The line between casual drinking and problem drinking can be tough to pinpoint, and it’s also hard to determine whether alcohol rehab might be necessary if that line has been crossed.
So, before we look at the best approaches to rehabilitation for any type of problem drinking, what constitutes alcohol abuse and when does this become alcohol dependence?
From Alcohol Abuse to Alcohol Addiction
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction carries out an annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). According to the 2015 NSDUH more than 86% of all Americans drink alcohol at some stage. For the vast bulk of these tens of millions, alcohol use doesn’t extend beyond a glass of wine with dinner, a social beer or some cocktails at a party.
Despite most people managing to drink responsibly, millions more each year seek treatment for problem drinking. Since delineating that blurry line between social drinking, alcohol abuse and full-blow alcohol dependence is awkward, here are some key definitions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Heavy drinking: If a man consumes 15 drinks weekly or a woman takes more than 8 drinks a week, this is categorized as heavy drinking. For the purposes of this definition, a single drink is 12oz of beer, 5oz of wine or 1.5oz of spirits.
- Binge drinking: If you consume enough alcohol in a single sitting to bring blood alcohol concentration above 0.08%, this is considered binge drinking. In real-world terms, this translates to 5 drinks in 2 hours for men or 4 drinks in the same period for women.
- Alcohol abuse: When heavy drinking starts causing physical harm or causes relationships and responsibilities to unravel, the CDC express this as alcohol abuse. At this stage, there’s no guarantee the drinker will be physically dependent or addicted to alcohol.
- Alcohol addiction: Alcohol addiction is a chronic psychological disorder where the drinker seems unable to stop even if they want to and even if it’s causing problems in all areas of their life.
With these broad definitions in place, what are some concrete signs that help might be needed?
You can notice signs of alcoholism manifesting in two key areas:
- Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
- Psychological Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Keep an eye out for any of the following:
- Accidents, injuries and unexplained illnesses
- Digestive problems
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Red and puffy face
- Reduced libido
- Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Skin sores
- Tolerance building
Some of these symptoms indicate the problem of alcohol dependency is well established and definitely calls for intervention in the form of rehab.
In the early stages of dependency, physical symptoms could be quite limited and hard to pin down on alcohol addiction.
If you’re concerned about any of these physical signs and you’re a heavy drinker, open a dialogue with your healthcare provider. Voice your concerns and start a conversation about the possibility of alcohol rehab.
Even trickier to pick up on are the psychological symptoms that present as a result of dependence on alcohol.
Psychological Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Here are some of the most common psychological symptoms of alcohol abuse:
- Being unable to stop drinking
- Concealing the amount you drink from others
- Cravings for alcohol
- Drinking more than you intend to
- Guilt and shame about drinking
- Losing control when drinking
- Needing to drink first thing in the morning
If you’re starting to feel like your drinking is out of control, rehab might not be essential but it’s certainly worth establishing contact with your doctor to discuss what could be a growing problem.
If you notice a handful of the above signs, there’s every chance alcohol abuse has descended into alcohol dependence. Formal rehabilitation is usually the best approach when things have reached this level.
Beyond these symptoms, if alcohol starts interfering with your life and relationships, rehab is usually the most effective and the safest way to kick start the process of recovery.
No two situations are alike, so where should you start if you think rehab might be right for you?
First thing’s first, you should speak to your doctor as well as your family. This will give you the chance to get some feedback on the extent of your problem and some initial advice on whether alcohol rehab is really the best strategy for you.
If it seems like rehab is worth exploring in more depth, you’ll be presented with an initial choice between the types of treatment offered.
Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab?
Treatment can be broadly split into two categories:
- Inpatient rehab
- Outpatient rehab
Inpatient Alcohol Rehab: Overview
With an inpatient program, you stay at a treatment center for the duration of the program. This can be anywhere from 30 days to a few months.
Residential programs in controlled environments have a high success rate. If you’ve got a serious alcohol addiction and you’ve been drinking for a considerable length of time, inpatient rehab will probably be the best fit.
You’ll get 24/7 support, both emotionally and medically. With this framework in place, you can focus completely on recovery without being distracted by everyday life.
On the other hand, inpatient treatment at times may interfere with certain life events.
Outpatient Alcohol Rehab: Overview
With an outpatient program, you’ll undergo treatment during the day and you’ll return home overnight.
While it is much cheaper, the success rate of outpatient programs is dramatically lower.
If you’re only experiencing mild alcohol addiction, outpatient rehab can be worth exploring.
So, having glimpsed at the core offerings of these different kinds of rehab, we’ll double down on what you can expect from each type of treatment. That way, you can better assess which might give you the optimum chance of recovery.
Inpatient Alcohol Rehab: 5 Key Benefits
Heading to a residential treatment center has a number of advantages specific to this type of inpatient rehab.
