How Does Rehab Help Drug Addicts? Can It Help You?

By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: June 14, 2024

Living with a chronic disease like substance use disorder can leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless. Addiction has a negative impact on every aspect of an individual’s life, including their personal relationships, career goals, and overall health. 

Like other chronic illnesses, substance use disorders cannot be cured, but they can be managed. With the help of medical treatment, psychotherapy, peer support, and personal commitment, some 21.3 million American adults are in recovery from drug or alcohol use.

What Is Rehab?

The term “rehab,” short for “rehabilitation,” has become synonymous with addiction treatment. When an individual comes to the point where they believe they need rehab, they are most likely referring to attending a residential (inpatient) program. 

Inpatient treatment isn’t the only rehab option, but it is typically recommended when a person’s addiction is considered severe or prolonged or if they have experienced more than one relapse in the past.  

Quality residential rehab institutions typically offer a variety of programs, including:

  • Medically supervised detox
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy, including individual, group, and family therapy
  • Peer support
  • Life skills training
  • Aftercare 

Every person comes to rehab with their own story and needs. After a full assessment, your rehab team will work with you to develop a treatment plan designed specifically for you. 

Rehab should be considered the first step in long-term recovery. It can be compared to having surgery to repair heart arteries that become blocked due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. The surgery can save your life, but you must adapt to a new way of living to prevent the same problem from happening again. 

An addiction treatment program helps people reach sobriety and gives them the tools to maintain that sobriety. It is up to the patient to use those resources and make the changes necessary to maintain their health. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment 

Inpatient and outpatient rehab programs are both effective in helping people overcome addiction. They typically offer similar treatments but with different formats. Neither program is “best,” but one may be better for the level of care you need. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is also referred to as residential treatment. While they can be shorter, inpatient programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days or more, although shorter stays are possible. 

During an inpatient program, patients live in a rehab facility around the clock. Trained medical staff are available 24 hours a day. Clients participate in a rigorous schedule of therapies and activities designed to support their mental and physical health. 

Committing to an inpatient program allows the individual to focus solely on their recovery. During that time, they will receive education about their condition and help with developing strategies to manage their recovery going forward. 

Residential treatment is typically recommended for those who:

  • Require medical detox
  • Have a severe or prolonged addiction issue
  • Need the accountability of 24-hour supervision
  • Have a dual diagnosis, such as depression or PTSD
  • Have a medical condition that requires monitoring, such as chronic pain
  • Have a history of trauma
  • Do not have a safe or supportive home environment to live in
  • Have experienced at least one relapse or overdose

Many programs offer an aftercare program to clients who complete their treatment program. Aftercare is a combination of services that helps individuals transition back into independent living. Services may include sober living opportunities, support group meetings, and vocational training. 

Aftercare provides an opportunity to practice the new skills you learned in rehab while still receiving professional and peer support. It also gives families a chance to adjust to the new dynamics of recovery before a spouse or parent comes back home.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine concluded that aftercare programs are important components of treatment and may be especially helpful to those who have a higher risk for relapse. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient rehab is a more flexible and less expensive option. Clients live independently and attend treatment for designated hours during the weekdays, evenings, or weekends, depending on the program’s format. Outpatient treatment offers most of the same types of treatments as a residential program, but it is less structured. 

Outpatient care can be a good option for those who have strong self-accountability and do not need supervision. The flexible schedule allows participants to work, attend school, or meet important family obligations such as childcare. 

It may be recommended if an individual has completed residential treatment and wants the continued support of a formal program or if they have concerns about relapse and need extra care. 

Some outpatient programs also provide medically assisted treatment (MAT) to help with detox. Though there are fewer hours of treatment in an outpatient program compared to inpatient, the program may last much longer. Outpatient programs can continue for many months or even years, especially when a client is receiving MAT.

A Typical Day in Residential Rehab

Every day in rehab is different. You will be met with various challenges and encounter different feelings as the days go by. This dependable structure helps clients navigate the difficult emotional and physical ups and downs that are typical in the early days of recovery. 

For example, in the early days of recovery, clients in residential treatment tend to return to previously established positive activities like work, social activities, rest, and daily living tasks. 

Residential facilities are closed, secure environments. Meals and lodging are often included in the cost of treatment, and individual off-campus excursions are typically not allowed. 

