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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on June 16, 2022
7 min read

Alcohol Detox and Rehab Centers: What to Expect

Ellie Swain
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
6 Sources Cited
Ellie Swain
Written by 
6 Sources Cited

What is Detox?

Detox is the first stage in treating alcoholism. During this stage, alcohol is completely flushed from the body, meaning the toxin is removed.

Withdrawal symptoms, which occur during detox, are a result of the body not having alcohol to prompt specific actions. These symptoms typically go away within 1 to 2 weeks of starting detox as body functions return to normal. However, this process can take longer. It largely depends on the severity of the alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

After completing detox, you can focus on other parts of recovery, such as different activities, therapies, counseling sessions, and more. In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a common saying is “all you have to do is stop drinking, and change your whole life!”

Alcohol is a depressant. And, with chronic alcohol use, the body begins to rely on it to function. The brain stops producing certain natural chemicals that it receives from alcohol, ultimately causing dependency.

When someone stops drinking, it takes time for their body to adjust. This causes withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Tremors and shakes
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Nausea and anorexia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations 

Some people are hesitant to quit drinking because they’re worried about experiencing withdrawal symptoms during detox. Some people only experience minor symptoms, while others experience extreme discomfort (typically chronic/long-term drinkers).

Withdrawal symptoms can change quickly and aggressively. This is why it’s important to detox under the care of medical professionals. Staff members at rehab facilities can help manage severe withdrawal symptoms with various medications. This allows people to focus entirely on recovery.


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At-Home vs. Supervised Detox

Health professionals do not recommend detoxing from alcohol at home. The symptoms can vary significantly depending on the person and the overall state of their health. Every withdrawal experience is different. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or even fatal. 

One of the primary reasons detoxing from alcohol at home isn’t recommended is because of delirium tremens (DTs). DTs are symptoms and body problems that can occur approximately 3 days into detox. 

DTs occur in around 5% of people experiencing withdrawal and have an untreated mortality rate of 25 to 30%. With appropriate medical care, around 5% of people die from DTs. They usually occur in people: 

  • Who have the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal
  • With other medical problems
  • Who have previously experienced DTs

DTs cause a person to experience:

  • Vital sign changes (autonomic hyperactivity)
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Body tremors
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Systemic collapse

Supervised detox is highly recommended to avoid DTs and other severe withdrawal symptoms. They can be fatal if not treated quickly after symptoms start.

Types of Rehab Programs

There are various types of rehab programs catered to specific treatment needs:


Most private alcohol treatment centers offer inpatient (residential) rehab. Both long- and short-term residential treatment options are available.

Inpatient rehab can last for a while, depending on the addiction severity. For example, long-term residential treatment can last from 6 to 12 months. Short-term residential treatment can last from 3 to 6 weeks.

Short-term programs are a quicker, but still intensive, option based on a 12-step approach. After treatment, people transition to outpatient therapy. They can also attend self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Long-term inpatient treatment involves comprehensive, 24-hour care for an extended period. A common residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC), which works to reconnect people with society. This typically lasts between 6 and 12 months.

Both short-term and long-term residential programs involve: 

  • Medically-assisted detox
  • Intensive alcohol abuse therapy and education
  • Aftercare planning and community resources   


Outpatient programs help people overcome dangerous drinking behaviors and learn how to identify and prevent triggers.

Someone in an outpatient program meets daily for the first several weeks or even months. These meetings decrease over time as the person continues through recovery.

Outpatient programs aren’t usually as intense as inpatient options. They give people the freedom to go to work or school while receiving treatment. They’re an excellent option for people who have a stable home environment and/or don’t have a serious drinking problem.

However, if a person is battling a long-term drinking problem, they may need to consider a more intensive treatment program.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three different medications to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder (OUD). These medications help relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body.

FDA-approved medications to treat alcohol addiction are:1

  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram
  • Naltrexone

The medications used in medication assisted treatment (MAT) are evidence-based and can’t be substituted for each other.