- Detox safely with medical support: If you’re looking to embark upon the road to recovery, the first major obstacle is to overcome physical and psychological dependence. A medically assisted and supervised detox can rid your body of all the toxins introduced by alcohol abuse safely and with reduced withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve got a serious alcohol addiction, detox in a residential setting can give you a solid foundation to help kickstart meaningful, sustained recovery.
- A supportive, safe and serene environment: In the early stages of recovery, being as comfortable as possible maximizes your chances of resisting those initial cravings and sticking to the path of sobriety. Choosing an inpatient alcohol rehab offering a mixture of private space and communal areas with all the facilities you need increases your chances of getting off to a good start.
- Structured days: If your days have become a formless mess of drinking and disorder, the imposed schedule of a residential program helps keep your mind occupied and focused on recovery. Where your alcohol addiction was eating up most of your time, suddenly you’ll have an expanse of hours that need filling. Time can seem like your enemy if you’re fighting cravings while bored senseless. With counseling, addiction education and structure, you can start viewing time as your friend once more.
- Build the best foundation for long-term recovery: You need to accept that alcoholism is a chronic condition and that recovery is on ongoing process. Rehab is not the answer or the cure, merely a first and crucial step on that journey to sobriety. As you detox safely then learn more about your addiction while also embracing a range of therapies and support groups, you’ll establish a very solid foundation to build from. Stripped of the distractions of the outside world, you can focus on you and your recovery.
- Remove negative influences and temptation while building new habits: Obviously, alcohol is not permitted within a rehab facility. There will be no temptation to pop to the store for some beer when cravings kick in. Environment is a crucial factor in any addiction and by resetting yours and checking into a residential treatment center, you can make things easier on yourself. At the same time, learning new and more productive habits will help you once you leave the safe space of rehab and start recovery out in the big wide world.
Inpatient alcohol rehab is a good move if you’ve got limited willpower, need help with detoxing in a supportive environment, and have the ability to block off a month or so to devote to recovery.
Perhaps, though, you might be more suited to an intensive outpatient rehab program, but what can you expect to gain from this form of treatment?
Outpatient Alcohol Rehab: 5 Key Benefits
There are three main varieties of outpatient rehab programs:
- Day Programs
- Intensive Outpatient Programs
- Continuing Care
Format, intensity and duration vary and you can discuss all of these with any treatment center you are interested in using.
Here are some of the leading benefits of sidestepping residential treatment in favor of an outpatient rehab program:
- Ideal for anyone with a mild to moderate alcohol addiction: If you don’t have a severe dependence on alcohol and feel you could detox without serious withdrawal symptoms, outpatient rehab might make a great fit.
- Flexibility to Work Round Your Schedule: If you have a job or college course to consider, it might not be practical to take a clear month off. If you have a less acute addiction to alcohol, remaining engaged with your normal life could be beneficial. You’ll be able to commit completely to your recovery without needing to go off-radar for weeks on end.
- Affordable and Effective Therapy: Without the cost of food and accommodation, outpatient rehab is much more affordable than checking into a residential facility. Also, insurance will invariably meet any costs for outpatient therapy, not always the case if you’re thinking of inpatient rehab.
- Discretion: If you need extended time off work for an inpatient program, it can be awkward to keep this confidential from family, friends or your employer. For the utmost discretion while you clean up quietly, opt for an outpatient program.
- Stay Anchored to Your Family and Support Network: While anyone with a chronic alcohol addiction would be well served by taking a clean break from all bad influences, if you have a less acute problem, you might find staying rooted to your existing support network of friends and family actually improves your chances of recovery. By choosing an outpatient rehab, you can achieve this without compromising the level of care you’ll get.
Things To Consider When Choosing an Alcohol Rehab Center
While time might be of the essence, you should not rush into choosing a rehab center on a whim.
Once you’ve decided on whether inpatient or outpatient treatment would be most appropriate, you should start accumulating a shortlist of potential treatment facilities.
When speaking to viable treatment centers, it pays to have answers to the following questions to hand along with any insurance or financial details.
- How long have you been dependent on alcohol?
- How much alcohol are you drinking?
- Are you using any drugs?
- Do you have any medical issues beyond alcohol addiction?
- Have you been diagnosed with any mental health disorders?
Make sure that you also have a list of questions relevant to you and your circumstances so you can build on the information you’ve gathered from your own research.
There’s no such thing as the right rehab center, simply the right rehab center for you.
If you’re struggling to cope with alcohol addiction and you’ve made that first crucial step by deciding to start down the road to recovery, call our Indiana treatment center at 375-325-8331.
We can answer any questions you might have about alcohol rehab and we can help you put a life of alcohol dependence behind you.