What is drug rehab?
Drug rehab programs or addiction treatments involve different levels of professional care that can help you manage a substance use disorder. Since the severity and circumstances of drug abuse and addiction can vary from person to person, you can find a broad variety of treatment options available.
If you have long been battling an addiction to opioids that originated from taking prescription medication to manage pain, for example, your treatment needs may be different than if you have a newly developed dependence on cocaine. Whatever the specifics of your drug abuse problem, addiction can shatter your mental and physical health, damage your relationships, and leave you feeling out of control of your own life.
No matter how bleak things may seem, though, it’s never too late to turn to professional intervention to set you on the road to recovery. Whether you’re looking to help yourself or a loved one, deciding on the best path forward begins with understanding the different types of drug rehab and treatment services available.
Types of drug rehab and addiction treatment services
Addiction treatment programs can be broadly categorized as either outpatient or inpatient.
If you seek help from an outpatient service, you’ll receive professional treatment for a portion of the day, or perhaps even most of the day. However, you’ll always return home when the session is over.
These types of services allow you more autonomy in your daily life. For example, you can still go to work and tend to household responsibilities. Although you won’t have 24/7 access to professional support, you’ll have more of an opportunity to put your addiction coping skills into practice at home.
On the other hand, inpatient rehab or residential treatment programs require you to stay at a facility overnight, sometimes for months at a time. You’ll be in a controlled environment, with staff present to tend to your needs. This can be a good option if you have a severe addiction and want to focus on recovery without having to juggle the stressors of everyday life.
Comparing inpatient with outpatient rehab services
Some research shows that people in inpatient programs are more likely to complete treatment than those using outpatient services. It's possible that residential rehab helps shield a person from the social pressure and environmental triggers that lead to relapses. For example, you won't have access to people who encourage continued drug use, and you won't be able to reach for addictive substances when you're stressed.
This doesn’t mean that inpatient drug rehab is the most effective treatment for everyone. It can be the more expensive option and impose limitations on your daily life. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests that patients should receive the least restrictive care possible.
Inpatient rehab options
Inpatient addiction treatments include intensive inpatient services and residential rehab programs.
Intensive inpatient rehab is typically for people who have developed a powerful, even life-threatening dependence on a drug. In these cases, quitting the drug is safest under medical supervision. Intensive inpatient services take place in a hospital setting, where health professionals are available to offer 24-hour attention and treatment, including therapy and nursing care. These services are often offered on a short-term basis, long enough to stabilize your symptoms.
Residential drug rehab involves living in a treatment center where you can benefit from staff support and a structured environment. A stay in one of these facilities might last a month or longer, depending on your circumstances.
Group therapy and one-on-one counseling sessions are often available in residential rehab to help you better understand addiction and develop coping skills. However, the exact services you find will vary widely from program to program.
For example, some offer scheduled cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions, while others rely more on 12-step programming—the kind you might find in peer support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous. In addition, some residential rehab programs are designed to work with people who have co-occurring mental health conditions.
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Outpatient treatment options
Outpatient addiction treatment also comes in several forms, including partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), or more general outpatient services.
PHP is sometimes referred to as day treatment because, although you return home at the end of the day, these programs require a fairly large time
commitment—usually of at least 20 hours per week. Services often take place within a facility such as a hospital, where you can easily benefit from services such as different forms of therapy and medication management education.
IOPs are similar to PHPs. The major difference is that IOPs require a smaller time investment. So, they’re suitable when you still need to prioritize other responsibilities, such as work, and when the severity of your addiction doesn’t rise to the needs of someone in a PHP. In an IOP, you might spend somewhere between 9 and 19 hours of your week receiving services like psychoeducational group therapy. Some of these programs also include individual therapy sessions.
General outpatient services, such as one-on-one meetings with an addiction counselor or therapist, are helpful when you feel stable but still want continued help in managing a substance abuse disorder. You might have an occasional check-in with a counselor who helps you stay accountable in sticking to your recovery goals.
Assessing your treatment needs
Clinicians typically use the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Criteria when considering what level of care their patients need. These guidelines encompass six dimensions:
- Risk of withdrawal.
- Physical health history and current conditions.
- Mental health history and current conditions.
- Readiness to change.
- Risk for relapse.
- Support social and living situation.
You can also use these dimensions to weigh your own treatment needs or the needs of a loved one. For example, ask yourself or your loved one questions like:
- “Do I experience severe withdrawal symptoms when I try to quit?”
- “Am I having a hard time managing other mental or physical health conditions?”
- “Do I have a safety net of supportive friends and family members?”
If you answer “yes” to the first two questions and “no” to the third one, you might lean toward inpatient care.
Peer support groups for drug addiction
In addition to undergoing professional substance abuse treatment, some people opt to join peer support groups. Also known as recovery support groups or mutual self-help groups, these are meetings of people who want to manage their substance addiction.
Joining groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or the Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) can give you a sense of community. The people you meet during online or in-person sessions can also offer motivation and addiction coping strategies.
[Read: NA and Other Peer Support Groups for Drug Addiction]
What to look for in a drug rehab program
When you feel desperate for help, it can be tempting to reach out to the first rehab center that pops up in an online search. However, a little research can help you avoid expensive or ineffective services.
