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Does Rehabilitation Work For Alcoholism?

Many people struggle with alcoholism. Read on to learn about alcoholism, rehabilitation, and treatment options.

What is Alcoholism?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that millions of Americans have alcohol use disorders of varying severity. The occasional social drink or glass of wine with a meal does not signify alcohol dependency. However, when you can no longer control how much or how often you drink, it may be time to seek help. Alcohol addiction, also referred to as alcoholism, or more commonly an alcohol use disorder is a disease characterized by the inability to reduce or stop drinking alcohol.1Someone who struggles with an alcohol addiction will continue to drink despite knowing their drinking leads to harmful consequences. Alcohol addiction is a disease that affects the brain. Long-term struggles with alcohol will lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, some of which may be permanent.

How Common is Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorders are a struggle faced by many Americans of all ages. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates thousands of adolescents and teens, some as young as age twelve, have an alcohol use disorder or “alcoholism.”2 Data from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates more than fourteen million adults over the age of eighteen and another 414,000 adolescents and teens ages twelve to seventeen had an alcohol use disorder in the previous year.

Alcoholism Signs and Symptoms

The signs of alcoholism will look different from person to person. This is because struggles with alcohol use vary in severity. Also, each person with an alcohol use disorder has differing underlying medical and mental health challenges that may impact their alcohol use. While there are several common signs of alcohol abuse, not every alcoholic will have the same symptoms. Some of the more frequent symptoms of alcohol use disorders include:3
  • Cravings or changes in mood when not drinking.
  • Drinking alcohol despite the adverse impacts on relationships, finances, jobs, and physical and mental health
  • Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, and at home in favor of drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking
  • Increased co-occurring mental health conditions resulting from alcohol use
  • Increasing isolation and distancing from friends and family
  • Changes in appearance or lack of concern about hygiene
  • Drinking alone or making excuses for drinking

Why is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol is legal to purchase and easy to come by; however, it is also one of the most widely used addictive substances. Alcohol addictions develop for physical and psychological reasons. When you drink alcohol, it causes a “rush” of chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, specifically dopamine and endorphins, produce feelings of happiness, pain relief, and pleasure.4When drinking, your brain releases more of these chemicals than it would under “normal” circumstances making you want to drink more and more often to achieve the same sensations. This pattern of alcohol use and abuse typically leads to dependency and addiction.5

Alcohol Addiction Rehabilitation Options

Everybody has different needs to consider when going to rehab for alcoholism. Alcohol use disorders can range from mild to severe, depending on your unique relationship with alcohol. Because addiction is unique to the individual, the type of alcohol addiction treatment (level of care), rehab therapies for alcoholism, and duration of treatment needed will vary from person to person.


Alcohol detox involves someone choosing to stop drinking. During detox, your body must relearn how to function without substances, and often, this can be unpleasant, scary, or even dangerous. Often, the first step at any rehab for alcoholism is detox. Detox is essential for cleansing the body of any substance that may remain. Without detox, it is impossible to fully immerse yourself in therapy as the effects of alcohol remain.

Residential/Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient residential programs or inpatient rehabs for alcoholism provide the most effective and comprehensive treatment for individuals looking to overcome alcohol addiction. At an inpatient rehab for alcoholism, you can expect to receive high-level, professional care that addresses the full spectrum of addiction concerns. During alcoholism rehab treatment team will provide support and guidance at all stages of your journey, beginning with detox and continuing through supported aftercare planning.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab programs share similarities to inpatient programs. A critical difference between outpatient rehab and inpatient treatment is the “overnight” component. At an outpatient alcoholism treatment program, you can expect to receive much of the same comprehensive care you would at an inpatient program, but you live at home with your family and loved ones throughout treatment. Many outpatient programs last longer than inpatient as your daily treatment hours are reduced.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient programs follow the same model as outpatient programs; however, your therapy schedule is more intensive than a traditional outpatient program. For example, an outpatient program may require up to 15 hours each week of therapy, whereas an outpatient program may require 6-8 hours each day.

Additional Alcoholism Treatment Options

In addition to traditional alcoholism rehab programs, many rehabs like San Diego Detox offer additional treatment options to help patients overcome alcoholism. Examples include:

Integrated Treatment Programs

Integrated treatment options provide comprehensive, evidence-based care to those struggling with an alcohol use disorder and a co-occurring mental health condition.

Holistic Recovery Programs

Holistic recovery programs combine traditional therapy models with alternative treatment options such as yoga and mindfulness practices.

MAT for Alcohol Rehab

MAT or medication addicted therapy uses specific medications as part of the recovery process to help reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and improve relapse prevention ability.

Rehab Therapies for Alcoholism

Alcoholism treatment involves several proven rehab therapies designed to help you understand alcohol addiction. Therapy teaches you about relapse prevention and safer, healthier ways to manage relapse triggers.

Continuing Care

The best alcoholism treatment programs ensure a seamless continuum of care that follows you throughout all stages of treatment and recovery, including transitioning from primary treatment to aftercare and beyond.

Does Rehabilitation Work for Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a chronic, relapsing illness. Like any other illnesses of the same nature, it is not uncommon for someone who goes to rehab for alcoholism to experience a relapse after finishing their treatment program.

How Effective is Rehab for Alcoholism?

Most research suggests that the relapse rates for alcoholism closely follow those of other chronic relapsing conditions, with between 40% and 60% of individuals experiencing relapse at least once while in recovery.

Success Rate of Rehab for Alcoholism

This is not to imply that alcohol rehab programs are not successful. Data from national surveys show that of those who try to quit “cold turkey” or without help at a residential alcohol rehab, nearly 75% will relapse within the first year of sobriety. However, getting help at a rehab for alcoholism like HomeSan Diego Detox vastly improves short and long-term treatment outcomes. Some research suggests that up to 60% of people with an alcohol use disorder who complete an alcohol rehab program will remain sober for three years.6

How to Choose a Rehabilitation Center

When choosing an alcohol addiction rehab, there are certain factors you should consider. The first is the type or level of care you need to get well. We detailed levels of care above. Another consideration is the duration of alcoholism rehab. Many inpatient alcohol rehab programs last for 30-90 days. The “right” treatment duration depends on your unique needs. Outpatient rehab for alcoholism, on the other hand, can last for six months to a year or more. Whether an inpatient alcoholism rehabilitation program or an outpatient program is best for you depends on your needs, goals, and other unique factors.

Find Rehab for Alcoholism in San Diego

The first step towards overcoming alcoholism is to find a rehab for alcoholism that meets your treatment needs. It is essential to reach out to your program of choice to ensure they offer the right level of care and therapy models to help you get sober. At San Diego Detox, we provide a range of rehabilitation programs to help you whether your addiction is mild or severe. The first question many people have when beginning rehab is, “how do I pay for it?” The cost of rehab for alcoholism varies based on several factors, including the type of treatment, level of care, and the duration of your program.

Get in Touch

If you have medical insurance, including Medicare, your coverage will help pay for many aspects of rehab. The best way to learn more about the cost of recovery and what to expect as youContact begin your rehab journey is to get in touch with a member of our admissions team at San Diego Detox to learn more about alcoholism rehab.