Alcohol and Drug Rehab

Basic Q&As on the rehabilitation process and what to expect.

minute read


Q: What is Rehabilitation?

A: Rehabilitation is the process of combining pharmacological (prescription medications) and psychotherapeutic treatments to address substance abuse disorders.

It can be difficult to know exactly what to expect during rehab treatment, since the specifics are based on a person’s individual needs. However, the majority of rehabilitation treatment programs do offer many of the same basic services, which include:

  • Drug screening and addiction assessment
  • Medical detox
  • Psychological treatments
  • Education sessions
  • Supportive services

More on rehabilitation:

Q: How Does Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Work?

A: Yes, rehabilitation for substance abuse disorders works.

The main goal of a rehabilitation process is to help individuals overcome their problems with their drug-of-choice and go on with the rest of their lives functioning well without it. So, rehabilitation is considered to be successful if a person is able to leave the program and stay clean and sober. The intent of rehabilitation is to enable a patient to be successful in life and avoid the drastic consequences that substance abuse can cause. Some other goals of rehabilitation include:

  • End alcohol or drug abuse
  • Establish a positive support system
  • Improve general health
  • Improve personal circumstances
  • Meet employment and educational needs
  • Reduce criminal behavior and resolve legal problems
  • Treat psychiatric disorders and psychological problems

More on alcohol and drug rehabilitation:

Q: How long does addiction rehabilitation take?

A: It depends.

Most inpatient rehabilitation centers require a minimum 28-30 day stay. Some people may need a more intensive treatment, and it may be suggested that they stay for 3-6 months in a residential treatment setting. Outpatient rehabilitation is usually recommended on a weekly basis, the standard is about 10 weeks of treatment for at least 5 hours per week. However, ongoing weekly rehabilitation for substance abuse disorders usually continues on a weekly basis for up to a year after diagnosis.

Q: Who should get rehabilitation program help?

A: Anyone diagnosed with a drug or alcohol abuse problem should consider rehabilitation.

There are a number of signs you need substance abuse rehabilitation. If you have any of the following signs, you should speak to a qualified counselor to see if you’d be a good candidate for rehab.

  • You can’t stop drinking or using your drug-of-choice despite the problems it causes.
  • You use your drug-of-choice to avoid problems or unpleasant feelings.
  • You look for excuses to drink or drug.
  • You frequently use your substance of choice more (or longer than) than you originally intended to.
  • You try to hide your substance use from loved ones.
  • Your drug or alcohol use has affected your relationships.
  • Your drug or alcohol use has caused health problems.
  • Your drug or alcohol use has affected your school or work performance.
  • Your drug or alcohol use has gotten you in trouble with the law.
  • Your drug or alcohol use regularly causes you problems.

When should you get help?

Q: Should I choose inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation?

A: It depends on your environment.

Needing rehabilitation does not necessarily mean that you need to go to a sleep-in rehab. Many people who live in a supportive environment can continue working and still seek outpatient addiction treatment. So, if your family and friends can support a drug or alcohol free lifestyle, you might want to consider outpatient rehabilitation. It is often much cheaper and is as successful (if not more successful) than inpatient rehabs.

On the other hand, men, women, and adolescents who need a major change in environment or who cannot otherwise avoid relapse should attend an inpatient rehabilitation center. If it is difficult to stay clean and sober where you are living, consider taking a break and going to inpatient rehabilitation.

What are the steps of Rehabilitation Process?

Alcohol and drug rehabilitation is based on the different needs of addicted individuals. Still, there are some general processes that are common to each rehabilitation journey.

1. Assessment. Each rehabilitation process starts with assessment. Medical staff screen you to assess your personal needs, level of addiction, and health state. Then, they are able to accurately create an individualized treatment program that fits your needs.

The assessment is done through a series of physical exams, psychological screening, mental health assessment and drug tests. Once they are aware of the nature of the issue, treatment providers can tailor a treatment plan.

2. Detox (if necessary). Some substances are easier on the body than others, and some create harsh withdrawal symptoms as they leave the system. Almost all long-term and chronic addicts and alcoholics will require medical supervision during detox. In the detoxification stage, medical staff can monitor your state 24/7 and will try to make detox as comfortable as possible. In some cases, medications are necessary to lower the intensity or treat adverse withdrawal symptoms.

3. Psychotherapy and behavioral treatment. This phase of the rehabilitation process is considered to be “the meat” of the program. Certified counselors help you establish the base for future sobriety by addressing the addiction issues that stem from underlying mental and emotional conditions. When the root cause of the problem is identified, counselors and therapists can help you adapt new thoughts, patterns, and behaviors in order to change outcomes.

4. Aftercare. Finishing the rehabilitation program does not mean the process is done. Recovery is a lifelong process and many challenges as resisting cravings, triggers to use or drink again and relapse. After rehabilitation, the recovery process continues to follow-up programs, sober living facilities, transitional houses, support group attendance, job or life skills development and continued psychotherapy.

What to look for in a Rehab Program?

You need to make a few things your priority when choosing the treatment facility where you will start the rehabilitation process.

Appropriate licensing and accreditation – Treatment programs receive accreditation from the state, so check if they have it. Check to see if the center is accredited by CARF, as well. Also, it’s important for you that the program is run by licensed addiction and mental health professionals whose certifications are up to standard.

Effectiveness of treatment methods – Outside agencies gather data and publish statistics about a treatment centers’ success rates. Check to see how these external rankings place the facility, and look online for former patient feedback.

Aftercare services – In a good treatment program, the process of rehabilitation will continue to other recovery services and community support groups. Also, make sure you obtain a discharge plan before you leave the rehab program.

Let’s verify your coverage for treatment at an American Addiction Centers location. Your information is always confidential.


How Do Rehabilitation Programs Work?

There are several things you can do to contribute for your success in rehabilitation. Here are some of our suggestions.

  • Understand that you do have an alcohol or drug addiction problem. Denial is one of the behaviors that only block the life-changing experience rehab is supposed to be for you.
  • Be open to discussing your emotions and thoughts. One of the main goals of the rehabilitation process is to uncover the root causes for the addiction issue, thus resolve suppressed emotional baggage.
  • Accept suggestions and listen to the professionals. Counselors and therapists are there to help you and they are not working against you.
  • Stay for the whole duration of the rehabilitation process. You were booked to attend rehab, so stay dedicated and work on yourself. Leaving against medical advice doesn’t get you far.
  • Make an effort to connect with other people during therapy sessions. It is good to know that you are not alone, or that your problem is not unique. Sharing the journey makes it easier for everyone.
  • Keep yourself motivated to succeed and go to aftercare. Recovery can’t be rushed and you should take as much time as you need to make it really work for you.

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All articles on The Rehabilitation Process
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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