Substance Abuse Treatment: An Overview Of Addiction Treatment Programs

Last Updated: July 2, 2021

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Addiction to alcohol or drugs is a chronic disease in which an individual indulges in compulsive addictive behaviors despite being aware of their harmful consequences. Over time, excessive alcohol intake or illicit substance use leads to long-lasting changes in the brain and body, further driving the addiction. Substance use disorders are relapsing in nature. In other words, there is always a risk of returning to alcohol or drug use after attempting to stop.
Can alcoholism and drug addiction be treated? Substance abuse treatment is effective but a complex process. It is not simply a matter of stopping the use for a few days and becoming cured. Most people need several interventions and properly managed long-term residential treatment program to stop using completely and get their lives back on track.
There are several addiction treatment plans to cure addiction to illicit substances. Drug addiction treatment programs may include medications, mental and behavioral modifications, individual and group therapies, coping skills training, counseling sessions to treat coexisting mental health problems, and relapse prevention strategies.
Find out everything one needs to know about alcohol and substance abuse treatment.

Types Of Addiction Treatment Processes: Long vs. Short-Term Addiction Treatment Programs

Many alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers offer a range of rehabilitation programs. So, how does one choose between short and long-term addiction treatment?

Substance Abuse Treatment Should Be Individualized

It is important to remember that substance abuse recovery programs are not one-size-fits-all. Drug addiction treatment and alcohol recovery programs must be individually tailored to address the physical, emotional, social, and financial needs of an individual.
 Doctor and patient are discussing addiction treatment details
One recovering addict may benefit from a specific program while another individual may need a completely different process to become drug-free. Everyone’s situation is unique. The reasons for beginning to use, the choice of the illicit substance, the amount used, and the motivation for quitting are different for every person. Due to these varying circumstances, the substance abuse treatment for each addict must be customized.

Choosing The Type Of Addiction Treatment Program

Long-term residential treatment programs are recommended for people with a longstanding addiction or a history of heavy drug or alcohol use. These programs also benefit people with a dual diagnosis; for example, a substance use disorder combined with a mental health disorder. These programs are more effective and offer 24-hour monitoring. They aid recovery by providing a peaceful and controlled environment that does not leave room for relapse.
Medical Treatment Record at rehab facility
Short-term drug rehabilitation programs are usually suitable for people in the early stages of addiction or those who have been addicted for a very short period. Some recovering addicts have children to care for or other family responsibilities, which preclude the entry into a prolonged inpatient program, leaving short-term addiction recovery as the best, or only, option.
Is there any addiction treatment facility nearby? This is a question many recovering alcoholics and addicts ask themselves. Substance abuse treatment centers are available all over America and around the world. The choice to be made is between short-term programs for inpatient alcohol treatment or long-term programs for addiction, both of which have certain advantages and disadvantages.

Drug Addiction Treatment: Stages Of Recovery From Substance Abuse

The journey to sobriety is neither easy nor short. Each recovering addict goes through an extremely personal journey to freedom from alcohol or drugs. Yet, there are 6 key stages of addiction treatment in Transtheoretical Model of Change that are necessary to understand for every individual with a substance use disorder.
Various methods are used in drug and alcohol recovery programs, including different medications, processes, and philosophies. A holistic addiction treatment, for example, is made up of four primary components, namely:

  • Acceptance of the problem – Finding the motivation to get clean.
  • Detoxification – Removal of drugs and harmful substances from the body.
  • Rehabilitation – Counseling sessions, intensive therapy, and overall health management.
  • Recovery – Exit from the rehab facility with continued outpatient therapy.

The ultimate goal of recovery from substance abuse is to stop using drugs or alcohol, stay clean or sober, and become a productive member of the family, workplace, and community. The underlying principle of addiction treatment is that no one treatment is right for everyone. Effective substance abuse recovery programs address all the addict’s needs, not simply alcohol or drug use. Quick access to a drug recovery program is critical, as is sticking with addiction treatment. Medications, counseling, and therapies are the cornerstones of most addiction treatments. In some cases, involuntary commitment laws allow putting someone into rehab against their will, if there is a risk of self-harm or violent behavior.

What Is Effective Drug Addiction Treatment Program?

Comprehensive drug addiction treatment centers offer therapies to address coexisting mental disorders. Addicts are at increased risk of hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases, and adequate drug recovery programs offer to test for these conditions. It is important to remember that treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism may not always be voluntary but can still be effective.

Awareness and Acknowledgment: Identifying The Need For Addiction Treatment

Addiction is called the disease of denial. Therefore, perhaps the most critical phase of treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism is accepting there is a problem and becoming motivated to do something about it. An intervention is a structured process that is undertaken to persuade someone with a drug or alcohol problem to seek help.
alcoholism intervention at home
Determination and commitment to action follow early contemplation of addiction treatment. The endpoint of this stage of the recovery process is intake into a drug alcohol treatment center.

