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Understanding Drug Addiction And Alcoholism

Before jumping into the different rehab options that exist for drug addicts and alcoholics, you first need to understand the nature and substance of addiction. As chronic conditions, drug addiction and alcoholism are typically characterized by uncontrollable or compulsive drug/alcohol seeking and use as well as the harmful changes and consequences these substances cause in your brain and body.

Long lasting in nature, these negative changes can lead to most of the unsociable behaviors seen in addicts and alcoholics. Since the condition can bring about relapses, addiction needs to be dealt with over the course of a lifetime. Only by so doing will you be able to strengthen your desire and commitment enough to fight all urges and desires to relapse.

The path to alcoholism and drug addiction usually starts with the periodically recreational taking of drugs and alcohol. With time, however, your ability to choose a way out of these substances becomes compromised as dependence develops.

As a result, the process of looking for and taking addictive substances turns into a compulsion. This happens because long-term exposure to certain substances alters the functioning of the brain. Since addiction affects those parts of the brain dealing with motivation, reward, memory, learning, and ultimate control over behavior, you need to go for rehab to kick the habit. Failure to do this will not only make you prone to more drug/alcohol use, it will also continue causing further damage to your brain and body.

Treating Drug Addiction And Alcoholism

Like with any other compulsive behavior, you can treat addition. However, due to the chronic nature of the condition, you simply won't be able to stop using what you are addicted to for a couple of days and find the ultimate cure. Instead, you are going to need repeated or long-term care to stop using and start recovering and rebuilding your life completely.

That said, the treatment option you choose should be able to empower you to:

  • Stop looking for and/or using drugs/alcohol
  • Stay free of drugs and alcohol
  • Remain productive and noteworthy in society, at work, and within your family

Principles Of Effective Addiction Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has come up with some fundamental principles. When you start on your alcohol or drug treatment program, you should keep these principles in mind they will go a long way in helping you recover faster and more efficiently:

  • Addiction affects both the brain and your behavior
  • Addiction treatment and rehabilitation undertaken early often leads to successful outcomes
  • Treatment doesn't have to be voluntary for it to work; many people have been persuaded into rehab through the process of intervention
  • Where rehabilitation and addiction treatment are concerned, no one-size-fits-all solution works
  • The treatment needs to address all aspects of life holistically, and not just the addiction or substance/drug/alcohol abuse
  • Drug addiction and alcoholism is sometimes linked to mental health conditions, which should be evaluated, diagnosed, and addressed as part of the treatment program
  • The treatment program needs to assess the existence of such related diseases as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and HIV, among others
  • To overcome the alcoholism and addiction, you need to commit enough time and energy
  • Although important, physical detoxification is just part of the overall treatment; ongoing support and long term treatment are also vital for a full long term recovery
  • A long term inpatient treatment program is the most common type of treatment for addiction
  • At times, pharmaceutical treatment might also be applied as part of rehab
  • Some addiction treatment programs will continue monitoring you after rehab
  • The treatment plan should be revised continuously to match and meet your changing circumstances and needs

Apart from the above principles, research released into the market about rehabilitation and recovery unearned and documented the following principles. These principles are designed as the basis for a holistic and effective treatment program:

  • Addicts and alcoholics require quick and ready access to treatment
  • Effective treatment should address all your needs
  • You might have to stay in treatment as long as is required

Treating Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

The successful treatment of these conditions often involves a number of steps. These include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  1. Detoxification: For acute withdrawal symptoms of drugs or alcohol
  2. Continued care for sub acute withdrawal symptoms after detoxification
  3. Long term inpatient treatment including Life and Coping Skill Classes and Relapse Prevention
  4. Evaluation and Treatment: Assessment as to potential causes and appropriate treatment spectrum
  5. Follow Up: Done over the long term, follow-up procedure to help prevent relapse


Most research studies on drug and alcohol addiction usually classify addiction treatment programs into a couple of general modalities or types. Individual programs and treatment approaches, however, continue evolving and diversifying based on a variety of factors. As a result, some programs might not fit into the traditional treatment classification.