Supervised trips for recreational opportunities are a normal part of the schedule, however. These fun activities are a great way to relieve stress and practice positive interactions with peers. 

Depending on your specific needs, your day will be filled with treatments and a balance of quiet time for rest, contemplation, and personal space. Therapies are based on an individual’s needs and may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Trauma-informed therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Exposure therapy

Both individual and group therapy are included. Evidence-based therapies — those that have been researched and found to be effective — are ideal.  

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talk therapy based on behavioral psychology. The goal of CBT is to help clients understand how their thoughts affect their behavior and that changing negative thinking patterns can result in more positive behaviors. 

Family Therapy

Addiction affects the entire family, and the dynamics between family members can help or hinder a client’s progress. Family therapy provides opportunities for family members, including parents, spouses, children, and siblings, to repair strained relationships and support one another in healthy ways. 

Trauma-Informed Care

Many people struggling with addiction have experienced trauma and may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. 

To ensure these patients get the care they need, trauma-informed care acknowledges this traumatic history and offers patients a sense of safety. A trauma-informed team is one that understands you may have experienced trauma and works closely with you to determine the best course of treatment. Experiencing trauma can leave people feeling isolated, but trauma-informed care provides a compassionate support network to be there for you during recovery. 

Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy is an important component of a comprehensive treatment program. Different recreational activities help relieve stress and give clients an opportunity for socialization. These activities may include:

  • Music therapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Yoga therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Surf therapy 

Recreational therapies help build confidence and self-esteem by teaching new skills. They also give clients a chance to see that being sober can be fun. The world is full of thrills and adventures that do not involve substance use. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is an offshoot of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This method draws on a variety of strategies to help clients manage their emotions and behaviors. 

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy allows clients to face their fears and phobias in a safe, controlled environment. The goal of exposure therapy is to neutralize fears, especially those that are an obstacle to recovery. 

Is Rehab Really Effective? Here’s What the Research Says

Many people believe that if a person has a relapse, their treatment isn’t effective. Current medical understanding of the chronic nature of addiction would dispute that claim. 

One goal of recovery is certainly to avoid using drugs or alcohol, but experiencing a relapse does not mean a person is no longer in recovery. In fact, relapse is a common occurrence in the recovery journey. Around 50% of people who are managing an addiction experience a relapse at some point. 

That’s approximately the same rate of relapse experienced by those with other chronic diseases such as hypertension or diabetes. The difference is that when a person’s diabetes symptoms resurface, no one says their treatment was a failure. A resurgence of symptoms means that treatment methods may need to be readjusted. 

The same is true when a person relapses in drug and alcohol recovery. The urge to return to substance use means that it’s time to adjust treatment methods. Going to more support meetings or improving your self-care routines may be the answer. 

If an actual physical relapse has already happened, an individual may opt to attend outpatient treatment or a short residential program. 

Is treatment effective? These statistics from the Butler Center Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation say yes:

  • 80% of those who have completed treatment say their health and quality of life have improved
  • 85% to 95% of clients who completed their program are still drug-free nine months after rehab
  • Longer treatment programs result in lower relapse rates

There are no standardized methods to measure whether an individual treatment facility is effective. However, if you are searching for a program for yourself or a loved one, asking what percentage of clients complete the program may be helpful. 

Choosing a facility that offers evidence-based treatments and an aftercare program is also important. 

Determining if Rehab Is Effective

Since there is no cure for addiction, and relapse is common, how is recovery measured? Long-term abstinence is one measure, but it’s not the only one. Other considerations about the effectiveness of rehab include:

  • Your mood and mental health have improved
  • You are healthier and have more energy
  • You are able to achieve educational or career goals
  • The important relationships in your life are improving, and you experience more positive social interactions with others
  • You experience longer periods of time between relapse

Recognizing and acting on the need for more support is also a sign of success. Achieving initial sobriety doesn’t mean you stop needing professional treatment or peer support. Some people continue participating in therapy or sober-support programs like 12-step meetings for the rest of their lives. 

Do You Need Help From a Rehab Program?

Addiction treatment programs take many forms. Residential rehab is the most comprehensive type of treatment and may include medical detox as well as aftercare options. Rehab consists of a variety of treatment methods customized to each client’s needs. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, a Florida treatment center can help. You don’t have to face addiction alone. Get the help you need and start living the life you deserve.