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Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Programs

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, you may be considering potential drug and alcohol treatment options. Seeking treatment is a courageous choice and an important first step in the recovery process, but it might not always be clear which type of drug or alcohol abuse program is right for you.

This article will help you understand different drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs, including:

  • Local substance abuse programs and addiction treatment services.
  • How to seek drug addiction help.
  • Factors to consider when selecting a substance use disorder treatment program.

Considering treatment and researching your options are positive moves in the right direction toward regaining control of your health and overall wellbeing.

What Are Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs?

Drug and alcohol abuse programs offer different forms of structured treatment designed to help people struggling with addiction. They can help people:1

  • Stop using drugs or alcohol.
  • Safely and comfortably manage the withdrawal period.
  • Gain insight into their addiction through evidence-based therapies.
  • Learn the skills they need to remain sober and prevent relapse.
  • Address any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Addiction, or a substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic, relapsing mental health issue characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol-seeking behaviors and ongoing substance use despite the negative consequences it has on a person’s life.2 Medical and mental health professionals can provide a formal SUD diagnosis and assess addiction severity, which can be helpful when choosing treatment programs and creating treatment plans.

Types of Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs can take different forms and last different lengths of time depending on the level of care and recovery needs. Different factors are taken into account when determining the right type of program for a person, but it’s important to find a program that offers treatment that’s tailored to individual needs. These factors can include:1

  • The substance(s) being used.
  • How long a person has struggled with substance use.
  • Individual physical and mental health needs, including any co-occurring psychiatric disorders (such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder).
  • Occupational/work-life issues.
  • Living situation.
  • Other social factors, such as relationship or family concerns.

Though it is an important element of many peoples’ recovery, treatment is not just a matter of stopping drug or alcohol use with the help of detox and withdrawal management; it’s also about learning to maintain sobriety and developing skills so you can lead a happier, healthier, and more productive life in society and at home.

Drug treatment often starts with a period of supervised and sometimes medically managed detox, and is then followed by additional rehabilitation efforts in either an inpatient or outpatient program setting (and sometimes both, over the course of recovery).3

Detox

Detox alone is not a complete form of treatment, though it is often an important part of the early stages of the recovery process.5 Detox is a set of medical and psychological interventions designed to help you safely and comfortably withdraw from a substance to better prepare you for additional treatment.5

People with significant physiological substance dependence can suffer a range of mild to severe withdrawal symptoms.4, 5 Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the type of substance used, but some of these symptoms can be serious and even life-threatening in some cases. Some signs and symptoms of adverse health developments that could warrant immediate medical attention during withdrawal include:5

  • Altered mental status.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increasing anxiety and panic.
  • Exaggerated deep tendon reflexes.
  • Seizures.
  • Elevated temperature above 100.4.
  • Significant changes in blood pressure and/or heart rate.
  • Upper and lower gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Abdominal pain.

Withdrawal from certain substances—alcohol, opioids, CNS depressants—can be very unpleasant and, in some cases, dangerous. Medical detox can help keep people as safe and comfortable as possible during withdrawal, for these and all types of substances.

Depending on your withdrawal management needs, detox can take place in both inpatient and outpatient settings.5 The types of substance abuse interventions you receive depend on the level of care and setting.5 Inpatient detox settings allow for round-the-clock monitoring and care and allow for any needed adjustments to medications used to manage withdrawal symptoms, depending on the substance of abuse.

You can also receive medication in an outpatient setting, though outpatient detox options may be better suited for people who aren’t at risk of developing serious withdrawal symptoms or complications. A comprehensive pre-treatment assessment from a medical professional can help determine the appropriate setting and the right drug and alcohol treatment plan for your withdrawal management needs.5

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient treatment is a form of residential rehab, meaning that you live at the facility for the duration of your treatment period. Inpatient treatment programs provide round-the-clock supervision and care and commonly incorporate a wide range of therapies designed to create a strong foundation for recovery.

