - risk of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms

Fully Residential

Attendees in a residential centre, stay in the facility throughout treatment.

Residential rehabs provide 24 hour care, access to medical help, and therapeutic help while treating alcohol use disorder.

59% of those who complete a medically supervised detox and alcohol programme in a residential clinic have better long term recovery outcomes from alcoholism [10].

Outpatient Centres

Intensive outpatient programming runs for 3 hours a day for up to 3-5 days/wk, allowing patients undergoing an alcohol care programme flexibility around job and life commitments.

18% of those who undertake outpatient rehab maintain lasting sobriety after treatment, with recurrence of alcoholism caused by lack of intensive treatment, associations tied to old patterns, and continued access to alcohol [11].

Location

Rehabs Nearby

Reasons to choose to go to alcohol rehab locally include:

  • Commitments like children or employment
  • Familiarity with the area - may be useful if there is anxiety about entering rehab
  • Family support - being closer allows loved ones to attend regular sessions rebuilding relationships

Rehabs Further Away

Choose alcohol rehabs further away if:

  • The treatment plan is not reliant on pre-existing family support
  • Removal from enablers in living environments is important for best alcohol recovery chances
  • Removal from reminders of drug and alcohol addiction and negative decisions will be beneficial
  • Alcohol rehab services such as aftercare can be provided remotely/ rehab refers to local services

Duration

Header

2-4 weeks

12 weeks

Detox Period

7-10 days

14 days+

Therapy Time

7-21 days

70 days+ (more time on causal issues)

Pricing

££ (35% relapse rate)

££££ (17% relapse rate)

Alcohol Rehab vs...

Rehab vs Detox

Regression rates of those who only complete detox are between 50-80%, whereas those who complete a full rehab stay have regression rates of 20-50% [12].

While detox only deals with the physical addiction, rehab tackles the reasons why addiction occurred, and provide coping mechanisms against further relapse.

Detox alone is not suitable for those:

  • Suffering from co-occurring mental illnesses
  • With social peers who are also suffering with alcohol use disorder
  • With a history of shunning responsibility - alcohol rehab can help patients take responsibility for excessively consuming alcohol 

Rehab vs AA

Header

AA

Residential Rehab

Inpatient Treatment?

No

Yes

Detox? 

No

Yes

Customised?

No

Yes

Therapy?

No

Yes

Free?

Yes

No

Rehab vs NHS or Public Healthcare System Rehab

Header

NHS/Public Services

Private Rehab

Pricing

Free

£££

Accessibility

Limited spaces

Spaces available

Detox Provided?

Varies

Yes

Waiting List

18mths+

Immediate-48hrs

Rehab vs Outpatient Treatment

Header

Outpatient

Residential Rehab

Removed From Triggers?

No

Yes

Pricing

Varies

£££

Continue Working?

Yes

No

Rehab vs Alcohol Home Detox

Detoxing in treatment centres offer 24 hour inpatient treatment to minimise withdrawal symptoms and complications, unlike home detoxing where detox nurses attend 4 visits per day for 15 minutes to monitor symptoms.

For the duration of your treatment, alcohol rehab will provide safe surroundings away from outside influences and distractions that may hinder recovery.

As some patients may feel intimidated by the prospect of detoxification, home detox takes place in a familiar environment, helping ease anxiety.

However, whilst anxiety may be reduced, the person is surrounded by old associations, anchors, and conditionings tied to alcohol, such as:

  • Routine - picking up alcohol at the supermarket or going out for a drink after work
  • Drinking with others - such as friends, loved ones or partners
  • Occasions and celebrations - may have been used as an excuse to drink alcohol

Alternative Treatments For Alcoholism

Further treatments that will help for alcoholism are:

  • SMART - offers mutual aid sessions and online training programmes to assist in recovery [13]
  • Alternative therapies - acupuncture, light therapy, meditation and mindfulness

Outcomes & Responsibility

Illustration of a woman pointing to statistics about rehab. A man sits at a desk listening.

Those who begin treatment and stay in rehab 4 addiction facilities longer (inpatient treatment for 28 days or 90 days of day-patient treatment) are 5 times more likely to remain abstinent [14].

