Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

What Are Alcohol Recovery Programs?

What is an Alcohol Recovery Program?

An alcohol recovery program can help anyone struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a medical condition that occurs when alcohol consumption causes distress or harm to oneself and/or others.1

Alcohol use disorder affects approximately 14 million adults in the U.S. Alcoholism is so widespread that one in ten children has a parent with a drinking problem.8 

Several factors put you at a higher risk of developing AUD:9

  • Family history of AUD (heritability is about 60 percent)
  • Environment
  • Parent’s drinking patterns
  • Mental health condition(s)
  • Trauma

Various addiction treatment programs can help treat drug and/or alcohol addiction. Treatment can also help anyone worried about developing AUD.

Not everyone who drinks heavily has an alcohol use disorder, though. But regular binge drinking can ultimately lead to alcoholism or AUD. 

Binge drinking refers to drinking enough that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises to 0.08 percent or higher. This happens after a man consumes five or more drinks in a couple of hours or after a woman consumes four or more drinks in the same timeframe.1

Common Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Signs of AUD include:2

  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite problems caused by drinking
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Inability to control alcohol intake
  • Difficulty cutting back on drinking
  • Trouble quitting drinking
  • Feeling anxious or irritable when not drinking

Severe alcohol addiction can be fatal. Alcohol takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Withdrawal can also be fatal if you try to quit drinking alone or abruptly.

A safe recovery requires help from addiction treatment professionals who specialize in substance abuse.


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Types of Alcohol Recovery Programs

There are several types of alcohol recovery programs:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment programs are intensive residential treatment options. They usually last for about 30, 60, or 90 days. However, they can be longer in some cases.

In inpatient programs, you live in a treatment facility. You have access to 24/7 support from your care team.

If you have severe alcohol addiction and are seeking treatment that is very hands-on, inpatient programs are ideal.7 

Outpatient Programs

An outpatient program is similar but with one key difference: While you still have total access to a care team, you do not live in the rehab facility. Instead, you visit for scheduled appointments.

With an outpatient program, you will likely have more flexibility with your schedule. This is ideal for anyone who does not have a severe alcohol addiction.7 Sometimes, people who have already received care at an inpatient program will then enter an outpatient program.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) works differently, as they fall somewhere in between inpatient and outpatient programs.

Intensive outpatient programs require you to spend more time in the rehab center. For example, an outpatient program may require visits for about 4 hours per week. But an intensive outpatient program may require visits for about 12 hours per week.

In some cases, intensive outpatient programs transition people out of inpatient programs. They can help people smoothly adapt back into their regular routines at home.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is another name for an intensive outpatient program. Similar to inpatient programs, you spend a lot of time in the facility, but you’re allowed to return home after your visits.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some people may qualify for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which involves the combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies.4

Certain medications can help with detox, curbing cravings, and normalizing the body to fight alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The three most common medications to treat AUD are acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone.5


There are different types of therapy available to help overcome alcohol use disorder, including:8

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Marriage counseling
  • Couples counseling

You may visit various types of behavioral treatment facilities depending on the type of therapy you need.

Support Groups

Support groups include people who are in similar situations.8 Therapists or other care professionals who aid in long-term recovery plans typically lead them. One example of a popular support group is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

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Benefits of Alcohol Detox & Recovery Programs

Quitting alcohol without help can be difficult and even deadly.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome often occurs if you try to significantly cut back on or quit prolonged, heavy drinking. It refers to the changes your body experiences after you stop consuming alcohol.3

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may appear within hours of your last drink. They tend to peak within about 48 hours.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range in severity and may include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors (these may start within the first 5 to 10 hours after the last alcoholic drink)
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures (these may occur about 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink)
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Alcohol withdrawal can also cause death. The mortality rate among people who experience delirium tremens ranges from 1 to 5 percent.6

Alcohol detox and recovery programs have several benefits, including:

  • Professional care from medical providers who specialize in addiction recovery
  • Mutual support groups that foster connections with other people who might have similar problems
  • Professional support in achieving and maintaining sobriety
  • Access to various treatment options, including medication(s) and/or therapy
  • Holistic care that treats any co-occurring mental health condition(s) you may have

How to Choose the Right Program

The right alcohol or drug addiction treatment program for you will depend on multiple factors, including:

  • Proximity to home
  • Cost, with or without insurance coverage
  • Types of treatments the facility offers
  • Available space (some programs have limited room)

Most importantly, the right program for you is based on the severity of your addiction.

Speak with your doctor or therapist to talk through your treatment options. An addiction specialist can also help you find the right program.

Finding the right treatment program might take time. The most important factor is that you feel safe and supported and want to make a healthy change.

If you are currently in one program but don’t like it, make sure to find another one before leaving. Stopping treatment abruptly without a backup plan can be dangerous. 
Remember: If you don’t like the current program you’re in, chances are you won’t like any other program you attend. You must be motivated to stop using for treatment to be effective.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 3 Feb. 2022.
  2. Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 July 2018.
  3. Alcohol Withdrawal: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
  5. Mat Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions.” SAMHSA.
  6. Newman, Richard K. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Nov. 2021.
  7. Pettinati HM;Meyers K;Jensen JM;Kaplan F;Evans BD; “Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment for Substance Dependence Revisited.” The Psychiatric Quarterly, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  8. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  9. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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