Drug awareness

ABOUT drug rehab?

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation, or drug rehab treatment, is the starting point for meaningful and long-lasting recovery from addiction to substances or addictive behaviors.

Substance abuse is a complex disorder that affects individuals physically, mentally, socially, biologically and spiritually. As such, treatment of such a complex, all-encompassing disorder must be equally all-encompassing. Simply treating the biological dependence is not enough because the underlying causes and effects of the addiction will remain.

Holistic, comprehensive treatment is the underlying basis for the current approach to treating substance addiction, known as the “biopsychosocial” approach. This involves addressing the whole person to ensure that all of the underlying causes and effects of the addiction are properly cared for and corrected. This gives individuals the tools they need for a full return to a happy, healthy, substance-free life.

Drug addiction “treatment” is a bit of a misleading term — it implies that people with addictions are “all better” after they have received some form of treatment. Really, recovery from addiction is a lifelong commitment that requires ongoing attention and care. Even people with years of successful recovery must remain mindful of their potential for relapse, and they must use the tools they learned in treatment to prevent it.

The word “rehabilitation” also implies that someone is being corrected after misbehaving, which is consistent with society’s stigma about addiction. Part of the recovery process is for people with addictions, and their families, to learn that addiction is a matter of biology and not morality.

The drug rehabilitation process

The drug rehabilitation process occurs in a few phases. After all, transitioning from physical and mental addiction to a healthy and happy way of living is a big change.

It is important that the steps to drug rehabilitation be properly addressed during the drug rehabilitation process. There are four stages of addiction recovery:


Addiction assessment is an especially critical part of the rehab process. People with substance addictions are highly secretive. This is part of the underlying psychology of addiction, and it reinforced by fears of arrest for possession and judgment from family and friends. The assessment process requires gaining trust and breaking through that secretive nature. The individual needs to identify which substances were used and the extent of their substance use. More than half of people with substance addictions have an underlying mental health disorder. Substance use and mental health disorders are closely tied together, and each can cause and perpetuate the other. As such, it is crucial to identify any co-occurring mental health disorders and treat these at the same time as the addiction. Otherwise, the chances of success in recovery are greatly decreased.


To recover from substance use, people must first go through the process of ridding the body of the substances and their toxic metabolites. This process is known as detoxification, or detox. As the body clears the substances, the unpleasant experience of withdrawal occurs. The detox from alcohol use can be dangerous, even life-threatening. People who regularly use alcohol should consult a physician or participate in a medically supervised detox program before stopping. For many people with addictions, fear of withdrawal is a major barrier to escaping their addiction, and that fear keeps them from even trying. Fortunately, withdrawal and drug detox do not have to be a terrible experience. By participating in a medical detox program, people can get through the experience safely and comfortably.


The rehab process is the biggest part of an addiction treatment program. This is where the underlying causes of addiction are addressed. For most people with substance addiction, their substance use is no longer about getting high. Instead, it became a repetitive, daily process of avoiding withdrawal symptoms and escaping from their reality. Drug rehab is the process where the deep issues around the addiction are identified and addressed.

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drug and alcoholic treatment program

Detoxification from a substance is not the same as treatment for substance addiction. It is merely a process that helps people through withdrawal symptoms while their body purges itself of toxic substances and adjusts to their absence.

During the process of drug detox, people’s minds are muddled and they feel physically and mentally sick. They are not receptive to any kind of counseling or therapy until their minds clear and they are feeling better. Even though medical detox makes the process much easier, it is best to first focus on getting through the entire detox process before taking further steps.

Inpatient drug rehab involves staying at a hospital or rehab facility during the entire time of the treatment, with 24-hour supervision. The therapy is more intense than residential rehab and may be involuntary or on an emergency basis.

Inpatient treatment has benefits that improve the transformative effect necessary for recovery by:

  • Preventing triggers and removing the individual from the people, places and things that were associated with the substance use
  • Removing the person from any toxic relationships or environments
  • Allowing for a more intensive, committed treatment regimen
  • Providing a social environment, or a “culture of recovery”
  • Ensuring that the individual has some solid recovery time before they are discharged

Inpatient rehab also allows individuals to access drug rehab services, including recreational therapy and recovery-focused social activities.

Residential addiction treatment is the mainstay of treatment for most individuals. Like inpatient therapy, residential treatment offers the therapeutic effect of removing people from their dysfunctional lifestyle and environment and placing them in safe, healthy surroundings. This allows them to reorient their lives and thought processes while focusing on distraction-free recovery.

Residential rehab differs from inpatient rehab in that it is done in a facility outside of the hospital system and usually involves a longer stay. The program is generally less intense than an inpatient program and gives participants a little more independence.

A partial hospitalization program is halfway between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Individuals are given on-site housing and 24-hour-a-day access to staff, but after-hours routines are less regimented and individuals have more personal freedom.

This program is appropriate for people who have a high expectation of success as well as the ability and insight to be more self-directed in their routine. The presence of a strong support system is also a requirement.

An intensive outpatient program is a “step-down” treatment program, usually meant for people who have completed an inpatient or partial hospitalization program. This allows people to transition from an inpatient stay to community living while maintaining directed therapy, such as group or individual counseling and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders.

Individuals in IOP live in the community — at home or at a sober living house — and attend daily treatment sessions.

Outpatient treatment involves living at home and attending treatment activities at an outpatient rehab facility during the day. The intensity of the daytime treatment will depend on individual needs and the programs available at the outpatient facility.

Most people with serious addiction will likely have better outcomes in inpatient treatment and rehab. However, outpatient drug rehab may be appropriate if:

  • The person’s physician is aware of the drug use and agrees with the outpatient treatment
  • The individual is already detoxed from the drug and is free of withdrawal effects
  • The drug use was mild or of short duration
  • The person has a safe, drug-free place to stay away from dealers and others who use substances
  • The person is strongly motivated to stop using
  • There is no co-occurring substance use or mental health disorder
  • There is a good support system in place, including people who know to watch for dangerous withdrawal symptoms
  • The person does not live alone

Long-term drug rehab is an inpatient treatment program typically lasting three to 12 months. While different individuals can decide if long-term drug treatment is right for them, these programs are good for people who have struggled with their addiction over a long period of time despite completing other drug rehab programs.

Long-term drug rehab programs may also be suitable for people who are facing a dual diagnosis that is difficult to treat, such as addiction and bipolar disorder. Some people may choose a long-term program simply because they feel more comfortable with the added insurance that a longer treatment program adds to their recovery.

Long-term residential treatment programs often use a therapeutic approach known as the therapeutic community (TC). This is an approach to re-socializing people whose addiction has seriously affected their ability to fit into society. These include people with serious criminal behavior, people who are homeless, adolescents and people with serious mental health disorders.

The type of treatment program is the biggest factor in determining how long drug rehab will be:

  • Detox is usually around seven days
  • Inpatient programs average 21 to 90 days
  • Long-term residential care programs are usually three to 12 months
  • Outpatient programs depend on the intensity of the program, but they usually range from a few weeks to three months

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) compiles extensive data on drug rehab programs. According to their most recently published data, the average length of stay in drug rehab is:

  • 90 days for discharges from outpatient medication-assisted opioid therapy
  • 78 days for discharges from non-intensive outpatient treatment
  • 42 days for discharges from intensive outpatient treatment
  • 39 days for discharges from long-term residential treatment
  • Five days for discharges from medication-assisted opioid detoxification