Traditionally, and in some jurisdictions currently, the circumstances of drunk-tank occupants may vary widely, as to whether in fact intoxicated, whether willingly there, whether isolated to protect them from others, confined to protect others from them, or simply permitted to find shelter, and whether legally under arrest, charged with an offense, or neither. Those in need of more long-term treatment may be referred to a rehabilitation center. There are few to no 'drunk tanks' in existence today, due to the overwhelming danger for the clients who were generally not monitored including suicide or medical complications. There are separate facilities, such as those in Britain, Australia, Canada, and the United States, which are referred to as "sobering-up centers" or "sobering centers".
In some countries of Europe, such modern institutions are known by names that may be translated as "sobering-up station" or similar.
In the Czech Republic the name is Protialkoholní záchytná stanice, colloquially Záchytka. The first such institution in Czechoslovakia was opened in 1951 by psychiatrist Jaroslav Skála; its first patient was a Russian naval engineer. During its first 30 years of service, Prague's sobering-up station treated over 180,000 people. Other facilities in the country treated over 1,000,000 people. During its peak in Czechoslovakia, there were over 63 such institutions.
In Poland the name is Izba wytrzeźwień, colloquially sometimes wytrzeźwiałka. Such an institution exists in almost every larger Polish city. Being drunk itself is not a criminal offence in Poland, but police have the right to forcefully transfer an individual to a sobering-up station if he/she poses a threat to public security and order (which may also include cases of domestic violence caused by alcohol abuse), or if his/her condition poses a threat to his/her own health and safety (this may be the case with intoxicated persons found sleeping outdoors during very low temperatures or wandering in potentially dangerous places, such as railway lines or busy roads). Even if there are no further charges against a person, one will not be released from sobering-up station until one is sober. In extreme cases it means a two-day stay. Patients are under constant medical and nursing supervision and until 16 January 2013 were required to pay for treatment, because no insurance covered it. Some people refer it as "the most expensive hotel in town".
When the local authorities of the city Kielce shut down their facility in 2010, the local hospital's ER quickly became flooded with intoxicated people brought by police. It not only became a problem for the hospital but also for police, who had to hold a large number of aggressive drunk people. In a sobering-up station, where such people are simply locked up, it takes fewer officers and less medical staff to keep an eye on them.
In the United Kingdom, the idea of privately run drunk tanks (or "welfare centres"), separate from police stations and funded by the penalties issued against those held there, was discussed in 2013 and gained support from the Association of Chief Police Officers.
- Morris, Nigel (15 February 2012). "'Drunk tanks' and minimum prices to help Britain sober up". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- British lists
- Czechoslovak world
- "Acpo issues 'drunk tanks' call to tackle disorder". BBC News. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
- History of sobering-up stations (Czech)