If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, drug rehab is one of the most effective long-term treatment options.
In this guide, we’ll share information about the drug rehab process, how to find and pay for a treatment facility, life after drug rehab, and much more.
What Is Drug Rehab?
Drug rehabilitation, also known as drug rehab, typically refers to a residential facility that specializes in treating addiction.
Rehab centers generally offer medical, therapeutic, psychological, and physical support during recovery. The goal of drug rehab is to give individuals the tools they need to live a healthy and sober life. Successful treatment helps people stop using drugs, stay drug-free, and be productive in the family, at work, and in society.
Drug Rehab Facts
- There are more than 14,500 specialized drug treatment centers in the United States.
- Most drug rehab programs are based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Treatment length varies, but the minimum stay for short-term rehab is usually 28-30 days. Long-term rehab averages around 90 days. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA), stays of less than 90 days are limited in their effectiveness.
- In a 2016 report, the U.S. surgeon general stated that 1 in 7 individuals in the United States is expected to develop a substance abuse disorder at some point. However, only about 10% seek treatment. Surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy stated, “It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion.”
The Drug Rehab Process
Effective treatment typically includes some or all of the following:
- Detoxification (starting point for any addiction treatment)
- Behavioral counseling
- Medication for addiction
- Evaluation and treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and trauma
- Aftercare plan/follow-up to prevent relapse
Rehab provides a highly structured, supportive environment that limits distractions and allows the individual to place their entire focus on recovery. It addresses triggers and underlying issues related to drug use while encouraging a healthy lifestyle that supports sobriety.
A typical day in a drug rehabilitation facility may involve rising early, eating a nutritious breakfast, and attending a morning meeting or group therapy session.
After a healthy lunch, you’ll likely participate in some type of therapy, such as:
- Individual therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Specialized sessions (perhaps tailored to grief counseling, anger management, stress management, etc. as needed)
You might also hear from guest speakers or participate in art, music, dance, or athletic/exercise-related activities. There may be a couple hours of free time in the afternoon, which many spend journaling, praying, reading, exercising, or writing letters to family as permitted.
After dinner, another group session is common, followed by a reasonable bedtime. It’s important to be well-rested in order to have the alertness and energy to fully participate in the recovery process.
Some aspects of the drug rehab process are challenging, as you’ll need to confront negative thoughts, childhood trauma, or other stressors that may contribute to your addiction. Some treatment centers have family members write “impact letters” about how your addiction has affected their lives. These letters can be difficult to read, but they often provide the motivation individuals need to gain and maintain sobriety.
Drug Addiction Medications
Several medications have been found to be effective in treating substance abuse disorders, and medication may be part of the drug rehab process.
Briefly, these medications include:
- Buprenorphine: A partial opioid agonist that activates and blocks opioid receptors in the brain without producing a “high.” It reduces or eliminates opioid withdrawal symptoms, including drug cravings.
- Methadone: A full opioid agonist that activates opioid receptors in the brain to prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
- Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist that blocks the brain’s opioid receptors, also blocking the high the user would normally feel. It’s used to prevent relapse after an individual has fully detoxed from opioids. Similarly, it can be used to reduce “alcohol-induced euphoria.”
- Acamprosate:Used to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it normalizes brain systems that have been affected by chronic consumption of alcohol.
- Disulfiram-Helps prevent alcohol relapse by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the metabolism of alcohol, which causes an unpleasant reaction if alcohol is consumed after taking the medication.
There are other medications that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms or blunt the pleasurable effects of drugs, but these are some of the most commonly used. These medications are not crutches or replacements for addiction, but stepping stones that help recovering addicts on their journey to a full and happy life.
Additional medications may be prescribed to treat possible mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, that can contribute to a person’s addiction.
Drug Treatment Programs
There are a few different types of drug treatment programs. Although this article focuses mostly on inpatient or residential treatment, outpatient treatment is also an option.
Outpatient treatment is less intensive and more flexible than inpatient treatment. Individuals can schedule treatment sessions at varying times throughout the week. These sessions may involve receiving medication, participating in individual or group therapy, and being educated on drug relapse prevention.
This type of treatment is only recommended in cases where addiction is not severe and the individual has a strong support system in place. Keep in mind that with outpatient treatment, the recovering addict has continuous access to the people, places, and situations that prompted substance abuse in the first place.
Inpatient drug treatment centers, on the other hand, remove temptation and place patients in a sober, supportive, and highly structured environment. There are both short-term and long-term residential drug treatment programs.
Short-term treatment programs are often hospital-based, while long-term programs typically take place in a non-hospital setting. Long-term drug treatment programs often offer additional support services and even employment training onsite, and these programs sometimes last up to 6-12 months.