Still, most of the programs listed below go through the same process of detoxification and drug-managed withdrawal. During this time, your body will be cleared of all drugs and alcohol, all the while managing the potentially dangerous and acute physiological effects that come about when you try to kick your dependence to an addictive substance.

However, detoxification by itself cannot address all the behavioral, social, and psychological problems typically tied to addiction. As a direct result, you need to do more than simply detox if you are going to make a full long term recovery. It is for this reason that a formal assessment follows detoxification before you are referred to a specific treatment program.

That said, your detox should be managed by a physician within a controlled environment. This is because withdrawal from addictive a substance is usually accompanied by potentially harmful and unpleasant side effects. Through a safe medically managed withdrawal the side effects of withdrawal will be minimized.

Below are the most common forms of rehab for drug and alcohol addiction:

1. Outpatient Behavioral Treatment

In most outpatient rehab programs, you will be allowed to go back home every day after you are done with your treatment session. By so doing, this type of treatment will allow you to continue maintaining your familial and work obligations - such as taking care of elderly relations or young children.

In most cases, the outpatient treatment will vary from one facility to another in terms of the intensity and types of services provided. That said, the treatment you will receive should cost less than if you opted for inpatient or residential treatment. This is why it works so well for people with extensive social support systems and/or jobs to fall back on.

However, if the program is low intensity in nature, it might offer you little more than simple education on drugs and alcohol. In such a case, you'd be better off signing up for intensive day treatment - which is somewhat similar to residential rehab in terms of services. Of course, this will depend on your individual needs, preferences, and characteristics.

Similarly, most outpatient recovery programs have extensive group counseling as a major core of the overall drug and alcohol treatment. Others are designed to deal with patients who are also suffering from other medical and mental health problems while also tackling their addiction.

That said, outpatient behavioral treatment will typically include a wide variety of programs to treat patients who visit certified counselors on the regular. In such a case, the program will also involve group or individual drug and alcohol treatment, or even both where they are required.

Most outpatient addiction treatment centers offer the following types of therapy:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    This is designed to help the patient identify, recognize, avoid, cope with, and escape situations where they might be tempted to consume alcohol or use harmful substances.

  2. Multidimensional Family Therapy For Adolescents

    This form of therapy was designed to aid adolescents who abuse drugs and alcohol, as well as their social networks and families. It addresses a wide variety of influences lead to alcoholism and drug abuse, identifies patterns, and improves their resistance. When done successfully, this type of rehab will also improve the overall functioning of the family.

  3. Motivational Interviewing

    In this case, people are prepared and made ready to start changing their behavior. You will also be motivated to enter rehab to seek treatment.

  4. Motivational Incentives

    Otherwise referred to as contingency management, motivational incentives often use positive reinforcements to encourage patients to abstain from alcohol abuse and drug intake.

As mentioned above, treatment will usually be intensive during the first stages. Here, you will have to attend several outpatient meetings and sessions every week. Once you are done with intensive treatment, you will be transitioned to regular outpatient recovery with fewer meetings.

Over and above everything else, outpatient care and rehabilitation work best for those with short-lived or mild addictions. However, this also means that it is less optimal if you have a more serious, long-term drug or alcohol addiction.

2. Inpatient Treatment

Otherwise referred to as residential rehab, inpatient treatment will put you in an environment where you are away from the sources, causes, and motivations of drug and alcohol abuse.

In the treatment facility, you will receive round the clock care from qualified staff and personnel. During this time, the care will ensure that you have been divorced from the temptation as well as the ability to go back to your addiction - during both detoxification and long term treatment.

Residential treatment works best for people with those who have a long history of addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

In most cases than not, inpatient treatment is quite effective. Within the structured environment, licensed residential treatment experts will offer you the 24-hour intensively structure care you need. This will encompass medical attention if needed and safe housing.