Inpatient rehab may help lessen the distractions of home or daily life so you can better focus on your recovery. People may enter short- or long-term inpatient treatment programs that can last anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on the level of care needed.6

Though treatment lengths often vary for each individual, long-term rehabs may place added focus on helping people make lasting changes and reintegrate into society and daily life. Long-term residential programs offer highly structured, comprehensive treatment to help you change damaging behaviors to more positive cognitive and behavioral patterns.6

Short-term programs offer brief, highly structured interventions often based on a modified
12-step approach. While treatment in a shorter-term residential program may only be a few weeks, people may continue on with an outpatient program for additional treatment.6

Inpatient rehab services can include:1

  • Medication.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Group therapy.
  • Mutual-support groups.
  • Relapse prevention education.
  • Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab can include varying levels of care and may be suitable for people who need to continue working, going to school, and attending to family obligations. People can continue living at home while traveling to receive treatment at an outpatient facility.18

People sometimes use outpatient treatment as a step-down form of rehab once they’ve completed an inpatient stay. Outpatient treatment can be intensive, where you attend treatment most days of the week, or supportive, where you attend treatment just one or two days per week.7

The intensity and type of services offered at outpatient rehabs can vary depending on the program, but can include a combination of:7, 18

  • Detox.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Group therapy.
  • Medication.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment combines medication with counseling and behavioral therapy. It is an evidence-based treatment that is used to help treat addiction to certain substances and promote abstinence and recovery.8

MAT is mainly used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders.8 There are several FDA-approved medications used to alleviate cravings, manage withdrawal, restore neurochemical balance, and block the reinforcing effects these substances should they continue to be used. In using medication alongside of behavioral therapeutic approaches, MAT takes a whole-person approach to treating addiction, and may have benefits such as:8

  • Increased survival rates.
  • More effective addiction treatment.
  • Decreased drug use and criminal behavior.
  • An increased ability to obtain and maintain employment.
  • Improved birth outcomes in pregnant women who have substance use disorders.

Treatment for Co-occurring Conditions

Having co-occurring conditions and/or mental health disorders, also known as a dual diagnosis, means that a person has a substance use disorder and another mental health disorder (like anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder).

Integrated treatment approaches can be used to treat both conditions at the same time. Identifying and targeting both the substance use issues in addition to mental health issues is important and can improve patient treatment outcomes. Integrated treatment for co-occurring conditions commonly incorporates medications, diligent case management, and other psychosocial treatments to address symptoms of both disorders and meet the full range of an individual’s needs.9

Qualities of Effective Addiction Rehab

The most effective treatment for substance abuse recognizes that everyone is different and requires an individualized approach–one program is not necessarily better than another. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines the following 13 principles to help characterize effective substance abuse treatment:3

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  • Treatment needs to be readily available.
  • Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
  • Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
  • Behavioral therapies—including individual, family, or group counseling—are critical components of effective treatment (and represent the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.)
  • Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
  • An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
  • Many drug-addicted individuals also have other mental disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
  • Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.
  • Treatment programs should test patients for the presence of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as provide targeted risk-reduction counseling, linking patients to treatment if necessary.

Addiction Treatment and Pregnancy

Pregnant women struggling with addiction have unique needs and concerns. Using certain substances during pregnancy can increase the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes such as low birth weight, pre-term delivery, and various fetal developmental issues.10

Research shows that certain evidence-based treatments, like MAT, can be advisable depending on the substance used and a person’s unique situation. As an example, the NIDA reports that while the FDA has not yet specifically approved medications for pregnant women with opioid use disorder, methadone or buprenorphine maintenance and behavioral therapy can help improve outcomes for the unborn baby of women who abuse heroin.10

A 2017 report from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality states that 13% of outpatient treatment facilities, 13% of residential facilities, and 7% of inpatient hospital facilities offered special treatment facilities for pregnant/postpartum women.11

FAQs: Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

It’s normal to have questions and concerns when you’re considering addiction treatment or wondering about the types of drug rehabilitation available to you. Below are some of the common questions and concerns that people have about treatment.

How Can I Help My Loved One Get into Treatment?

