Substance Abuse And Addiction Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 1, 2020

While Inpatient (Residential) drug and alcohol treatment programs are the gold standard for getting help, there are many other components that make up the addiction treatment process. From detoxification to outpatient programs, many different treatment options exist. Choosing the right type of program(s) for the individual struggling with drugs and/or alcohol is crucial to long-term recovery.

Treatment Options For Drug And Alcohol Addiction

Many people struggle with substance abuse or addiction. Addiction is a verified medical condition known for chronic relapse. It requires adequate treatment and long-term management, but with both of these in place, recovery is possible.

Treatment for addiction can take place in a variety of drug and alcohol rehab centers, in a number of program formats, and can involve a range of treatment components, such as therapy and alternative healing methods.

Addiction treatment can occur for varying lengths of time, depending on the individual. What’s right for one person may not be right for another—many people begin recovery in an inpatient program while others head to intensive outpatient. Still others may elect to undergo counseling services as their initial treatment.

Knowing what’s available for treatment options for those struggling with substance abuse and addiction can help these individuals make the best decision regarding their treatment and recovery.

Types Of Substance Abuse And Addiction Treatment

Which type of treatment is right for each individual may depend on a few factors, including the type of drug and severity of abuse. The majority of addictions will require detoxification prior to treatment, allowing the person to rid the body of toxins gained during substance abuse.

Once that process is complete, a person can move on to formal treatment. There are a number of programs a person can choose to enter. Intensity of the program, how long a person needs to remain in treatment, and the severity of the addiction should factor in when considering which program is right for an individual.

Drug And Alcohol Detoxification

Detoxification is usually held in a safe, medically supervised setting to ensure safety and comfort at all times for the participant. Hospitals, alcohol and drug rehab centers, and outpatient rehab centers offer detox programs.

The best detox programs help an individual taper off use of a drug a little at a time to ensure the body is not sent into sharp withdrawal all at once. This process can be optimized through the use of medications which can lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms and alleviate cravings.

Learn more about alcohol and drug detox programs.

Inpatient (Residential) Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs

Inpatient treatment is the most comprehensive form of addiction treatment available. It involves a residential stay at a drug and alcohol rehab center or another treatment facility. Participants in inpatient programs remain onsite for the duration of treatment, which is usually a predetermined amount of days or weeks.

While in the program, participants will undergo counseling, daily therapy sessions, and receive access to other treatment components. Which forms of treatments are used in an inpatient program depends on both the rehab center a person attends and individual need.

Inpatient programs provide customized care in a private location, and often offer treatment from some of the best professionals in the field of addiction treatment. Programs are typically holistic, meaning inpatient treatment works to treat the individual as a whole, rather than focusing on one aspect of health. For these reasons, inpatient treatment works well for individuals with all addiction issues, but especially for those with severe addictions or co-occurring disorders.

Learn more about inpatient rehab programs.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

The next level of intensity in addiction treatment is partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). These programs provide care that is comparable in intensity to inpatient, without requiring individuals to stay overnight for treatment.

Partial hospitalization programs vary in levels of intensity, treatments offered, therapeutic approaches, and duration. However, PHPs can work well for individuals who cannot attend inpatient programs, who attend these programs as a continuation of inpatient, who have less severe addictions, and who are extremely dedicated to recovery.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment Programs

Outpatient addiction treatment programs differ from other programs in that they can vary widely in levels of intensity, treatments offered, approaches, and more. Outpatient services can be as minimal as weekly therapy or counseling sessions, as involved as 12-step support groups, or as intense at partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programs. Therapies and treatments offered will depend on the facility and approach of the program.

Individuals in outpatient treatment can be as involved as necessary, for as long as necessary. For this reason, outpatient treatment works well for individuals in addiction recovery who are looking to stay committed to a sober life after leaving a more intensive treatment program.

Learn more about outpatient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

The Addiction Treatment Process

The first step in addiction treatment for many is reaching out to an alcohol or drug rehab center to learn more about treatment options. From there, the specialist will likely suggest programs that match the individual’s needs and available insurance coverage.

An initial, verbal assessment can take place during this call, but a full clinical assessment to determine all treatment needs and identify all health issues will be performed during rehab. After the assessment, the participant typically moves immediately into detox, and from there heads straight to treatment for a seamless transition.


The admissions part of the treatment process involves talking to admissions representatives about an individual’s addiction. This is also the time to discuss how to pay for treatment, whether through a private insurance plan, cash pay, or some other way.

After these initial factors are set, the discussion will turn to treatment, and how to begin. While some rehab centers have waiting lists, others may have room for an individual to begin treatment right away.

Full Clinical Assessment

The purpose of a full clinical assessment is to determine any and all health issues—this includes those directly related to addiction, as well as any other health issues which need treatment at the same time. Some may have a medical condition that needs care at the same time, like diabetes, while others may have co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders.

Whatever the case, all issues can be identified and properly addressed during the initial assessment. It is during this phase that a customized treatment plan can be determined (for more intensive programs, such as inpatient) to ensure all issues are adequately addressed during treatment.

Detox And Treatment

After an orientation that introduces an individual to the facility and highlights facility rules and guidelines, it is time for treatment to begin. For most, this means medically supervised detox, allowing them to clear drugs and alcohol from their body so they can restore physical health.