Most residential treatment facilities also use various therapeutic approaches - each of which is aimed at strengthening your body and mind, as well as improving your resolve to get a new lease on life and commit to a lifestyle that is free of drugs and/or alcohol, and harmful toxic behavior.

Examples of these types of treatment and rehab settings include:

  1. Therapeutic Communities

    Highly structured, these programs will compel you to live in residence for anywhere between 1 to 3 months. During this time, everyone in the community - treatment staff as well as the alcoholics and addicts in recovery - will serve as your main motivators and indispensable agents of change.

    In this community, everyone will influence your attitudes, behaviors, and understanding of drug and alcohol use.

  2. Short Term Residential Treatment

    Here, the focus will normally be on detox and the provision of initially-intensive preparation and treatment. This also takes place within a setting that is based around a community.

  3. Recovery Housing

    In recovery housing, you will get short-term supervised housing. This option usually follows another type of residential or inpatient treatment. The housing will help you transition from your addict life to an independent one. For instance, you might be taught how to seek employment or manage your finances. Further, the recovery housing might additionally connect you to other support services within your immediate community.

That said, inpatient or residential treatment can also be reclassified to encompass the following:

  1. Short-Term Residential Treatment

    In these residential rehabs, you will receive intensive treatment in brief. More often than not, the treatment would follow a modified 12 step approach towards recovery from drugs and alcohol.

    Originally, most of these treatment programs were designed for treating alcoholic problems. However, the cocaine epidemic that made waves in the mid-80 s led to some facilities offering rehabilitation services for many other types of substance abuse disorders.

    In the early days, residential treatment consisted of a hospital-based period of 3 to 6 weeks followed by extensive outpatient therapy. The patient would also have to take part in self-help groups like AA.

    After the residential treatment, you need to continue engaging with the outpatient programs and any aftercare services provided. These extras will go a long way in protecting you against all chances of relapsing once you are discharged from the intensive residential setting.

  2. Long-Term Residential Treatment

    Through long-term rehabilitation, you will receive care around the clock. This is mostly provided in a non-medical setting; the best known is the TC (therapeutic community) for drug, substance, and alcohol abuse.

    In the same way, this form of treatment is effected through planned periods of stay ranging from 6 to 12 months. Most therapeutic communities focus on re-socializing you while also using the entire community in the program - including staff, other residents, as well as the social context within which rehabilitation takes place.

    The success of long-term residential treatment is often pegged on the view that addiction can be seen to arise from various psychological and social deficits. As such, the treatment will focus on developing your responsibility and accountability. At the same time, you will need to start living a more productive and meaningful life.

    Treatments in such rehab facilities tend to be highly structured. In fact, it might also be downright confrontational at times. As a direct result, you will have to grapple with examining all damaging self-concepts and beliefs, as well as any destructive behavioral patterns you might have developed in the run-up to addiction.

    With time, you will start adopting new, constructive, and harmonious ways to form relationships, mend existing ones, and learn to interact meaningful and constructively with others around you.

    Many TCs also provide comprehensive services. These can include (but not limited to) onsite support services and employment training. Of course, the TC can also be modified so that it offers individuals with particular requirements - such as women, adolescents, homeless individuals, those in the criminal justice system, and any addict who has mental illness.

Inpatient rehab, whether long or short term, might occur at any one of the following locations:

  1. Hospital

    Inpatient addiction treatment comes with more intensive 24/7 access to the treatment services and the trained supervision of addiction treatment professionals.

  2. Residential Facilities

    Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab facilities are situated outside the hospital setting. Although some of these facilities don't offer 24/7 access to medical professionals, they do provide personnel care around the clock. Access to crucial hospital-based services can be arranged when and as required.

  3. Luxury Inpatient Facilities

    In these facilities, patients enjoy plush amenities similar to resorts to help them enjoy the stay, comfort, and lifestyle they might be used to in the outside world.

