Understanding Alcohol Rehab

Woman helping husband with alcoholism

While millions of Americans struggle with an addiction to alcohol, the millions who do not suffer from this problem often do not know much about it. When a person who’s never had a problem with alcohol finds out someone they care about is addicted, they must take fast action to get that loved one help. But where does someone who is unfamiliar with addiction and treatment even begin to search? This page delivers rapid data points on what alcohol rehab is, what treatment modalities are available, and what questions need to be answered for individuals to help their loved ones.1

Different Types of Alcohol Treatment

Alcohol rehab often refers to any organization or method of treatment that seeks to help individuals overcome alcohol addiction. When one is searching for alcohol treatment, these are the types of treatment you will find:

Alcohol Detox

A Doctor writing out a prescription

Medical detox for alcohol addiction can be defined as a period of medical treatment during which a person is helped to overcome their physical dependence on alcohol. In most detox programs, the immediate objective is to help the person achieve a substance-free state, relieve the immediate symptoms of withdrawal, and treat any underlying physical condition or complicating factor that may hinder the detox process or harm the individual.

When all objectives are accomplished, a medical detox helps prepare the individual for entry into an inpatient or residential treatment center. Put simply; medical detox uses medicine, therapy, and other tools to help the addicted person overcome the physical aspects of alcohol dependence. It’s critical that this step is followed up by further treatment as it does not address any of the behavioral, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of addiction.

Residential or Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

While alcohol detox seeks to create an alcohol-free state within the individual, inpatient or residential alcohol rehab programs build stability within that alcohol-free state and give the individual the tools they need to live a life free from the harmful effects of alcohol. Inpatient rehab refers mostly to medical or hospital-style settings, whereas residential rehab refers mostly to live-in therapeutic facilities. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Narconon students in the dining room

Alcohol rehab programs help empower recovering addicts with the tools they need to confront life without alcohol while also connecting the individual with family and social interventions that may assist them. Perhaps most crucially, inpatient and residential rehab programs help recovering addicts address the underlying factors and life struggles that compelled them to use alcohol in the first place. Once these factors are overcome, the individual can create new, healthy coping mechanisms with which to tackle life’s challenges.

Outpatient Alcohol Treatment

Outpatient treatment refers to treatment delivered without the recovering addict being required to live at the treatment facility for the duration of the program. In this approach the individual attempts to continue working or attending school while receiving daily treatment sessions. However, such programs do not offer the full scope of treatment benefits that residential programs do, nor do they provide the same level of security and separation from mind-altering substances as residential centers do.

Faith-Based Alcohol Rehab Program

Faith-based alcohol rehab centers create an environment where one’s religious beliefs serve as a prominent tool for recovery. Faith-based programs combine prayer, chaplain services, and Bible study to help recovering addicts attempt to overcome addiction.

Faith-based rehab programs can be quite varied. Some offer a medical and/or clinical range of treatments; others are holistic.

Self-Help Groups for Alcohol Addiction

A multi-racial support meeting

Self-help groups in the form of meetings focus on community support to help individuals struggling with alcohol. The goal is for individuals who are further along in their recovery to help those just getting started. Meetings in the U.S. usually follow a 12-Step program via the Alcoholics Anonymous approach. Meetings attempt to provide a way for addicts to find a support , though such programs do not offer the structure, safety, and resource-rich environment of a residential rehab.

Frequently Asked Questions about Alcohol Treatment

When looking for an alcohol treatment center for a loved one, some of the most frequently asked questions one will want answered are:

Short Term Vs. Long-Term Alcohol Rehab?

To an extent, the more time one can spend in treatment, the better. Life obligations and finances don’t always allow for this, but the more time individuals have to focus on overcoming their habits, the more likely they will make long-term gains. It makes more sense to commit to a long-term program and overcome addiction for life in the here and now, rather than having to go through treatment again in the future (all because one didn’t spend enough days in treatment to properly address the problem the first time).

Will Insurance Cover Alcohol Rehab?

This depends on the program and the insurance. Most drug and alcohol rehab centers accept health insurance, but not all insurance policies cover treatment. Thankfully, alcohol rehabs have knowledgeable staff who can verify insurance policies.

How Much Does Alcohol Rehab Cost?

Costs vary depending on the program, on how much of the program insurance will cover, and on travel expenses. When no health insurance is involved, a program can cost between $15,000 and $45,000, depending on how long the program is and what types of services it offers.

Can the Courts Require Me to Go to Alcohol Rehab?

Yes, and this is usually a good thing. Court-ordered alcohol rehab is a better course of action than court-ordered jail time. Alcohol treatment will help an alcohol-related offender overcome alcohol addiction (alcohol addiction being what contributed to the offense in the first place). Jail time or a prison sentence, on the other hand, may worsen conditions for the individual and leave them with little to no help for their alcohol problem.

How to Find an Alcohol Rehab Center?

There are hundreds of alcohol addiction treatment centers in the U.S. But there is no one-size-fits-all program. People seeking help for an addicted loved one should learn about the centers they are interested in and assess the services of each. Further, they should ask for evidence-based results and statistical data that reflect the program’s efficacy. Finally, they should talk to representatives of individual rehab programs, not referral hotlines or 3rd party sites.

The Importance of Finding Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 23.5 million Americans struggle with an addiction to mind-altering substances. Of these, only about 2.6 million receive treatment each year, and only about 23% of that 2.6 million get help for alcohol addiction. That means only about 600,000 Americans get help for alcohol each year, while about 14 million need such help.2

The treatment gap (the widening distance between those who need help and those who get it) contributes to soaring alcohol-related deaths. Every year the U.S. loses about 95,000 Americans to alcohol-related fatalities, deaths which are entirely preventable.

Alcohol addiction is serious, life-altering, and potentially fatal. But it is treatable. Hundreds of Americans overcome alcohol addiction every day. If you know someone who needs help, do everything you can to assist them in finding it.


  1. NIAAA. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2022. niaaa.nih.gov Article ↩︎

  2. NIDA. “Treatment Statistics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011. nida.nih.gov Publication ↩︎