From detox, an individual moves directly into treatment. Detox happens under medical supervision, so it generally occurs in a detox unit with medical staff present. Treatment will happen on a daily basis. When a person is stable, they are typically assigned a room, either private or shared, for the duration of their stay and issued a schedule to attend a variety of treatments throughout each day, with periods of free time in between.

Some addiction treatment programs will be gender-separated. This ensures that the treatment can accurately treat the different abuse effects on men and women, as well as support the various needs that men and women face when recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.

Recreation and amenities are available to ensure a person gets the relaxation and down time that is so important to comprehensive healing. Staff are onsite during treatment at all times in intensive programs, both for medical emergencies and to help individuals remain committed to recovery.


Near the end of a more intensive program, individuals will have the opportunity to plan for their aftercare. This can be as thorough as getting a referral to a less intense program, like partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient, or planning for a sober life by entering a sober living home.

One option for aftercare recovery is transitional living, where people finishing inpatient treatment can have additional support with life skills, case management, reintegrating with society, and further addiction rehab.

Some rehab centers will help individuals by connecting them with local resources for addiction treatment, or providing them with a network of program alumni. Many also hold alumni events for program graduates to celebrate their ongoing recovery.

Relapse prevention plans may also be designed during this phase, and can involve identifying someone to call in case of a relapse, what to do, and how to proceed afterward.

Addiction Treatment Approaches

There are currently several approaches to addiction treatment, each with its own specific purpose. Evidence-based therapies, like counseling and behavioral therapy, are proven methods for helping individuals change destructive thought patterns that lead to damaging behavior, including substance abuse.

Medications used in medication-assisted treatments can help by easing cravings and withdrawal symptoms to make recovery and treatment more manageable, or assist in the detox process. Other treatment methods, like alternative therapy and recreational therapy, can aid in addiction treatment by supplementing more traditional treatments for a well-rounded healing experience.

Evidence-Based Therapies

Counseling is an important part of addiction treatment that promotes coping skills and behavioral strategies. Counseling sessions can be individual- or group-based.

Evidence-based therapies include those that:

  • offer reward (incentive) for continued sobriety
  • help implement positive attitude changes
  • teach important life skills

Some evidence-based therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing (MI).

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) offers access to medication to help ease the recovery process. Many individuals experience recurring cravings and other post-acute withdrawal symptoms which can create a barrier to healing from addiction and moving forward in recovery.

Medications can block the effects of drugs, create adverse symptoms when taking drugs, or provide an effect similar to the drug of abuse without the euphoric, addictive effects. Which medication a person takes during their MAT program will depend on their drug of abuse, severity and duration of abuse, intensity of symptoms, and recovery goals.

Medications used in medication-assisted treatment programs include:

  • acamprosate (Campral)
  • buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex)
  • disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • methadone (Methadose, Dolophine)
  • naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol)

Learn more about medication-assisted treatment programs today.

Other Treatment Components

Every part of an addiction treatment program must lend toward a lasting recovery. For this reason, most inpatient programs offer a variety of alternative therapies and recreation activities, both to inspire healthy outlets and use of down time, as well as to encourage alternate methods of healing for a comprehensive approach.

Some alternative therapies include yoga, tai chi, wilderness therapy, outdoor or adventure therapy, equine therapy, and more. Recreation can include art therapy, sports activities (some rehab centers may include gyms, tennis courts, basketball courts, or pools), pottery, painting, or music therapy.

To promote more full-body healing, many rehab centers also provide a spiritual healing component when desired, an exercise or fitness component, and strive to provide nutritional meals.

Treatment Length

Length of treatment programs will depend on the type of program, the individual, the rehab center offering the program, and individual goals.

Length of inpatient treatment programs can be short-term or long-term, ranging from as little as two weeks up to six months, one year, or longer. Intensive outpatient programs may last for several weeks up to a few months.

Outpatient programs can vary in length. Due to the nature of outpatient treatment, these programs can last longer overall since the progress may be slower or outpatient treatment may serve as continued care rather than the initial form of treatment.

Cost Of Addiction Treatment

Cost of addiction treatment will be affected by a number of factors, including:

  • the rehab center and programs offered
  • whether a person has a private insurance plan
  • which services are covered by insurance
  • the amount of copay and/or deductible of an individual’s plan
  • any medications an individual needs
  • any specialized services or treatments an individual needs

Each rehab center has its own method for accepting payments. Many work with individuals and their families to ensure the best form of treatment is within their financial reach. Different ways alcohol and drug rehab centers aid individuals in securing treatment is by offering scholarships, connecting them with grants, allowing a customized payment plan, and providing personal financing.

Learn more about the cost of addiction treatment.

How To Find Drug And Alcohol Treatment

The best way to find a treatment program for substance abuse or addiction is to speak to a treatment specialist. These individuals are trained to perform initial assessments which give them all the information they need to connect those looking to enter recovery with a program that matches their needs.

Once the decision has been made to reach out for help with an addiction, the rest is details, which can all be handled by addiction treatment professionals along the way. Reach out to one of our treatment specialists today for more information about addiction treatment programs that may be the right fit for you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more
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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 1, 2020

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