Treatment for Addiction

If you’re suffering from drug addiction, you need treatment to recover. Treatments range from 12-step programs to inpatient medical facilities and include numerous types of therapy based on a variety of factors. Recovery isn’t easy, but the path to sobriety begins by seeking treatment.

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Drug addiction is a medical disease, and it can be cured only by seeking treatment. Treatment can take place in a variety of locations, for varying lengths of time and in many different ways.

For some people, treatment involves a simple stay at a rehabilitation clinic or a wellness program prescribed by a doctor. For others, treatment lasts a lifetime. They continue to take medication to decrease symptoms of their past addiction, or they regularly attend support group meetings.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a person is addicted to a substance or dependent on a substance. In either situation, treatment and rehabilitation can help addicts and substance-dependent individuals recover.

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Brett Watson, in recovery from addiction, shares the moment he knew he needed to seek treatment.

Types of Rehab Treatment for Drug Addiction

Addiction can be either behavioral or substance related. An intense feeling of emotional need or physical craving characterizes them both. Both types of addiction carry a number of other similarities, but behavioral addiction does not possess the same physical symptoms that accompany drug addiction. Experts disagree on the similarities and differences between the symptoms and consequences of the types of addictions.

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Detoxification, also referred to as medically-managed withdrawal, is usually the first step in the substance abuse treatment process. The body removes drugs from its system during detox, but a hasty discontinuation of drug use can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms. Detox usually involves slowly reducing drug use or medication.

Learn more about detox

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Medication-assisted treatment helps reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal during detox from some drugs. Medications are not replacements for drugs. They simply ease withdrawal. There are no current medications for cocaine, methamphetamine or marijuana withdrawal.

Medications for drug addictions include:

Learn more about medication-assisted treatment

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Counseling and Therapy

Detox and medication simply mitigate symptoms of withdrawal. Counseling and therapy help reduce drug use and dangerous behavior. Counseling usually focuses on long-term coping and behavioral strategies. It can be individualized or in groups. Evidence-based therapy provides incentives for sobriety, helps modify attitude and improves life skills.

  • Group counseling
    (numerous addictions)
  • Community reinforcement
    (alcohol, cocaine and opioid addiction)
  • The Matrix model
    (stimulant addiction)
  • Family therapy
    (numerous addictions)
  • Brief strategic family therapy
  • Functional family therapy
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
    (alcohol, marijuana and nicotine addiction)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
    (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and nicotine addiction)
  • Individual counseling
    (numerous addictions)
  • Motivational interviewing
    (numerous addictions)
  • Motivational incentives
    (numerous addictions)
  • 12-step facilitation therapy
    (alcohol, stimulants and opioid addiction)
  • Multisystemic family therapy
  • Multidimensional family therapy
  • Adolescent community reinforcement approach


Holistic treatment can help reduce stress and improve feelings of happiness and energy, but it should always be used in combination with supervised detoxification and counseling and therapy. Holistic treatment can include acupuncture, aromatherapy, homeopathy, journaling, meditation, music therapy and yoga.

More than 22 million Americans require treatment for addiction, but only 2.5 million seek help.

What to Expect During Treatment

The treatment process will be different for everyone, depending on the type of facility they attend, the type of substance they’re addicted to and their stage in recovery. However, most substance abuse treatment plans include three basic phases. The length of treatment may range from a minimum of one month, which is rare, to more than a year.


Regardless of location or type of facility, health professionals must first assess a patient’s situation before developing a treatment plan. During this stage, health professionals will learn about a patient’s history of substance abuse, relevant medical conditions and family life, among other things. Basic medical screenings may be conducted at this stage.


After the assessment phase, patients enter detox. If multiple drugs are involved, patients may detox from one drug at a time. If mental health disorders are present, a patient may be treated for mental health first. Medication may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms. After detox, patients attend behavioral therapy and counseling sessions, among other treatment options.