Here are a few basic questions you’ll want answered as you explore drug addiction treatment options for yourself or a loved one:
What’s the program’s accreditation and licensing status? Verify that the service is accredited by the state (or area) it’s operating in. On top of that, look for information on individual staff members who work in the rehab program. Are they licensed and experienced professionals?
What’s their approach? Look for services that rely on well-known, evidence-based treatments, such as CBT, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), or acceptance-commitment therapy (ACT). Staff should also be willing to explain why they believe their approach is effective and explain how they measure patient success.
What’s the timeline of the treatment? Different types of treatment plans will follow different timelines. For example, intensive inpatient care may only last a few days, while residential rehab can last from a single month to an entire year. Similarly, depending on your specific needs, outpatient care can typically last anywhere from a couple of months to a year. Research shows that the average length of stay in a PHP is three to four weeks.
How much will you be paying? Check to see how your health insurance may factor into the cost of the program. Some addiction treatments may provide out-of-network billing options.
Additional questions to ask
When you reach out to a facility, expect to be asked questions about your history of drug abuse, health conditions, and financial resources. However, this is also an opportunity for you to learn more about what the program has to offer. To ensure you find the most effective drug rehab program for you, ask about the following:
Does the program address mental health issues? Some treatment programs go beyond just treating drug addiction; they also treat emotional and mental health issues. This is important because many people with addiction issues, such as opioid use disorder, also have co-occurring mental illnesses.
What does the aftercare phase look like? You might want to know what kind of support or guidance you’ll receive after completing treatment. Similarly, you can ask how the program handles instances of relapse.
What is the ratio of patients to staff members? In a busy facility, you might not get the level of individualized attention you need from staff members.
Is medical detox available? You can find outpatient or inpatient detox services. During detox, medical staff administers medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
What rules and restrictions do I need to follow? For example, some residential programs might regulate cellphone use and set designated hours to make and receive calls.
Are telehealth sessions an option? Online sessions may be easier for you to attend than in-person treatment; however, you’ll want to make sure your insurance covers telehealth. Studies show that telehealth sessions can be as effective as traditional, face-to-face PHP and IOP sessions.
[Read: Online Therapy: Is it Right for You?]
Red flags to look out for when deciding on drug addiction treatment
One 2021 audit survey found that many residential addiction treatment programs in the U.S. offered callers admission without actually conducting clinical evaluations. They also asked for hefty upfront payments and used recruitment techniques, such as providing paid transportation. So, when searching for a suitable treatment option, you’ll want to keep an eye out for misleading practices.
Here are some warning signs to be aware of:
Lack of information on rehab workers. Legitimate programs will have addiction and mental health specialists on staff. Avoid services that won’t disclose information on staff members’ credentials.
Vague on cost information. If a drug rehab program isn't upfront about its charges, you might find yourself blindsided by unexpected charges.
Emphasis on grand amenities. Spa-like features may seem appealing, but effective drug rehab programs will highlight their approach to addiction recovery, not just ritzy amenities.
A one-size-fits-all approach. Be wary of any program that touts a “miracle cure” or “guaranteed” method to solving addiction. In reality, managing addiction requires time and effort and often comes with setbacks, such as relapse. In addition, the road to recovery will look different for each person, so there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.
Unusual offers. Be wary of anyone who offers to pay for your insurance coverage. Similarly, stay skeptical of out-of-state “services” that offer to pay for you to travel to their facility.
Paying for drug rehab in the U.S.
The price of inpatient drug rehab tends to be much higher than outpatient services because of the added cost of accommodations. Average price ranges can include:
- 30-day outpatient rehab: $1,400 to $10,000.
- 30-day inpatient rehab: $5,000 to $20,000.
- Residential programs can range from $5,000 to $80,000, depending on the amenities and services being offered.
Your specific health insurance policy can have a major impact on the cost of addiction treatment. In the United States, insurance policies available through the Marketplace must cover substance abuse services, as well as mental health services. But the exact coverage will depend on your plan, so check with your provider for details.
If you use Medicare, substance use disorder coverage is available if you meet the following conditions:
- A health care provider deems the service medically necessary.
- The treatment is offered by a Medicare-approved facility or program.
- A health care provider establishes a plan of care.
If you have concerns over costs, search for programs that allow payments based on a sliding scale or other reduced payment options. You can also check with your state’s substance abuse agency or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline (1-800-662-HELP) to ask about affordable treatment in your area.
Finding drug abuse treatment in the U.S.
You can find a listing of licensed, certified drug treatment facilities by checking with SAMHSA of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To access this database:
- Visit FindTreatment.gov and search for nearby treatment facilities.
- Call the referral helpline operated by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- Text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U).
Another place to look for treatment options is your state’s substance abuse agency. Many states compile their own listings of certified programs as well as hotlines. Friends, family members, or your personal physician or therapist may also have recommendations.
Finding drug abuse treatment in other countries
In the UK:
- Search NHS Support Services for rehab and counseling services in your area.
- Visit With You, a UK-based charity that offers a search tool for drug and alcohol services in England and Scotland In Australia.
Last updated or reviewed on September 5, 2023