Addiction ruins lives. It can destroy relationships, damage self-esteem, create financial difficulties, and lead to serious health problems. It's also easy to feel anxious and alone when you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse.
Fortunately, you are not sentenced to a life of addiction, and you are not alone. Millions of others have struggled with addiction and persevered. There is a path forward, and you can walk it.
Just as drug and alcohol addiction can feel overwhelming, choosing the right rehab program can also seem daunting. Fortunately, there are only a handful of things to consider when selecting a program. It's also good to bear in mind what truly matters – getting started. The most important thing is that you get help, not that you do it perfectly.
While many rehab facilities have similar treatment methods, there are some important distinctions you should be aware of. The better a program fits you, the more likely you are to get healthy and clean, and stay that way.
What should you be looking at when it comes to rehab programs?
Many rehab centers specialize in a particular kind of addiction, whether alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or behavioral issues like sex addiction or gambling addiction. It's worth exploring your options to find a program that matches your needs.
The first thing to decide is whether you should be in an inpatient or outpatient rehab program.
Inpatient rehab programs require you to live on site while you undergo substance abuse treatment. They are comprehensive, residential drug treatment facilities that take care of all your needs so you are free to focus solely on recovering from addiction.
Outpatient rehab programs allow you to live at home while you receive substance abuse treatment.
Research shows that seeking care at an inpatient rehab center is one of the best ways of treating addiction, both physically and mentally. Those who attend inpatient rehab programs have a high rate of success, with rates of long-term recovery going up the longer the person stays in care.
Because patients all live on site at inpatient alcohol and drug rehab centers, there is a high degree of medical and psychological supervision. This is particularly important for those who've suffered from severe addiction, since the first part of treatment at an inpatient rehab center involves detox.
Detox is the process by which a patient is steadily weaned off the substance they've been abusing. When someone is addicted to a substance like drugs or alcohol – especially long-term – their body become becomes physically dependent on that substance. If they stop consuming it suddenly (go cold turkey), they can suffer major withdrawal symptoms, including shaking, sweating, headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, anxiety, depression, even death in some cases.
Because of the risks associated with sudden detox, it's critical to have the right medical supervision when going through it. Inpatient alcohol and drug treatment centers are equipped to handle detox and withdrawal, and keep patients safe and comfortable as they get clean and sober.
After detox, patients begin the second phase of treatment, which involves therapy and other substance abuse treatment. Drug and alcohol addiction therapy traditionally involves both individual and peer-based support (group therapy). Many rehab programs also incorporate skill-building classes, including life skills and relapse prevention education.
Some programs also offer more holistic healing modalities, such as somatic therapy (body-based therapy, as distinct from psychotherapy), animal therapy, energy work, nutrition therapy, and mindfulness work. The goal of such rehab programs is not just to overcome addiction, but to treat the human being as a whole, and get to overall health and vitality.
Other more specific inpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs include:
- Teen-based rehab programs. Because much of rehab involves peer sharing, it can be helpful for teens to relate with one another. Friendships formed in such alcohol and drug treatment centers are often lasting and helpful in recovery, since many teens share similar struggles.
- Women-only or men-only rehab programs. These programs are useful for those who want to recover from addiction in a same-sex environment and be supported by a staff sensitive to the needs of that particular gender.
- Religious or faith-based rehab programs. For those who already associate strongly (and positively) with a religious background, it can be helpful to go to a rehab center based on that faith.
Quality inpatient rehab programs will tailor treatment to individual patients, adjusting therapeutic modalities and other factors to the needs of that particular phrase of recovery.
Similar to inpatient rehab, outpatient substance abuse treatment programs vary in scope and format.
The first step in outpatient rehab is meeting with an intake professional, who discusses your background, goals, and situation with you. This includes covering what substance(s) you've been addicted to, how long the abuse has gone on for, and what your home and work situation is.
Outpatient rehabilitation employs many of the same treatment practices as inpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs, such as individual therapy, group support groups and life skills workshops. Most participants in an outpatient rehab program will be required to take weekly drug tests, to ensure they aren't relapsing when they are away from the facility.
Outpatient alcohol and drug treatment programs can be as short as a few weeks of treatment at 1-2 hours a day, or as intensive as 8-hour days for weeks on end. Again, it depends on individual circumstances. Some programs also require attendance at support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Which should you pick?
While it's a personal decision as to which is more appropriate – inpatient or outpatient drug and alcohol rehab – there are certain factors that can help make the decision more clear.
You should strongly consider going to an inpatient rehab treatment program if:
- You've engaged in heavy substance abuse for an extended period of time
- You suffer from multiple addictions (i.e. alcohol and stimulants, or prescription drugs and alcohol)
- You have a dual diagnosis (in addition to addiction, you have other mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, etc. Be sure to find a dual diagnosis treatment center if this is the case)
- You've suffered multiple relapses in the past
You could consider going to an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab treatment program if:
- You haven't suffered from your addiction for very long
- You have a stable and supportive living environment
- You are in school or at a job that supports you physically and emotionally
Whichever you pick, the most important thing is that you commit to rehab and recovery. You should feel safe and comfortable in your recovery environment, and it should support you on your journey to sobriety.
It's also important to keep in mind that treatment should last as long as needed, not just a specific number of days. If you or your therapist/other rehab professionals doesn't feel you're ready to move on from a rehab facility or structured substance abuse treatment program, then it's not yet time to go. Studies consistently show that the longer a patient stays in rehab, the better their chances are of avoiding relapse when integrating back into their lives.
What happens after rehab?
Rehab is a foundational element of a healthy, addiction-free life. By choosing to get help, you are taking action to secure a better future. You are choosing to stop the cycle of addiction and instead move towards a life of freedom and purpose.
Rehab is also not a cure-all. Committing to getting sober is a courageous act, and so is continued sobriety. Recovering addicts must make a renewed commitment to staying sober every day, and every time they are triggered or feel a craving. Fortunately, the skills you learn and people you meet in rehab become part of your ongoing support system that extend far beyond your time in a rehab facility. With the right setup, you will be well supported in your commitment to remain clean and sober.
Essentially, what happens after rehab is up to you: If you're willing to heal, grow, and extend yourself, you can look forward to lifelong friendships, continued evolution and learning, and a happy life.