Drug Abuse Treatment

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Drug abuse treatment plans not only help addicts detoxify in a safe environment but also assist them through all stages of the recovery process.

In 2015, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated that nearly 22 million people at least 12 years of age needed substance abuse treatment.1 Drug abuse treatment plans not only help addicts detoxify in a safe environment but also assist them through all stages of the recovery process.2

Various treatment methodologies are employed in the treatment of drug abuse and addiction issues. When admitted to a rehab facility, a treatment plan will be devised for the individual addict. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it’s essential that treatment is tailored to the unique individual as there is no finite treatment that will work for everyone.2

The individual’s history of drug abuse, severity of abuse, physical and mental health, and personal traits should be taken into account when developing the treatment plan. Likewise, the plan should be altered throughout the recovery process according to the individual’s progress in treatment.2

Diagnosing a Substance Abuse Problem

Diagnosing a drug addiction does not solely depend on determining the physical manifestations of the drug addict. Instead, medical professionals use a series of both physical and behavioral diagnostic criteria to determine if you have an addiction. These criteria include (but are not limited to):3

  • Inability to cease using drugs.
  • Inability to meet family, work, or social obligations because of drug use.
  • A great deal of time spent obtaining drugs, using them, and recovering from them.
  • Withdrawal symptoms occur when drug use is stopped.
  • Physical tolerance to the effects of the drug have developed.
  • Compulsive use of the drug, even when harmful consequences are recognized.

A person does not have to meet all of these points to have an addiction. For example, some drugs do not create physical tolerance or withdrawal symptoms. Also, addiction does not always result in a loss of employment, etc. Everyone’s addiction will look slightly different.

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Inpatient Drug Abuse Treatment

Inpatient drug abuse rehab allows an addict to fully focus on his or her recovery in an intensive treatment environment.

Attending an inpatient treatment facility may also be the preferred start to treatment for those with severe addictions, those without a good support system at home, or those with co-occurring mental illnesses, such as depression, personality disorder, or anxiety disorder.

These programs range in cost, from $200 per day to $900 per day. Longer program plans tend to have lower cost per day to help alleviate some of the financial stress. The cost of an inpatient program will vary by duration, location, level of care needed, and luxury level of the facility.4

Inpatient drug abuse treatment will provide a mixture of individual and group therapy to help recovering people learn ways to overcome their addictions. Other motivational and educational opportunities will also be provided. If necessary, medication may also be administered to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal and/or cravings.2

Long-Term Treatment

In some cases, long-term residential treatment for drug abuse is necessary for some to develop their readiness for reintegration into their daily lives. Drug addicts who have already attended a standard treatment program but have relapsed may respond better to therapeutic communities. These treatment centers often involve a 6- to 12-month stay. They focus on helping addicts re-socialize by developing socially productive lives while maintaining personal accountability.5

Treatment Lengths

Outpatient Drug Abuse Treatment

Outpatient drug abuse treatment can guide some people through all stages of their recovery. However, some recovering individuals will fare better using outpatient treatment as a step-down level of care after completing an inpatient program.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that drug treatment programs that last less than 90 days have limited effectiveness,6 but many people benefit from longer treatment periods and several different levels of treatment. It is common for addicts to attend short-term inpatient treatment programs but later transition into a longer-term outpatient treatment program.

Outpatient treatment tends to be less expensive than inpatient, though it may not be able to provide the around-the-clock medical and psychological care that a recovering person may need. Outpatient programs can cost anywhere between $100 and $500 per treatment session.4 This cost varies by duration and frequency of sessions, with longer treatment plans leaning toward a lower per-session cost.

Just like inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment will often use a variety of approaches to help an addict recover.

Preferences for Treatment

Upon leaving treatment, many patients report that they would consider a program’s offerings, such as amenities, food, recreational activities, and the quality of housing, more heavily than they did before entering treatment, according to a 2016 survey by Recovery Brands.

Stay a step ahead when looking for treatment by asking the programs you’re considering about these offerings.

Specific Therapies Used

A variety of treatment modalities may be employed in any of the aforementioned drug abuse treatment settings.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating substance abuse issues.7 CBT helps the individual to manage their thought patterns, essentially controlling negative thought patterns that may lead to substance abuse or other destructive behavior. Oftentimes, patients discover how to identify triggers that cause them to use drugs, learning to better respond to them without turning to substance abuse.7

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is another therapy often employed in drug abuse treatment. With MET, a therapist helps a patient to tap into their personal motivations to resist drug use.MET has been shown to be effective in engaging recovering individuals in treatment.9

In addition to individual and group therapy, recovering addicts benefit from family therapy. Since family members often serve as the core support system for recovering individuals once they exit a rehab program, it’s imperative that family members are able to understand the process of recovery so they can best serve as sources of encouragement and support. Family therapy can also be used to addressed underlying familial issues that may have contributed to the substance abuse issue and repair relationships that were damaged due to addiction.10

Twelve-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, are considered excellent ways to extend and complement the skills learned during a professional treatment program. However, for most people, these programs do not provide all of the components needed for successful recovery. If you would like to attend a comprehensive program to eliminate your substance abuse problem, there are programs all over the country that may be right for you.


Substance Abuse Services

Substance abuse services are also most effective when combined with services that aid a recovering individual in managing other aspects of their life.

Substance abuse services can be found through private- and public-funded treatment programs. Using specific substance abuse services, such as substance use monitoring or pharmacotherapy, may be a required part of your long-term treatment program. Some services also offer counseling and individual therapy to patients who have finished a residential treatment program but still need regular support.

Substance abuse services are also most effective when combined with services that aid a recovering individual in managing other aspects of their life. These services include:

  • Medical services.
  • HIV/AIDS services.
  • Financial services.
  • Family services.
  • Vocational services.
  • Mental health services.
  • Educational services.
  • Legal services.
  • Childcare services.
  • Housing/transportation services.

If you’re looking for a treatment program for yourself or a loved one, ask any prospective facilities what therapies and services they offer. You can also ask about their licensing and staff qualifications. When calling, have your insurance information with you; often, your card is enough. You can also call your insurance and ask them about your coverage and which treatment providers are covered under your plan.

Don’t wait to get help. Recovery is possible, and there is more for you than a life spent in addiction.


  1. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51).
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  4. American Addiction Centers. 2017.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Types of Treatment Programs.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). 7: Duration of treatment.
  7. McHugh, R. K., Hearon, B. A., & Otto, M. W. (2010). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America33(3), 511–525.
  8. Treasure, J. (2004). Motivational interviewing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(5), 331-337. 
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine).
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Family Behavior Therapy.
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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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