What to do After Alcohol Detox Treatment

May 6, 2024

Discover what to do after alcohol detox treatment, from relapse prevention strategies to holistic recovery methods.

After Alcohol Detox

Navigating the journey after an alcohol detox treatment requires careful monitoring and, in some cases, ongoing care. Understanding what to do after alcohol detox treatment is vital for long-term recovery and relapse prevention.

Monitoring Symptoms and Care

After completing alcohol detox, it's important to monitor symptoms and provide basic care. This includes ensuring a supportive environment for the individual. In some cases, symptoms may worsen, leading to severe withdrawals such as seizures and hallucinations. In such instances, it's recommended to seek professional medical help [1].

The next stage of treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) involves follow-up care to learn to live alcohol-free. This care can include professional addiction treatment incorporating behavior change techniques, counseling, and even time spent at a treatment center.

Inpatient Care Recommendations

In certain situations, inpatient care may be recommended by doctors, especially if the detox symptoms become severe. Studies have shown that inpatient detoxification services can be a cost-effective solution with similar sobriety rates to residential alcohol detoxification facilities.

Patients admitted to these units often required minimal or no pharmacological intervention during admission. Interestingly, patients referred by their general practitioners were admitted for detoxification faster following referral and were more likely to remain abstinent at 12 months compared to those referred by acute medical units or the emergency department.

The key takeaway here is that continuous care, monitoring of symptoms, and professional assistance are crucial steps in the journey to recovery after alcohol detox treatment. This can greatly improve the chances of long-term sobriety and reduce the risk of relapse. It's important to remember that everyone's journey is unique and requires personalized care and support.

Post-Detox Abstinence Rates

Understanding the rates of abstinence and the factors associated with relapse is crucial when considering what to do after alcohol detox treatment. These figures can provide insight into the long-term efficacy of detox programs and the necessary steps for relapse prevention.

Long-Term Abstinence Statistics

According to a study cited on NCBI, the abstinence rates at 3, 6, and 12 months post-detoxification were 68.1%, 44.7%, and 36.2% respectively. These statistics indicate that while many individuals maintain their sobriety in the initial months following detoxification, the rate of abstinence tends to decrease over time.

To illustrate:

Time Post-Detox Abstinence Rate (%)
3 months 68.1
6 months 44.7
12 months 36.2

The study also found that the detoxification service operates within the national 18-week referral target and runs at a cost substantially lower than that of residential alcohol detoxification facilities, but with similar sobriety rates.

Factors Affecting Relapse

Several factors were associated with a higher likelihood of relapse after detoxification. These included referrals from acute hospital services, previous detoxifications, longer time between referral and admission for detoxification, presence of alcohol in the blood on the day of admission, and the requirement for benzodiazepines during withdrawal.

Interestingly, patients referred by their general practitioners were admitted for detoxification faster following referral and were more likely to remain abstinent at 12 months compared to those referred by acute medical units or the emergency department.

The understanding of these factors can guide the development of strategies and interventions aimed at increasing the long-term success of alcohol detoxification treatments. It highlights the importance of timely intervention, monitoring of withdrawal symptoms, and the role of healthcare providers in facilitating successful detoxification and promoting long-term abstinence.

Strategies for Relapse Prevention

Preventing relapse is an essential part of the recovery process for individuals who have undergone alcohol detox treatment. The journey after detox involves employing various strategies to reduce the likelihood of falling back into addictive patterns. These strategies often include therapeutic approaches, and the use of medications and support systems.

Therapeutic Approaches

Therapy plays a pivotal role in preventing relapse, as it equips individuals with the skills and strategies needed to manage cravings and triggers effectively. According to NCBI Bookshelf, some of the most commonly used therapeutic approaches in addiction recovery are:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This approach helps individuals identify and change destructive thought patterns that lead to substance use.
  • Motivational Interviewing: This client-centered approach helps build motivation for change and develop a plan for recovery.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: This form of therapy uses mindfulness and behavior change strategies to help individuals live life according to their values, which often includes sobriety.
  • Contingency Management: This approach uses positive reinforcement (such as rewards) to encourage sober behavior.
  • Community Reinforcement Approach: This comprehensive behavioral program aims to make a sober lifestyle more rewarding than one filled with substance use.

These therapeutic approaches provide individuals with the tools and skills necessary to successfully navigate the path to recovery.

Medications and Support

In addition to therapy, certain medications can be used to aid in relapse prevention. These medications can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, or cause adverse effects when alcohol is consumed. Notable examples include disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate for alcohol use disorder, as stated by NCBI Bookshelf.

Medication Use
Disulfiram Causes adverse effects when alcohol is consumed
Naltrexone Reduces cravings for alcohol
Acamprosate Helps manage withdrawal symptoms

It's important to note that medication should always be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider and usually in conjunction with other treatment modalities, such as therapy and support groups.

Support systems also play a crucial role in relapse prevention. This can include group therapy, 12-step programs, family therapy, and other community resources. The support from peers and loved ones can provide motivation, accountability, and understanding that significantly contributes to the recovery journey.

In conclusion, relapse prevention is a multifaceted process that often involves a combination of therapeutic approaches, medication, and support. By implementing these strategies, individuals can increase their chances of maintaining sobriety and leading a healthier lifestyle after alcohol detox treatment.

Behavior Change Techniques

After completing alcohol detox treatment, a person embarks on a journey of recovery and maintaining sobriety. This period often requires a shift in behavior and lifestyle choices. Here we discuss two critical behavior change techniques: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Lifestyle Changes and Healthy Habits.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Therapy plays a crucial role in addiction recovery. One of the most effective methods is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is an effective way to change a person's thinking and behavior, helping individuals develop strategies to prevent relapse [2].