67% of those leaving a residential drug and alcohol luxury rehab centre who attended 27 weeks of AA were sober 16 years later, signifying that rehab is not the cure to alcoholism, but rehab provides the beginning of a lifelong commitment to recovery [15].

Important factors affecting the chances of relapse are:

  • Pre-existing mental health disorders - if they are not treated correctly, the alcoholic may fall back into the pattern of drinking as a form of escape
  • Lower socioeconomic status - the risk of death secondary to alcohol increases by 66% of men and 78% of women [16]
  • Spending time with those who enable drinking habits or who are themselves in addiction
  • Boredom - difficulty adjusting to free time not taken up by drinking

Rehab For Alcoholics vs NICE

UK NICE guidelines provide a minimum standardised routine for prescribing medicines that are adjusted to suit each patient's needs through detox [17].

Recommendations encourage family to be included in treatment within rehab, but this is not always possible if loved ones are also struggling with addiction, or are enabling the alcoholic's behaviour.

NICE suggests that therapy during alcohol addiction treatment may contain:

  • CBT therapy [60 minute session once/wk over 12 wks]
  • Social and environmental based therapies [8 x 50 minute sessions over 12 wks]
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Alcohol rehab centres may have more therapy than this, including anger management therapy, family therapeutic time, or bereavement counselling.

The recommendations explain the need for a residential assisted withdrawal for those with severe alcohol dependence, but not techniques to combat the risks in tapering down alcohol use in a non-supervised environment.


i.e. Guidance is intended to be applied in a secure environment, and does not take account of individualised needs for greater/less therapist input, individualised care planning, or behavioural needs.

What To Ask Alcohol Treatment Providers

Questions to ask before admitting are:

  • Are medical staff available?
  • How much therapy will be available and what different therapies are there?
  • What are the costs?
  • What is the role of the relatives during treatment?

Going Into Alcohol Rehab With/Without Consent

Illustration of a  man being interviewed in a rehab clinic. A female family member sits next to him as they discuss alcohol rehab.

In the UK, it is illegal to force an alcoholic to enter a rehab centre against their will [18].

In our experience, individuals who are unwilling to achieve sobriety or lack a positive mindset about recovery will struggle with the agendas in a rehab facility and consequently have a reduced likelihood of successful recovery.

33% of those who attended treatment whilst being coerced found it had no impact on alcoholism; 22% found it actually worsened alcohol use disorder [19].

Patients may either be in denial about alcohol addiction itself, or be aware of needing treatment, but unwilling.


These are defence mechanisms that need to be overcome to make realistic progress in sobriety.

At-Risk

Alcohol users at greatest risk, and with greatest need for residential alcohol rehab are:

  • Those with a series of unsuccessful detoxes in the past, or relapses quickly after detox
  • Difficult living situations - homelessness, poor living circumstances and domestic abuse contribute to maintaining alcohol addiction makes alcohol rehab important
  • Suffering from liver disease or cirrhosis
  • Those diagnosed with schizophrenia, psychosis, or other complex mental health diagnoses

Rehab Is NOT

Misconceptions about rehab:

  • You have to go cold turkey - addiction specialists are present continually, to assure a safe and comfortable withdrawal experience
  • All rehabs are the the same - different facilities offer different approaches, methods and specialisms, if alcohol treatment is not successful it does not mean that all rehab experiences will be the same
  • "Rehab doesn't work" - 59% of those who enter a centre recover from alcohol addiction [20]
  • "Rehab will do everything for me" - treating alcohol addiction is helped by rehab, but overcoming addictions takes effort
  • Rehab is a quick fix for addiction - addiction treatment spotlights the deeper difficulties causing addiction, and how drinking becomes a crutch
  • All problems will be fixed during rehab - treatment cannot fix communication, job, and health problems resulting from addiction, but can provide the tools needed to improve these situations

When A Rehab Centre Is Not Appropriate

An alcohol rehabilitation centre is not the appropriate care level for:

  • Those with a pattern of repeated treatment, followed by relapse.
  • An established condition of chronic and recurring addiction.
  • Those who require a hospital detox - severe dependence, old age or infection may cause withdrawal fits, delirium tremors or Wernicke's encephalopathy that need to be treated in a hospital [21].
  • Those dependent on alcohol in order to cope with a deeper problem which is going unaddressed - e.g. a car crash victim left with historical pain management issues - using alcohol to manage the pain. The underlying injuries must first be resolved or rehab will not be effective.

