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  • Addiction Treatment Process: Overview

    When one thinks of rehabilitation, they often focus on “going to rehab” as if it is a one-time event. In truth, recovery from a substance addiction is something that takes a lifetime of dedication and commitment. The beginning stages of the process involve detoxification and undergoing rehabilitation, but the maintenance phase doesn’t end once a person leaves an inpatient facility.

    Types of Rehabilitation Processes

    Types of Rehabilitation Processes

    What are the most effective addiction treatment programs?

    The most effective addiction treatment programs are inpatient and outpatient recovery programs. Inpatient programs are the most widely recommended, especially for those who have a severe drug or alcohol abuse problem. Outpatient programs are most effective for milder cases of addiction or for those who cannot afford to forsake their responsibilities.

    It is important to remember that no one certain program or process will work for everyone. People are unique. Your situation may be entirely different from someone else’s. The drug you abuse may be totally different from what someone else is doing. Patients use varying amounts of the same drugs, different types of drugs, and their motivations for using drugs in the first place will be entirely different from other patients. These varying circumstances surrounding the addictions will require sometimes very different treatment plans.

    Inpatient programs are the most widely recommended for those with a long-standing background of drug or alcohol abuse, or those with a dual diagnosis (a drug addiction combined with a mood disorder). These programs are far more intensive, and involved twenty-four hour monitoring combined with a peaceful and controlled environment that doesn’t leave room for relapse.

    Outpatient programs may be suitable for those who are not fully addicted to their drug to which they are becoming dependent, or those who have only been addicted for a very short period of time. For those who have children to care for or other responsibilities they can’t ignore during an inpatient program, and outpatient process may be the best, or only, option.

    Stages of a Recovery Program

    While there are various methods used in recovery programs, as well as different processes, medications, and philosophies which can be successfully used, there are a few components that make up any recovery process. Namely, most recovery processes include three main steps: detoxification, rehabilitation, and recovery.

    What is Detoxification?

    detoxThe detoxification, or detox, portion of a recovery program involves checking in to a rehabilitation facility and relinquishing all drugs or alcohol. The purpose of detox is to clear the system of all drugs and other harmful substances to remove their hold on the brain. This can be a painful process, as detox often leads to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Exact symptoms will depend on the drug used, length of time the person was using, and individual body chemistry. The patient’s overall health is also a factor, and a physical is often performed to determine which, if any, medications will be needed to aid in the detox.

    Some symptoms which 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

    While these symptoms sound serious, and they are, most patients come through the detox phase okay when given the proper medical care. For obvious reasons, addicts should not attempt to detox at home without proper medical supervision. Life-threatening, and sometimes even fatal, events may occur.

    What is Rehabilitation?

    Once the detox phase is over, the patient is ready to move on to the rehabilitation portion of treatment. This is the part when patients are given intensive therapy and one on one counseling. Often, during the first phases of treatment, patients are not allowed to have contact with friends or family. This helps them focus entirely on healing in a safe and stress-free environment.

    What are rehabilitation programs?

    Rehabilitation programs are part of treatment regimen wherein a patient receives intensive therapy and counseling sessions. The purpose of rehabilitation is to find the root cause of addiction, so that addicts can be most effectively treated. Treatment of underlying conditions helps recovering addicts to stay sober after completing a treatment program.

    The purpose of therapy is to determine why a person started using drugs or alcohol in the first place. It also helps them navigate potential triggers they will face on the outside, and ways to resist relapse when they come up. Many people start using drugs or alcohol in response to personal issues or trauma, such as abuse or a mood disorder. When this is the case, a patient needs ways to cope with these issues without turning to their drug of choice.

    When a dual diagnosis is present, both disorders must be treated separately. The mood disorder will often require additional therapy, generally in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, in order to change the way a person perceive or responds to events. Medications may also be needed to help keep symptoms at bay, at least until the person is more stable in being able to handle them alone.

    What is Recovery?

    drug-recoveryOnce the rehabilitation phase is over, that doesn’t mean treatment is done. The person still needs to navigate life outside of the rehab facility, and develop a support system to help them do so. Family members who were kept away during the early stages of treatment are often brought in before release, and family counseling is often offered to help the addict make amends with those he may have hurt while he was using. Drug and alcohol addiction don’t only hurt the person using, but also friends and family members who care for him.

    What are the stages of a recovery program?

    The stages of a recovery program are:

    • Detoxification – The goal is to remove all the drugs and harmful substances from the body.
    • Rehabilitation – Counseling sessions, intensive therapies, and complete diagnoses takes place.
    • Recovery – The patient goes out of the facility but outpatient therapy is still recommended.
    Ongoing treatment is required for recovering addicts. Even once they leave the facility, outpatient therapy or counseling is also highly recommended. It takes time to uncover and deal with the feelings and issues that lead someone into addiction, and patients have to be willing to continually grow and work on themselves for continued improvement.

    Support groups are also integral for recovery for many recovering addicts. These groups allow addicts and recovering addicts to get together to encourage one another, offer advice, and work toward recovery together. This gives many people a sense of purpose and belonging, and it helps ease the loneliness many people feel when facing their addictions.

    If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction, it’s important to know that help is available. If you’re willing to put forth the effort to recover, there are numerous addiction experts waiting to help you reclaim your life.


    1. This post was very informative about the addiction treatment process. One of my coworkers has struggled with chemical dependency and I wanted to guide him toward the appropriate treatment to help him on his road to recovery. You make a good point about how varying circumstances require unique treatment plans. Thanks again for this information, and I will be sure to research addiction recovery in order to help my favorite coworker!

    2. My sister is struggling with addiction and my family and I are looking into some treatments that would be good for her. I like how you mentioned about after rehabilitation comes recovery and that is when she will have to figure out how to navigate life without chemical dependency. I think counseling and support groups will definitely help with the recovery process. Thanks for the information!

    3. my brother studying in U.K is suffering from substance abuse. Please any help. started smoking marijuana at age 17.

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