  4. Executive Inpatient Facilities

    Here, the ideal patient is a busy professional. As such, the high-end environment allows the patient to continue with the rehabilitation program while also maintaining some involvement in their professional responsibilities.

Expectations from Inpatient Rehabs

As you can probably imaging, all inpatient rehab facilities and programs vary depending on the psychological and physical needs of the patient. That said, some of the components are constant. These include, but are not limited to:

  • 12-step support groups
  • Comprehensive assessment and evaluation
  • Dual diagnosis care to deal with coexisting mental health and medical conditions
  • Education to prevent relapse
  • Family, group, or individual therapy
  • Management of prescribed medications
  • Medical supervision, particularly when several withdrawal symptoms might kick in

Most of the residential and inpatient rehab facilities will arrange for aftercare regimens in which the patients will continue receiving the recovery services to ensure that they kick their drug and alcohol addictions.

3. Counseling Sessions

There's more to addiction recovery than simply checking into a rehab center. In fact, the professional assistance you will receive will go a long way in bolstering a number of other activities - all of which will come into play in your recovery.

In most cases, you will need the support of family, friends, colleagues, the healthcare professionals, as well as fellow addicts at the rehab center before you can finally say goodbye to drug and alcohol use.

Through the support groups, you will receive the critical element required to make your journey to recovery more successful, the foundations stronger, and your ability to relapse all that much weaker.

The recovery groups also provide counseling as follows:

  1. Individualized Counseling

    Depending on your particular requirements, level of care, and duration of treatment, the rehab center might also schedule sessions with primary therapists several times a week. During these sessions, you and the multidisciplinary staff will form, implement, and track your treatment plan.

    Individual therapy focuses on reducing before stopping alcohol and illicit drug use while also addressing such related areas as illegal activity, social/family relations, and employment status.

    Through individual therapy, you will:

    • Do inner work to identify why, when, and how you started on the path to addiction
    • Receive strategies to direct your time, focus on new interest/hobbies, and recharge your life
    • Learn vital time management skills to reduce chances of relapsing
    • Learn how to identify common drug and alcohol use triggers, and know how to deal with them

    The cognitive behavioral therapy will also address your thoughts about substance abuse and life in general. By the time you check out of rehab, you will have reformed your behavior and thinking patterns toward a healthier, safer, and sober lifestyle.

  2. Group Counseling

    In most rehabs, you'll find that group therapy is used for social reinforcement. Peer discussions and more will all play a role in promoting a drug-free lifestyle among all participants.

    Research shows that group therapy combined with individual counseling and reflecting on the principles of contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy aids in the achievement of positive outcomes.

    Group counseling takes the following forms:

    1. Group Therapy

      Here, the therapy sessions are led by licensed clinical professionals. Members get the opportunity to process their recovery and explore core issues in a safe atmosphere supported by other members.

    2. Family Therapy

      Through family therapy, members of your family will come together to discuss how your addiction to drugs and alcohol has affected them as individuals and as a group. When they talk about their desire to see you making better choices and kicking your addiction, you will be motivated to full recovery. The family support will also prove useful once you check out of the rehab facility.

    3. Psycho-Educational Groups

      Last but not least, you can learn more about interestingly profound topics to help you recover for life. These topics include:

      • Asking for help
      • Boundaries
      • Breathing retraining
      • CBT retraining
      • Codependency
      • Cognitive restructuring
      • Co-occurring conditions
      • Coping strategies
      • Cross addictions
      • Drug refusal skills
      • Family roles
      • Functioning clean and sober
      • Incorporating recovery culture
      • Medication
      • Nutrition, exercise, wellness and their impact on recovery
      • Physiological effects of drug, substance, and alcohol abuse
      • Post-acute withdrawal symptoms
      • Relapse prevention
      • Social pressures
      • Substance conditions
      • Unhealthy behaviors
    4. 12-Step Support Groups

      During and after rehab, you might enroll in the 12-step program. Through these support groups and meetings, you will strengthen your resolve and continue practicing your recovery for life.

