Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can worsen over time.  Left untreated, an alcohol abuse problem can become life-threatening.  Physical symptoms that begin with hangovers and blackouts progress to a daily craving for alcohol and physical withdrawal when attempting to abstain from drinking.  Alcoholism wreaks havoc on the life of the drinker as well as on the lives of family and friends.  Unemployment, divorce, arrest and incarceration are some the problems faced by people who are addicted to alcohol.  In the final stages of the disease, alcoholics may experience homelessness, liver disease and an early death.  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 100,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to alcohol-related causes.

Alcohol rehab programs help people overcome their psychological and physical dependence on alcohol.  The treatment process begins with detoxification, which involves placing the individual in an alcohol-free environment and treating the symptoms of physical withdrawal.  Following detox, which may take from several days to two weeks, counseling and group therapy sessions will begin.  The most effective alcohol programs treat the whole person rather than focusing exclusively on alcohol addiction.  Co-occurring disorders, which may include depression, anxiety and social isolation, should be addressed as part of the alcohol rehab program.  Unless an individual confronts and understands the underlying causes of his or her alcohol dependence, the cycle of addiction will continue.

There are two basic categories of alcohol rehab programs: outpatient and residential.  In outpatient programs, individuals participate in treatment during the day but return home at night.  People who are attempting to juggle work, school or family with rehabilitation often choose this type of alcohol rehab.  It is only recommend for people with less serious cases of addiction.  Residential rehab programs require the individual to move into a treatment facility and join a community of therapists and other recovering alcoholics.  Residential programs allow individuals to completely focus on recovery and the adoption of healthy behaviors.  Since round-the-clock supervision and treatment are provided, this is a better option for people with serious, life-threatening alcohol addiction

When alcohol rehab treatment has been completed, there should be follow-on aftercare that will help the recovering alcoholic deal with challenges encountered in the outside world.  These challenges include seeing friends who are associated with drinking, dealing with the stresses of day-to-day living and avoiding the type of boredom that can lead to drinking.  Aftercare support and counseling is often a key component in avoiding relapse for individuals who have completed alcohol rehab programs.