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Drug Rehab and Addiction Treatment

For many, finding a drug rehab center is one of the most difficult parts of entering into recovery. You might be wondering, ‘how does rehab work?’ or ‘is there a drug rehab near me?’ When you are in the early stages of recovery, it is important to find the right drug rehab center that fits your needs, and there can be many factors to consider.

This article will explain the definition and purpose of a drug rehab center, factors to consider when choosing a rehab program, and provide an overview of the different treatment types available to you.

What Is a Drug Rehab Center?

Addiction, clinically known as substance use disorder, is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.”1 Addiction is a disease that impacts your brain, affecting your ability to use logic, manage stress, and practice self-control.1

When a person is struggling with drug addiction, they may choose to get support to help them recover at a drug rehab center. A drug rehab center is a site where addiction treatment services occur. There are different types of drug rehab settings including:

  • Detox programs.
  • Inpatient/residential facilities.
  • Outpatient facilities.
  • Sober living or recovery housing.

Regardless of the program you choose, rehab typically begins with an assessment and referral to an initial phase of treatment.1

Drug rehab can vary in length depending on a person’s needs and the severity of their addiction. It can be helpful to remain in treatment for as long as you and your treatment team agree to support long-term recovery and abstinence.2 Effective addiction treatment is not a “one size fits all” approach and finding an individualized program is important to serving all your needs.2, 3

There are many potential benefits that come with entering addiction rehab. One benefit is getting support from trained staff members to address your medical, psychological, social, occupational, and other needs as you adjust to a drug-free life.1

What Causes Drug Addiction?

People choose to use drugs for many reasons­ including:1

  • To alter their mood.
  • To numb their emotions.
  • To cope with mental health struggles.
  • To improve focus.
  • Peer pressure.

Though you might think drug misuse is harmless or easy to control, addiction to drugs and alcohol changes the way your brain functions.1

Over time, your brain can rewire itself and needs larger or more frequent amounts of the drug you’re taking to feel the same pleasurable effects, also known as tolerance.1 Eventually, you do not feel the same pleasurable effects anymore.

If you try to stop using substances or drastically reduce the dose, you may feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms signaling that you’ve developed a dependence on the drug.1 This can lead to poor decision-making, erratic behavior, and difficulty with impulse control as you seek out more of your drug of choice.1

Risk factors for addiction may include genetic factors like having a close family member with an addiction, a person’s age when they first tried drugs or alcohol, or aspects of a person’s social and living environment.2

Having a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety is another risk factor for addiction.1 An estimated 6 in 10 people with a substance use disorder also suffer from a mental illness.2

What Types of Drug Rehab Programs Exist?

Addiction treatment centers can vary based on their area of focus or target population. A drug rehab program might focus on treating addiction to certain substances, offer gender-specific facilities for men or women, or treat people by age group, such as in the case of adolescent or senior treatment centers. This is considered a principle of effective treatment—to provide addiction treatment that is specific to your personal factors.2

How Does Rehab Work?

One question that people may have when seeking help for addiction is ‘how does rehab work?’ At the onset of treatment, you will have a meeting with an intake counselor to discuss your needs and preferences for treatment. From there, the counselor will give recommendations based on the severity of your symptoms, the drugs you are using, and your individual risk and protective factors.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has developed a set of criteria, called the ASAM Criteria, that provides levels of care recommendations based on a person’s needs across the following 6 dimensions:6

  • Withdrawal potential.
  • Medical conditions.
  • Emotional, behavioral, or cognitive conditions.
  • Readiness to change.
  • Relapse.
  • Recovery/support environment.

After your intake assessment, you will be assigned to an appropriate level of care for your needs, whether that be detox, inpatient, outpatient, or another stage of treatment.6 The length of time you are in addiction treatment will vary depending on your needs and the plan discussed with your treatment team.

Addiction treatment services vary between drug rehab centers and their different approaches. Some services may be delivered in a group format with other people in recovery, but it may also include individual therapy, family therapy, or mutual support meetings, such as participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).


Detox, short for “detoxification,” is often the first stage of treatment for people who may still have drugs or alcohol in their system and who need support for medically managed withdrawal.4 Detox consists of medical interventions aimed at minimizing the harmful effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Inpatient Drug Rehab

Inpatient treatment provides care 24 hours a day by licensed medical and mental health staff.2 Inpatient treatment can vary from long-term stays of 6 to 12 months to short-term options lasting 3 to 6 weeks.2 Also called residential treatment, inpatient care is highly structured with multiple facets that address how addiction has impacted all aspects of a participant’s life.2 There are varying levels of care for inpatient programs depending on a person’s needs.

Outpatient Drug Rehab

Outpatient treatment differs from inpatient in that people do not reside at the treatment facility. This can make it a more flexible option for people with outside employment or family obligations, and who have a less severe addiction.2 Outpatient treatment may follow an intensive day treatment model where participants meet in a group several times per week. It could also consist of weekly individual counseling sessions and other services.2 Since outpatient treatment is less structured than inpatient, it is important that participants have strong social support outside of treatment.2 Like inpatient care, outpatient treatment can occur at varying levels of intensity.

Sober Living

Sober living, or recovery housing, is a drug- and alcohol-free environment where residents who have completed treatment can cohabitate with other people in recovery.5 There are no formal treatment services offered in sober living houses, but residents serve as peer supports for each other. Participation in mutual support meetings like AA is encouraged or sometimes required.5


Aftercare, or continuing care, adjusts the intensity of treatment based on the participant’s changing needs.2 This may include step-down care from a more intensive form of treatment or creating a plan to transition into a routine outside of treatment, like attending therapy or group meetings.2

Behavioral Therapy

Many treatment programs will include behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common approaches for addiction treatment, addressing the link between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that reinforce substance use behaviors.2 Another common therapy is contingency management, which provides tangible rewards or prizes for desired behaviors in treatment, such as negative urine tests or increased time in sobriety.2

Find a Drug Rehab Center Near You

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and you are unsure about where to start, our supportive admissions navigators are available 24/7 to check your insurance benefits and help find a treatment option that is right for you.

If you are searching for detoxification centers, inpatient treatment, or outpatient treatment, American Addiction Centers (AAC) maintains rehab centers across the United States.

Health Insurance Providers That May Cover Treatment

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