For many people, treatment never ends. Former alcoholics are known to attend AA meetings throughout their entire lives, although frequency may decrease. Likewise, former opioid users may have to take methadone for the rest of their lives. Ongoing support usually begins with outpatient treatment or transitional living environments.

The kind of treatment you provide is very individualized. It depends on who the person is, what support systems they have in place and their dedication.

Dr. Glen Hanson Former Interim Director of NIDA, Director of Utah’s Addiction Center

Where to Receive Treatment

Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can begin in a variety of locations. In very mild cases, a person may attempt to detox at home or with the help of support groups. Some substance abuse treatment plans begin with a visit to a general practitioner, but most start when a person enters a rehab facility. The type of rehab facility will vary by each person’s circumstances and current stage in recovery.

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Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab includes stays at specialized rehab centers, hospitals or residential facilities. The facilities provide a broad range of services, from detox and medication-assisted treatment to behavioral therapy and support groups. Inpatient facility care is usually short-term.

Learn more about inpatient rehab

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Outpatient Rehab

Most people move to outpatient rehab after a stay at an inpatient facility. Specialized outpatient centers and other health facilities usually start patients off with several meetings per week. As a person recovers, meetings drop in frequency and duration.

Learn more about outpatient rehab

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Dual Diagnosis Centers

Many people who suffer from addiction also struggle with mental health disorders. These co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment plans because most substance use disorders cannot be treated without treating underlying causes of mental health problems.

Learn more about dual diagnosis centers

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Extended Care Facilities

Extended care facilities include sober living homes or communities, halfway houses and other transitional living environments. Many inpatient and outpatient programs refer patients to extended-care facilities to continue treatment.

Learn more about sober living houses

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Support Groups

Support groups, including 12 Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, help recovering addicts in all phases of recovery with peer-led support. Many health facilities have in-house support groups, but individuals can attend meetings at a variety of locations in many communities.

Learn more about support

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Criminal Justice System

Some criminal justice systems provide treatment programs for inmates suffering from addiction. Prison- or jail-based treatment is the first step in recovery for many addicts. Although treatment is court-mandated, it involves effective methods such as supervised detox, therapy and peer support.

Learn more about court-ordered treatment

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Cost of Treatment

The cost of addiction treatment depends on a number of factors, such as the type of addiction and number of addictions being treated, co-occurring disorders, length of treatment and type of facility. In general, outpatient rehab costs around $10,000 per month and inpatient rehab costs between $20,000 and $30,000 per month. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, requires insurance to cover substance use disorders as an essential health benefit.

Private Payment

Those without insurance or without adequate insurance coverage may choose to pay for treatment out of pocket. In these situations, a private loan may be necessary. However, the cost of treatment is well worth the cost and will likely save a patient money in the long run.

Medicare & Medicaid

Medicare and Medicaid cover drug rehab at specific facilities. However, patients must receive a doctor’s order to attend rehab, and the doctor must establish a treatment plan. A co-payment may be required depending on the type of Medicare or Medicaid plan. Some plans also have a lifetime maximum number of days that are covered.

Additional Payment Methods

If insurance doesn’t fully cover rehab and paying out of pocket isn’t an option, there are a number of other options patients may qualify for. Many state and local governments and community organizations offer grants to qualifying individuals. Many states also allocate money for state-funded rehab programs, and nonprofit rehab centers may offer discounted services.

Special Treatment Needs

Different people have different needs when it comes to addiction treatment. People of different ages and genders respond to medication, therapy and substances of abuse differently.

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The teenage body and brain are constantly growing and developing, making the effects of substance abuse more drastic than those seen in adults. Teens respond to medication differently, and certain therapies and counseling techniques are more effective on teens than they are on adults.

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Women use substances of abuse for different reasons, including stress and relationships, than men do. Women usually respond to supportive therapy, therapy with childcare services and comprehensive treatment plans better than men.

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Pregnant Women

Treatment for pregnant women depends largely on the status of their pregnancy. Smoking and drinking increase the rate of stillbirth, and drug use commonly results in neonatal abstinence syndrome — a type of withdrawal for infants. Treatment must take the safety of the mother and baby into account. Postpartum depression is also a co-occurring disorder unique to women.