Does Rehab Work For Alcoholics?

Illustration of a woman pointing to a board displaying facts and charts about alcohol.

Rehab has a success rate of 59% [20].

As alcohol is legal and socially acceptable to consume, there is less shame and secrecy than for illegal drug users; meaning that those around them to not notice alcohol abuse until it is severe.

Studies found that 64% of those seeking alcoholism treatment were or had previously suffered from a drug use disorder [22].

Pricing

Prices for private rehab range from £1,000 - £5,000 per week, with prices for some clinics being up to £10,000 per week.

Does Health Insurance Cover The Cost Of Rehab?

Private assurance providers have policies that may accommodate detoxification and rehab support at a centre, depending on cover provided.

Providers will usually only cover the cost of one addiction treatment per member, with the length of the treatment determined by each policy.

Programmes At Abbeycare

Illustration of a woman and man with hands in air, following alcohol rehab treatment.

Abbeycare offer an evidence based alcohol rehabilitation programme, which includes (note that all agendas are subject to availability and may change frequently):

  • A custom careplan created with an assigned manager
  • Medically assisted detox
  • Behavioural and person-centered therapy
  • Access to the 12 steps approach
  • Meetings with worker 2-3 times per week to monitor progress
  • Complementary treatment - e.g. massage, reiki and reflexology - subject to availability
  • Physical health routine
  • Aftercare services & personalised planning, following discharge - including aftercare group
  • Personally assigned case manager
  • Optional additional therapy - including referrals to third party providers and secondary mental health resources

Our brochure is available on our Gloucester and Scotland services' pages.

How To Get Help With Alcoholism

It is possible to be referred to a private residential centre by an NHS doctor, but an alcoholic can self refer.

Assessments will be done by the admissions and medical staff to ensure that clients receive the correct treatment for alcohol dependence.

Admissions Process For Alcoholism

The steps to take to be admitted are:

  • Contact the treatment facility - the representative will conduct an assessment discussing personal details, alcohol abuse history and any mental health concerns
  • Medical approval checks - Blood and LFT tests are done as a condition of entry, to check suitability for rehab treatment, and any required prescriptions are organised prior to admission
  • Deposit - pay a deposit to ensure a place is reserved
  • Arrival - the time scale between completing medical checks and starting is typically 48 hours for private admissions

How To Get Help For An Alcoholic

To help a loved one seeking treatment:

  • Positively reinforce attempts to get help instead of criticising behaviours associated with addiction
  • When discussing alcoholism, remain calm and be supportive
  • Encourage formal treatment options, but do not force the alcoholic to admit to an alcohol rehab
  • Avoid taking on financial responsibilities and providing monetary support unless it is directly used for treatment
How To Admit To Abbeycare

Get your questions answered. For an initial assessment, or to find out about treatment options available, please call our team today on 01603 513 091.

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Medical Disclaimer

Information provided is not intended to be a substitute for appropriate medical advice from your doctor. Always consult your GP in the first instance when seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. For a free confidential assessment, please call us on 01603 513 091. Or, request a free callback.

Last Updated: May 17, 2024

About the author

Harriet Garfoot

Harriet Garfoot BA, MA has an Undergraduate degree in Education Studies and English, and a Master's degree in English Literature, from Bishop Grosseteste University. Harriet writes on stress & mental health, and is a member of the Burney Society. Content reviewed by Laura Morris (Clinical Lead).

Harriet Garfoot BA, MA has an Undergraduate degree in Education Studies and English, and a Master's degree in English Literature, from Bishop Grosseteste University. Harriet writes on stress & mental health, and is a member of the Burney Society. Content reviewed by Laura Morris (Clinical Lead).