CBT focuses on identifying and altering negative thought patterns and behaviors that lead to unhealthy choices. The therapy is typically delivered in a one-on-one or group setting under the guidance of a trained therapist. The person learns to recognize triggers, develop coping strategies, and make conscious decisions that support their recovery.

CBT is one of many therapeutic approaches used in addiction recovery, alongside motivational interviewing, acceptance and commitment therapy, contingency management, and community reinforcement approach.

Lifestyle Changes and Healthy Habits

A lifestyle of recovery involves changing old habits and behaviors. It requires considering every aspect of one's life, and a holistic approach to recovery is essential.


Eating a well-balanced diet can support addiction recovery. A balanced and healthy diet nourishes the mind and body and has positive effects on overall health and well-being.


Regular physical activity can be hugely beneficial to a person's health and well-being during addiction recovery. It reduces the risk of cancer, improves physical well-being, releases "happy chemicals" in the brain, and provides structure and purpose [5].


Quality sleep is important for healing and recovery. Lack of sleep can cause mood swings, irritability, and increased stress levels. Setting a sleep routine and prioritizing sleep can improve clarity of thought and make goals feel more achievable.


Attending addiction recovery sessions and being in contact with workers and services that support health and wellbeing can help prevent relapse. Peer groups, such as AA and NA, improve a sense of belonging, connection with the community, and provide tools to handle triggers and potential relapses.

In summary, maintaining sobriety after alcohol detox treatment requires a combination of psychological therapy and lifestyle changes. These behavior change techniques not only help individuals stay sober but also improve their overall quality of life.

Support and Community Resources

Following alcohol detox treatment, it's essential to seek ongoing support and leverage community resources. These resources can aid in maintaining sobriety and promoting continued recovery. From mental health support to addiction services and helplines, various resources can help individuals navigate life after detox.

Mental Health Support

After detox, seeking mental health support is crucial, as substance use often intersects with mental health issues [6]. In Ontario, several options for free, confidential help with mental health and addiction concerns are available. These include booking an appointment with a family doctor or nurse practitioner who can evaluate the situation, discuss treatment options, and refer to a community mental health and addictions service provider.

Health811 provides a free, secure, and confidential service where individuals can speak to a registered nurse online or by calling 811. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide health advice and information on depression, anxiety, or other mental health or addiction concerns [7].

The Ontario Structured Psychotherapy program offers confidential cognitive behavioral therapy and other services free of charge to individuals aged 18 years and older who are dealing with anxiety and depression. Clients can access in-person or virtual sessions, and they may be referred by a healthcare professional or self-refer in certain areas.

Addiction Services and Helplines

In Canada, for those in need of help with substance use, including overdose prevention and tobacco cessation, various services are available anytime and anywhere, such as a toll-free helpline, text services, online support groups, and email support.

Indigenous peoples needing help with substance use can access culturally sensitive resources through the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and National Youth Solvent Abuse Program.

It is also essential to connect with community-based prevention programs for substance use by contacting community nursing stations, health centers, band councils, or local regional offices.

ConnexOntario is a directory of community mental health and addictions services in Ontario which offers information and referral services to connect individuals with resources in their community. The helpline staff are available 24/7 for assistance and support.

Consumption and treatment services provide supervised drug consumption, overdose prevention services, and connections to addictions treatment, rehabilitation, primary care, mental health, and other health and social services. Individuals can access these services on-site or get referrals to nearby facilities [7].

Obtaining a naloxone kit and learning how and when to use it is crucial. Various resources, including pharmacies, the Canadian Mental Health Association's Naloxone 101 Toolkit, and St. John Ambulance, provide information on naloxone kits and their usage.

Holistic Recovery Lifestyle

Building a holistic recovery lifestyle is a vital part of what to do after alcohol detox treatment. An essential part of this process is the incorporation of a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and adequate rest.

Balanced Diet and Nutrition

Fostering a balanced diet and nutrition can provide significant support to addiction recovery. Consuming a well-rounded, nutritious diet not only nourishes the mind and body but also positively impacts overall health and well-being.

Healthy eating habits include incorporating whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats into your meals. Hydration is equally important, and it's recommended to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

The benefits of a balanced diet extend beyond physical health. Proper nutrition can help improve mood, energy levels, and cognitive functioning, all of which can aid in the journey of recovery from alcohol addiction.

Physical Activity and Exercise

Physical activity and exercise play a significant role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle post alcohol detox treatment. Regular exercise can significantly benefit a person's health and well-being during addiction recovery. It reduces the risk of diseases such as cancer, improves physical wellness, releases "happy chemicals" in the brain such as endorphins, and provides structure and purpose to one's daily routine.

Physical activities can range from brisk walking, cycling, swimming, to joining group fitness classes or sports clubs. It's important to choose activities that are enjoyable, as this increases the likelihood of maintaining regular exercise.

Along with balanced diet and nutrition, adequate rest and quality sleep are essential for healing and recovery. Lack of sleep can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and increased stress levels. Setting a healthy sleep routine and prioritizing sleep can improve clarity of thought and make goals feel more achievable.

By embracing these lifestyle changes, individuals can create a robust foundation for their recovery journey after alcohol detox treatment. It's important to note that while these changes are beneficial, they should be implemented gradually and in a way that feels sustainable and supportive for the individual.


[1]: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments

[2]: https://www.intoactionrecovery.com/blog/what-happens-after-alcohol-detox/

[3]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616188/

[4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551500/

[5]: https://www.rehab-recovery.co.uk/recovery/11-lifestyle-changes-addiction-recovery/

[6]: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help-with-substance-use.html

[7]: http://www.ontario.ca/page/mental-health-services