      12-step programs are ranked among the most popular of all drug and alcohol recovery mechanisms in a group setting. As such, they are more likely than not to work for your benefit.

      Since they usually emphasize your spiritual dependence on God (or a higher power) for strength, self-control, and similar traits, you will be able to count on your religious beliefs to aid in your recovery. Further, these support groups will often use therapy and/or behavioral treatment through 12 steps towards recovery.

      Most 12-step support groups are similar in a number of ways. These similarities come from the 1939 Alcoholics Anonymous manual. As part of the group, you will need to admit that you abuse drugs/alcohol as well as renounce your previous/current lifestyle of abhorrent addiction.

      Depending on the rehab facility you check into, there are different types of 12-step support groups. All of these groups depend on the addiction you are struggling with. Similarly, you usually read literary penned on the 12 recognized steps towards recovery, discuss the crucial points with the other group members, and use the lessons to help you kick the habit.

      The better known 12-step groups - which also tend to be the most attended on account of their ability to help addicts recover - include:

      • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
      • Cocaine Anonymous
      • Heroin Anonymous
      • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
    5. Non-12-step Support Groups

      There also exist several support groups that are not tied to the 12-step program towards recovery. These groups provide secular alternatives to the 12 steps. As such, they are better suited for clients who are not comfortable placing their recovery on a higher power.

      Most of these groups steer clear of the view that addiction is a disease. Instead, they focus on the behavioral change required to identify, avoid, prevent, and stay away from drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

      Most non-12-step support groups usually involve less group sharing. This might prove useful to you if you are not comfortable sharing your sensitive personal information in a group setting.

      Some standard options here include:

      • Al-Anon
      • Alateen
      • Nar-Anon
      • Narconon
      • Rational Recovery (RR)
      • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
      • Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery)

4. Criminal Addict Treatment

Last but not least, there are rehabs solely dedicated to helping drug and alcohol abusers who have transgressed the law and touched on the bounds of the criminal justice system. For most of these addicts, opportunities abound for treatment and intervention before, during, instead of, and after incarceration.

Varied research shows that the combination of drug treatment with criminal justice sanctions is effective in the decrease of drug/alcohol abuse and all related crimes. The individuals are coerced by the law to undergo treatment - sometimes doing as well as if not better than those who voluntarily check into a rehabilitation center.

Other studies prove that incarcerated addicts who start treatment while in prison and work towards recovery even after release usually find success. As a direct result of the rehabilitation, these addicts end up using drugs and alcohol less and tend to stay away from erring on the wrong side of the law.

Since the 70 s, scientific studies have shown that drug and alcohol rehabilitation helps many offenders change their behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes towards abuse. Most of them also avoid relapse while others managed to extract themselves from a lifestyle of abuse and crime.

Still, the principles used in treating addiction among those who've brushed up with the criminal justice system aren't different from the general population.

Points To Remember

Even as you seek more information on the best type of rehab for drug addiction and alcoholism for your particular situation (or that of a loved one), you should always remember that everything can work out well. In fact, alcoholism and addiction are treatable. Although treatment might not be easygoing, it should help you achieve the following:

  • Stop using drugs
  • Stay drug-free and alcohol resistant
  • Be productive at work, in society, and in the family

The Case for Successful Treatment

Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse can be said to be successful when certain criteria are met. To this end, most rehab facilities take up step wise approach to the treatment of clients. These steps include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Detoxification
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Medication (for alcohol, opioid, and/or tobacco addiction)
  • Evaluation
  • Treatment for co-occurring health issues like anxiety and depression
  • Long-term follow-up to stop a relapse

Concluding Thoughts

The first step to recovery happens when you admit that you have a problem and need help. Once you do this, or you are compelled to by your family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, workplace, or the law enforcement, you will have started on your way to recovery. After checking into a rehab facility, you will go through various treatment processes until you eventually kick your addiction, start living a normal life, and eventually avoid relapsing back to your old habits.

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