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 Estonia, drunk tank is known as kainestusmaja (sobering up house), those exist in the biggest cities. Most of the clients there are brought forcefully by police to sober up if a person poses a threat to the public or themselves. One will not be released until sober (up to 24 hours).
In Poland a sobering-up chamber (Izba wytrzeźwień) exists in bigger cities. Being drunk is not an offence, but police may forcefully transfer a person to a sobering-up station if they pose a threat to the public or themselves (e.g. during harsh weather, wandering near railway lines, roads, etc.). Even if there are no charges against a person, one will not be released until sober (up to 24 hours). Patients are under medical supervision and they're required to pay for treatment (no insurance covers it). It's sometimes called "the most expensive hotel in town". When the city of Kielce shut down their facility in 2010, the local hospital's ER became flooded with drunks brought by police. A sobering-up station, where drunks are simply locked up, takes fewer resources and staff than a hospital.
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
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-25. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
- "Acpo issues 'drunk tanks' call to tackle disorder". BBC News. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
- History of sobering-up stations (Czech)