What to Expect from an NHS Alcohol Detox?

Picture of Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

private vs nhs
The NHS in England and Wales offer a route into rehab which might suit those on a minimal budget. Although this service is only offered as a last resort, if you stick to your doctor’s advice and follow all of the self-help and quitting groups they advise, you will eventually receive the referral to rehab. If you are one of the lucky few who make it into a rehab centre through the NHS, there will be some compromises – but not in the medical care you receive. As ever, the first step to rehab is through alcohol detox. 
Here is what you can expect from an NHS alcohol detox when you decide to quit drinking for good. 

What is an NHS Alcohol Detox Treatment?

Going through detox treatments with the NHS means your doctor will guide you through the process. Going to your GP can start this process. They will prescribe you with medications to help you manage and lessen your alcohol addiction. Prescription medications will soothe your anxiety while you reduce your intake. Your doctor may refer you to classes, clinics, or day centres which encourage other activities.  NHS alcohol detox comes after you have fulfilled all your doctor’s wishes towards your own treatment. They may refer you to a rehab clinic at this stage, or to a detox clinic, which may release you into home care if you have someone willing to look after you.  If you go to a detox/rehab facility, you can combine your detox with follow up therapy, group sessions, and guided activities. Rehab from alcoholism gives you a boosted chance at staying sober. This is the preferred option but there is a catch: the NHS will only subsidise the cost of your rehab clinic. They will not pay the full amount. 

How much does NHS Detox/Rehab Cost?

There are two ways of seeking detox help on the NHS. You can seek help as an inpatient or as an outpatient.

NHS inpatient - hospital

If you live in England and Wales, you may need to pay a subsidiary for your stay in rehab. However, the chances of admission to hospital for your detoxification are slim. They will only admit those who are suffering severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, such as seizures or DTs. For all other patients, they prescribe chlordiazepoxide as needed. NHS hospital treatments are free if you are a regular UK resident.

NHS outpatient - home

The hospital will refer you to your GP, who will manage your detox with prescriptions while you stay off alcohol at home. This is when your doctor might refer you to a rehab clinic or dayhab centre to help you quit. If you detox at home, you have the highest chance of returning to alcohol use. It is free on the NHS asides any subsidies you pay on medications.  You can boost your chances of recovery at home with an online therapy course. 

NHS Inpatient – Rehab Clinic

If you are admitted to a rehab clinic on the NHS, they will subsidise the cost up to a limited amount. This is because the NHS itself doesn’t own any rehab clinics or detox centres. Instead, they help cover the cost of your time spent in a private rehab centre. This is where you have to make compromises so that they get the most for their money. In the past, they have subsidised £1,000+ per patient. This price varies based on where you live, your local NHS branch, and how long you need to stay in rehab for. A budget NHS inpatient stay in a rehab clinic will cost upwards of £1,500 per week If you want to complete a one week program as well as your detox, you may have to pay for further costs. The rehab stay will help you exponentially when it comes to quitting for good. If you can’t afford to go to rehab, this is the answer.

Can’t you just Detox in Hospital?

Actually, this is a sticking point. If you have a heroin overdose and you are given live saving medication to reverse the effects – then a hospital is the right place to be. If you have been addicted to alcohol at a steady rate and are in no immediate danger, then the hospital is unlikely to take you for a detox. In fact, University Hospitals in Birmingham are advising staff not to admit patients for alcohol detox because there simply are not enough beds. Rehab clinics fulfil the gap in the market that allows for safe, timely recovery from alcoholism outside of the NHS. Going private is the other option. Doing this without NHS help can quickly blow through your life savings.

How much does Private Rehab Cost?

Private residential rehab clinics start from that budget £1,500 price and go all the way up into the tens of thousands for luxury retreats. The more you pay, the more luxurious your recovery becomes. The medicines and treatments will be the same regulated quality, but your stay will be comfortable.

What to Expect while you Detox on the NHS?

We keep mentioning the compromises you will make if you opt for NHS supported rehab and detox clinics, so let’s discuss that.

NHS Treatments and Private Treatments are the Same Quality.

Since the NHS has no detox clinics, they piggy back on the resources of private clinics. Patients who enter detox programs as an inpatient to a private clinic via the NHS receive exactly the same level of car. The medical professionals the NHS use graduate from the same colleges and universities as private medical staff do. The level of medical treatment which you receive will not vary. However…

You will Share a Room

The worst downside of going to rehab or to a detox clinic on the NHS is that you may share a room. This helps them keep costs down. It also means you have company throughout the days and nights of your recovery.

Admissions Take Longer

When you go to your GP and first voice your concerns, they will try the outpatient options first. If you opt for a private detox clinic and rehab program, you choose when you go. Remember too that the cost is only subsidised. You will still have to pay for parts of your treatment. 

They Choose Your Rehab Clinic

When you go to the wrong rehab clinic, meaning one not aligned with your hobbies or lifestyle, you have the same chance of recovery as if you had gone solo. Private rehab allows you to choose the best rehab centre for you. 


If you would prefer your own choice in clinic, length of stay, and preferred location, contact Help4Addiction on 0203 955 7700 today. We can help you select the right rehab clinic for you and also talk you through your NHS options. 

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