The best course of action for you or your loved one depends on factors such as substance of abuse, length and severity of addiction, and co-occurring substance abuse or mental health disorders.
Finding a Drug Rehab Facility
After deciding to seek help, finding a drug rehab facility can seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are many resources designed to help individuals in this exact situation.
One option is to call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The helpline is confidential, free, and available 24/7. It provides referrals (in English or in Spanish) to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
You may also wish to use SAMHSA’s online locators to search for drug treatment facilities near you.
Paying for Drug Rehab
Cost is another obstacle many people face when deciding to seek treatment for addiction. The first step is determining whether your insurance will cover some of your expenses.
Many health plans do cover at least a portion of substance abuse treatment, while others will cover it entirely. Call your insurance provider or search their website to determine coverage. If you’re still unsure, many drug treatment facilities can offer guidance.
If your insurance doesn’t cover an adequate amount of treatment, some rehab facilities offer scholarships. Others provide financing plans, so ask about financing options as you call different treatment centers.
You may also be able to find non-profit treatment centers or state and local government run programs that provide public assistance. However, these programs often have long waiting lists.
In some cases, because addiction is life-threatening, people liquidate assets such as digital equipment, jewelry, vehicles, or sports memorabilia to pay for treatment.
If you’re committed to attending a drug treatment facility, there are many options that can help you pay for it. As a starting point, talk to your insurance provider and ask local treatment facilities about scholarships, financing options, or payment plans.
Help a Loved One with Alcoholism
Although we have been using the term “drug rehab” throughout this guide, rehab is also an effective method to help a loved one with alcoholism.
The way illicit substances affect the brain is the same way that alcohol impacts the brain, and the same or very similar treatments are helpful during the recovery process.
A combination of detox, medication, and therapy within the structure of a rehab facility can be extremely helpful for individuals with alcoholism.
Drug Rehabilitation Success
Drug rehabilitation can and does work, but it’s important to note that drug addiction is a chronic disease. NIDA points out that relapse rates for substance abuse disorders (around 40-60%) are comparable to relapse rates for other chronic illnesses, such as asthma and hypertension.
If you or a loved one stumbles while on the road to recovery, understand that this does not mean treatment has failed. Instead, this indicates that the person may need to resume treatment, modify it, or try a different approach.
Treating chronic diseases like addiction means changing deeply rooted behaviors, and this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process that takes dedication, commitment, and an understanding that lapses do not signal failure.
However, the best drug treatment programs do use effective principles designed to help patients avoid relapse. The most effective treatment addresses the needs of the “whole person,” including counseling, working with the individual’s family, treating co-occurring mental disorders, addressing common triggers or stressful situations in the individual’s life, and creating an aftercare plan.
Rehab is a powerful step toward recovery, and many individuals can attest to the fact that drug rehabilitation programs save lives.
Life After Drug Rehab
The best treatment facilities will send you (or your loved one) home with an aftercare plan designed to help maintain and build on the progress made in treatment.
An aftercare plan is a personalized strategy for coping with the challenges of life after rehab, when the individual is returned to the temptations and chaos of the real world.
It will likely include:
- Contact information for sponsors or other helpful resources
- Times, locations, and expected frequency for meetings like AA or NA
- Goals like church, journaling, or yoga
- Working on employment, educational, or housing goals
- Ongoing counseling/therapy, whether individually or in a group setting
- Financial planning
- Time management and methods to cope with stress
- A list of supportive friends and family members
- A daily maintenance/wellness plan
- Early warning signs of relapse
- Action plan for triggers
Aftercare also means maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding places and people that you once used with, developing a supportive network of positive friends and family, and finding positive hobbies. By taking care of your physical and mental health, proactively avoiding temptation, and having a plan for dealing with stressful situations or triggers, you’ll find sobriety much easier to manage.
Drug Rehab Support Groups
After leaving drug rehab, support groups are likely to be a major component of your aftercare plan. These may include Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as support groups for mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
Support groups give you a safe place to voice your struggles or share your journey with others who can relate. In this way, these groups mirror the network of supportive people working toward a common goal that you may have found in drug rehab.
From these groups, you’ll find nonjudgmental encouragement and advice from people who truly understand your experiences. They also give you the motivation to continue working your plan and the opportunity to keep your sobriety in check.
Some of these groups offer occasional meetings that welcome family members, which can be a great opportunity to help your family members understand your addiction and how they can be supportive.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you may feel helpless or overwhelmed.
Know that help is available, and recovery ispossible. Use this guide to find a drug rehab facility, consider payment options, and gain some insight into how the drug rehab process works.
Taking the first step toward recovery can be scary, but it’s a step toward repaired relationships, improved health, and a longer, happier life.