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The same treatment that’s been proven effective for young adults has also shown to be effective in older adults and seniors. Medical therapy may differ for seniors based on a longer history of drug use, and counseling techniques may vary based on differences in culture and attitude.

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Medical Conditions

A person’s medical history and current medical conditions affect drug rehab. People with substance use disorders may contract HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases from needles shared during drug use. People with HIV/AIDS have weak immune systems that may interfere with the detox and treatment processes and the medications used during treatment.

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Effectiveness of Drug Rehabilitation Treatment

Treatment for addiction doesn’t end when a patient achieves sobriety. The goal of addiction treatment is to prevent relapse by improving an individual’s family life, ability to work and ability to function in a community. Addiction is a chronic disease, and relapse rates for addiction are high — similar to chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma. But relapse doesn’t equal failure. It is just one obstacle on the path to recovery that must be overcome.


Principles and Approaches

Decades of research have resulted in the development of several scientifically-proven principles of addiction treatment.

Principles of effective treatment include:

  • Treatment must be readily accessible.
  • Treatment focuses on a wide range of needs outside of drug use.
  • Treatment must be long-term, continuing after initial detox.
  • Treatment plans should be flexible and change to meet evolving needs.
  • Involuntary treatment can be effective.
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Is Treatment Worth the Cost?

To an individual, treatment for addiction pays for itself through an increased ability to be productive at work, a decline in interpersonal conflicts, and money saved that would have been spent on drugs or treatment for conditions associated with drug abuse. Effective treatment also costs society much less than incarceration and other societal costs of addiction.

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Success Rate

Most people seeking treatment for addiction relapse at least once. It’s important to acknowledge addiction is a disease that can’t be cured in one month. In fact, relapse rates for drug addiction are similar to those of other chronic illnesses.

Choosing a Treatment Facility

Patients have to weigh their options when choosing the type of rehab facility to attend. Having an open discussion with family members and a health care provider often helps patients choose the best facility for them based on location, urgency and type of addiction.

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Patients choosing a low-cost drug rehab center will need to verify that their insurance is accepted by the facility. Other options include state-funded rehab facilities or nonprofit facilities that treat populations on a sliding fee scale or offer grants for low-income patients. Waiting lists for low-cost facilities are typically longer.


Standard or mid-tier rehab facilities offer more amenities than low-cost centers — including more spacious bedrooms, swimming pools, gyms, etc. Standard facilities may also offer more services, such as yoga lessons or massage therapy, than low-cost facilities. The quality of treatment is usually the same as luxury facilities but with fewer amenities.


Luxury facilities offer the highest-end treatment options. They’re usually located in upscale locations and offer amenities such as personal trainers, dietitians, nannies and chefs. Luxury facilities may allow pets and offer pet services, such as grooming. These facilities offer the most amenities in addition to effective treatment.

Family Resources

Family members are often at the front lines of a person’s battle with addiction. They see their loved ones suffer daily, and they provide as much support as they can. Family support is often a vital asset for treatment.

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Women having a discussion
Two people listening to a woman speak


If a family member is unwilling to admit they have a problem, or if they are unwilling to seek treatment on their own, an intervention may be necessary. In a safe environment, family members confront the individual suffering from the addiction, explain how they want to help and offer treatment options.


Problems with addiction may stem from relationship problems in a family. Many families with a history of addiction struggle to appropriately communicate with each other. Others simply don’t know how to help someone with a substance use disorder. Family counseling can help family members support each other.


Every person in a family of someone suffering from addiction feels the ramifications of the disease. Al-Anon is a support group for family members of alcoholics. An organization that works closely with AA, Al-Anon chapters meet regularly in communities across the country.

Kim Borwick, M.A.
Kim Borwick, M.A., Editor,
Featured Expert
Profile image of Kevin Wandler, M.D.
Kevin Wandler, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Advanced Recovery Systems

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