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How Much Does Addiction Treatment Cost?

The type of care provided by a rehab center affects the total cost. Many other factors affect the cost of rehab, including extra medical care and facility amenities. 

Outpatient detox can cost from $1,000 to $1,500. Most inpatient centers include detox in the program fees. 

Some inpatient rehab treatment programs may cost around $6,000 for 30 days. Well-known facilities often cost up to $20,000 for a 30-day program.

For 60- or 90-day programs, the average costs range from $12,000 to $60,000.

Insurance Coverage

Insurance is one of the most common ways to cover rehab costs. AUD and SUD are medical conditions that must be covered by all approved insurance companies in the U.S. 

The amount insurance pays for depends on the company, your specific plan, and what the treatment provider accepts. Most rehab centers accept insurance or have alternative financing options. 

Types of insurance that may cover alcohol addiction treatment include:

  • Medicaid/Medicare
  • State-financed health insurance
  • Private insurance
  • Military insurance

Not everyone has insurance. However, there are still ways to get financial help for alcoholism treatment. Try looking for a free or low-income center or look into programs that provide financing options. Financing is often a good choice because free rehabs have limited funding and waitlists. 

Many inpatient centers offer financing options for people without insurance. Some may feel anxious about debt, but it’s essential to look at addiction rehab as an investment. 12-step programs are also free, valuable resources for many people.

Over time, treatment will pay off. Becoming sober allows people to get their life on track. People who’ve recovered from alcohol abuse can also save money because they no longer use drugs or alcohol.


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Signs You Need Addiction Treatment

AUD is a condition that doctors diagnose when someone’s drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild to severe. 

It’s diagnosed when someone answers ‘yes’ to two or more of the following questions.

In the past year, have you:2

  • Drank more or for longer than you planned? 
  • Wanted to reduce or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t? 
  • Spent a lot of time drinking or being sick or recovering from its aftereffects? 
  • Experienced cravings to drink? 
  • Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often affected taking care of your home or family? Or caused job problems? Or school issues? 
  • Continued to drink even though it caused trouble with your family or friends? 
  • Given up or reduced activities that were important to you or gave you pleasure to drink? 
  • More than once gotten into situations during or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt? For example, driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous place, or having unsafe sex? 
  • Continued to drink even though it made you feel anxious or depressed or added to another health problem? Or after having a memory blackout? 
  • Needed to drink more than you once did to reach the desired effect? Or noticed that your typical number of drinks had much less effect than before? 
  • Discovered that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you experienced withdrawal symptoms? For example, trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that weren’t there?

If you experience any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change. 

A health professional can formally assess your symptoms to see if AUD is present.

How to Choose a Treatment Center

A variety of treatment programs are available. But the right program is different for everyone.

Your sobriety is important, so it’s essential to choose a treatment center that fits your needs. This makes it much more likely that you’ll complete the program successfully. 

Understand that every rehab facility has different specialties. Even those with the same specialty will measure success differently and provide unique paths to recovery.

Before choosing a facility, consider your rehab goals. Determine what success means to you by thinking about life and sobriety outside of treatment.

You’ll also want to determine if there are any other substances you need to detox from, aside from alcohol. Think about whether you have any other underlying issues that need treatment. When a mental health condition accompanies AUD, it is known as a dual diagnosis.

By thinking about your goals and life after rehab, you can prepare for a successful recovery.

Updated on June 16, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on June 16, 2022
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2022
  2. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), 2014
  3. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1997. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 24.) Chapter 5—Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. 
  4. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.) 2 Settings, Levels of Care, and Patient Placement
  5. McCarty, Dennis et al. “Treatment programs in the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network.” Drug and alcohol dependence vol. 92,1-3 : 200-7
  6. McCarty, Dennis et al. “Improving care for the treatment of alcohol and drug disorders.” The journal of behavioral health services & research vol. 36,1 : 52-60
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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