Detoxification: Safe Withdrawal From Drugs And Alcohol

What is detoxification? It is a part of the recovery process that involves checking into a rehabilitation facility and stopping the use of drugs or alcohol. The purpose of detox is to clear the addict’s system of drugs and other harmful substances under medical supervision. This ensures that the chemical imbalance in the brain is corrected, and the hold of the drug on the addict’s brain is relinquished.

A physical examination is often performed to assess the patient’s overall health and determine which drug addiction medications will be needed to aid in the detox. NAD supplements could be used to ease the detox process. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that may occur during detoxification include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger or aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cramping
  • Stroke
  • Hallucinations
  • Trembling or shakes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Heart attack

With proper medical care, most recovering addicts can come through detox and ride out the unpleasant and sometimes serious symptoms. For obvious reasons, people with substance use disorders should not attempt detox at home without proper medical supervision. Unsupervised detoxification can result in life-threatening, and sometimes even fatal events.

Rehabilitation: Intensive Therapy for Addiction Recovery

What is rehabilitation? Once the detox phase is over, the patient moves on to the rehabilitation phase of the drug abuse treatment. This is the part of the program where recovering addicts receive intensive therapy and one-on-one counseling.
Addiction counselor is Solving problem
During the early stages of substance abuse treatment, patients are usually not allowed to contact with family and friends. Alcohol and drug addiction counselors work with the patient and help focus entirely on healing in a safe and stress-free environment.

What Are The Different Types Of Drug Rehabilitation Therapies?

During drug and alcohol treatment, a patient receives intensive therapy and counseling sessions. The purpose of rehabilitation is to find the root cause of addiction. Effectively addressing the underlying conditions that drove a person to addiction is critical to staying sober after rehab. Several substance abuse therapies are used during this phase of the recovery program, including:

Goals Of Addiction Treatment Therapy

The purpose of these various therapies is to determine why a person started using drugs or alcohol in the first place and to enhance motivation to seek substance abuse treatment. Addiction treatment therapies also help recovering addicts handle potential triggers which they will no doubt face once they return to routine life. Patients are taught coping skills for stressful situations and strategies to avoid drug relapses.
Desperate alcoholic at doctor's office
Many people start using drugs or alcohol in response to trauma or personal issues, such as self-esteem or mood disorders. In such cases, the recovering addict needs to learn to cope with these issues without turning to drugs or alcohol. The ultimate goal is to discover methods to stay sober in the long-term. It is not unusual for recovering addicts to experience the pink cloud syndrome, a high-on-life feeling in the early stages of recovery that can sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations.

For example, a mood disorder will often require additional therapy, usually in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, to change the way a person perceives or responds to events. An addiction psychiatrist can prescribe medications to keep symptoms at bay, at least until the person is stable enough to handle the emotions on their own.

Recovery: Preventing Relapse to Substance Abuse

The addiction treatment process is not complete when the rehabilitation phase is over. The recovering addict still needs to navigate life after rehab. The following directions are known to be helpful:

Building A Support System

A support system is critical to maintaining sobriety. Family members, who are usually kept away during the early stages of addiction treatment, now play a vital role at the time of release from the rehab facility. Family counseling is offered to help recovering addicts make amends with those they may have hurt in the past while actively using drugs or alcohol.
Teenage Girl shows support for her friend
Friends and family members who care for the person to help them in adjusting to life outside the treatment center and to stick with outpatient therapy as recommended. Addict’s surroundings also have to learn what enabling behavior is and how to help recovered person instead of enabling their addiction.

Enrolling In Aftercare Programs

Ongoing substance abuse treatment is a necessity for recovering addicts to prevent relapse. After they leave the rehab facility, outpatient therapy, or counseling is highly recommended. This can take several forms, such as:

Different types of treatments for addiction are designed to give the recovering addict time to uncover and process feelings and issues that led them to addiction in the first place.

Establisihng Sober Connections

Many people struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse feel a sense of isolation. Support groups or sober companions are an integral part of the recovery process for people with substance use disorders.
meeting of support group
These options allow recovering addicts to develop connections with others battling similar problems and to encourage one another, offer advice, and work on beating addiction together. This sense of purpose and belonging is critical in easing the loneliness many addicts face during the addiction recovery process.

Page Sources

  1. Melemis S. M. Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 2015; 88(3): 325–332.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. 2018.
  3. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. 2005.

Published on: September 28th, 2015

Updated on: July 2nd, 2021

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.