If you’re wondering how to help a person struggling with substance abuse, know that you’re not alone and help is available. While you can’t force someone into treatment, you can provide support.

If your loved one wants treatment, you can offer to research drug and alcohol abuse programs or accompany them to an evaluation with their physician. If they are resistant to help, it may be helpful to not force the issue but continue to show your love and offer help if they ask for it. You can also have a conversation with a treatment provider about the best ways to address the situation.12

Regardless of how you’re supporting loved ones, be sure to continue taking care of your own needs, which may help ease the stress that comes with supporting a person with addiction.

How Effective is Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment?

Research has shown that people who enter drug and/or alcohol addiction treatment programs, and remain in them for extended periods of time, are more likely to find treatment to be effective.13

Different factors contribute to more effective treatment, such as the length of treatment, the types of therapies, and the quality of the interaction between you and your treatment providers. Some of the positive outcomes you may expect with treatment include:13

  • Decreased substance use.
  • Reduced criminal activity.
  • Improved overall functioning in daily life.
  • Healthier relationships.
  • An improved sense of wellbeing.

How Long Does Addiction Treatment Usually Last?

Since people move through the recovery process at different rates and with different needs, there is no set length of time for treatment; but generally, research supports the idea that longer treatment lengths (i.e., 3 months or more of continued treatment efforts) are associated with better outcomes.14

Factors that can contribute to treatment length include the severity of your addiction, whether you have co-occurring disorders, and your level of motivation to change.

How Much Does Treatment Cost?

Many factors can affect treatment cost, including:

  • Whether it’s inpatient or outpatient treatment.
  • The duration of treatment.
  • Insurance coverage.
  • Amenities offered by the treatment facility.
  • Location.
  • Medications used during treatment.
  • Level of care.

Inpatient treatment is usually more expensive than outpatient because you live on-site and receive many services, including meals and round-the-clock care.

Many facilities accept insurance, and most insurers offer some level of coverage for substance abuse treatment. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes essential health benefits (EHBs), which provide coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services.15 Many private insurers follow those guidelines as well.16

While the costs can vary, inpatient price estimates have ranged in the past between $14,000 and $27,000 for a 30-day program, with outpatient treatment ranging anywhere from free to $500 per session, and detox potentially costing about $600 to $1,000 a day.

What if I Don’t Have Insurance?

If you don’t have insurance, there are ways to pay for treatment, which may include:

  • Receiving scholarships or grants.
  • Payment plans.
  • Ask friends or family to help out.
  • Taking out personal loans.

There are also state-funded or government-funded rehabs, and you can check these on the Directory of Single State Agencies (SSAs) for Substance Abuse Services provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There may be different requirements, such as residence status, proof of income, your insurance coverage, and more, so you should check with your state’s agency to see if you qualify.17

What Happens After Drug or Alcohol Rehab?

It’s important to continue your recovery journey once you complete rehab. Many people follow aftercare plans put in place by their treatment providers, which can include:

  • Support groups.
  • 12-step meetings.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Sober residences.
  • Other options to help maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.

Know that relapse is common and doesn’t mean treatment has failed. It can simply mean that your treatment plan needs to be reevaluated and adjusted to suit your current needs.2

There are many different drug and alcohol abuse programs to choose from, and AAC is here to help you understand which is right for you or your loved one. Making the call to get treatment is an important first step on the road to recovery. For more information about addiction treatment, call our caring admissions navigators any time day or night at (877) 754-5676.

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Dr. Thomas received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. During his medical studies, Dr. Thomas saw firsthand the multitude of lives impacted by struggles with substance abuse and addiction, motivating him to seek a clinical psychiatry preceptorship at the San Diego VA Hospital’s Inpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program. In his post-graduate clinical work, Dr. Thomas later applied the tenets he learned to help guide his therapeutic approach with many patients in need of substance treatment. In his current capacity as Senior Medical Editor for American Addiction Centers, Dr. Thomas, works to provide accurate, authoritative information to those seeking help for substance abuse and behavioral health issues.
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