Alcohol use disorder affects an estimated 16 million people in the United States. If you drink high amounts of alcohol on a regular basis and are still able to function in your social, professional, and family lives, you may be wondering whether you are truly an alcoholic. Regardless of whether you are an alcoholic or not, please know there are many available alcohol rehab options for those who need help recovering from any form of alcohol abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol use, and a negative emotional state when not using alcohol. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is the medical diagnosis given to those who meet any two of 11 certain criteria within a 12-month period.

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking more alcohol than intended or drinking for longer than intended.
  • Inability to cut down or stop drinking despite multiple attempts to do so.
  • Spending lots of time obtaining alcohol, using alcohol, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Experiencing frequent urges to drink or strong cravings for alcohol.
  • Experiencing problems at home, work, or school on behalf of alcohol use.
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even when it causes problems with friends and relatives.
  • Giving up or cutting back on favorite activities and hobbies so you can spend more time drinking.
  • Repeatedly getting into dangerous or risky situations while or after drinking.
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though doing so has caused or is worsening physical and mental health problems.
  • Drinking higher amounts of alcohol in order to feel the effects, or experiencing increased tolerance.
  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when stopping or reducing alcohol use.
  • Continuing to drink alcohol to prevent or avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

How Does Alcohol Detox Treat Alcoholism?

Alcohol and drug detox is usually the first stage of treatment for alcoholism as it helps people safely withdraw from alcohol while facing a reduced risk for complications. After you become physically dependent on alcohol, your body comes to rely on this substance to carry out normal bodily processes. When you abruptly cut back or stop drinking, your body will experience a set of withdrawal symptoms in response to the absence of alcohol. According to MedlinePlus, common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, shakiness, insomnia, and nausea, among many more.

Alcohol detox can take place in a safe, controlled hospital-like setting, or in a residential setting — both of which allow you to relax and take it easy as you recover from alcohol dependence. Trained nurses and doctors will monitor you closely throughout withdrawal to treat and prevent complications and to give you medications that control and reduce symptoms. Without medical detox, people who try withdrawing from alcohol on their own face an increased risk for seizures, heart palpitations, and death.

How Is Alcoholism Treated at Alcohol Rehab?

After completing alcohol detox, many patients are referred to an alcohol or drug rehab center where they can receive behavioral therapies to change harmful beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to alcoholism. Alcohol rehab teaches patients the skills they need to navigate daily living in a more functional manner without relying on drugs and alcohol to relieve stress, feel better, or to have fun. At alcohol rehab, patients can identify their triggers and the root causes of their drinking problems so they can make the necessary lifestyle changes to become healthier, happier, and more functional.

Behavioral therapies commonly used at alcohol rehab include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • 12-step support groups
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • Contingency management therapy
  • Community reinforcement

Some alcohol rehab centers also offer fun recreational therapies proven effective at treating substance use disorders, including equine therapy, music therapy, art therapy, and mindfulness meditation.