Addiction, in general, is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. Addiction is characterized by the physical aspect of compulsive drug seeking and use, and the psychological aspect, which is the underlying negative feelings or issues that drive addicted individuals to engage in these harmful behaviors.

Long-term drug use can lead to severe mental and physical damage, and negatively affect your relationships, job, and academics. It can also lead to serious legal problems.

Addiction currently does not have a cure and involves lifelong management, although drug rehab treatment can help people get sober and make their dependence easier to successfully manage.

However, according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), while roughly 21 million people in the United States aged 12 years and older met the criteria of needing substance abuse and addiction treatment, only a small fraction actually received it.

Addiction is what is known as a progressive disease, which means that not only will it not get better on its own, but it will continue to get worse until it is treated. Drug rehab can help you or your loved one get the help needed to overcome addiction and avoid becoming another tragic statistic in the ongoing American drug crisis.

What is Drug Rehab?

Drug rehab is a term that is essentially interchangeable with “addiction treatment.” It is a recovery and rehabilitation program for those struggling with substance abuse and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

A drug rehab program is meant to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction to most effectively help someone find relief from their symptoms and prevent them from returning to old, unhealthy behaviors and relapsing.

Every drug rehab center has the same goal, which is to help their clients recover and maintain their sobriety after completing the program. However, each center will have its approaches or treatment methods when it comes to making that happen.

Various drugs on a wooden tableSome treatment facilities will specialize in working with people with co-occurring disorders or other specific groups, including veterans, people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and more. Others will focus on using mainly holistic therapies or will not employ medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Some drug rehabs offer the full continuum of care, including detox, inpatient care, outpatient care, and more. Others may only provide outpatient care or do not provide detox services as part of their treatment program.

Because of these differences and the wide variety of options available, choosing the drug rehab program that is going to work best for your specific needs is crucial to a successful recovery.

It can often feel overwhelming, but one thing that can help to narrow things down is learning more about what is involved in the general drug rehab process.

What Does the Drug Rehab Process Involve?

The following is a breakdown of the drug rehab process:


The first level in the drug rehab continuum of care is medical detoxification. Detox is the process of flushing the drugs and other associated toxins out of a person’s system to treat acute intoxication and achieve sobriety as well as physical and mental stabilization.

Depending on factors such as the drug of abuse, how often someone was taking it, and for how long, detox can be a difficult process. Typically, people in detox will experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from uncomfortable, such as nausea, insomnia, and anxiety to dangerous and even potentially life-threatening, including hallucinations, psychosis, and seizures.

Because of this, it is vital that your detox take place under the careful supervision of an experienced medical detox team that can handle any possible complications. This way, you can be assured that your detox will be carried out safely and with the least amount of discomfort possible.

While detoxing sounds like an unpleasant process, and it usually is, it is nonetheless a very necessary first step, as addiction recovery cannot begin until you are sober and stabilized, allowing you to focus fully on your recovery.


Once detox has been completed, the next stage is to start ongoing treatment in an addiction rehabilitation program. If your addiction is particularly severe, if your home environment is not conducive to recovery, or if you have a history of addiction and relapse, then you may require the more intensive level of care that is provided by inpatient or residential treatment.

At this level of care, you will eat, sleep, and live onsite at a treatment facility where you will have access to 24/7 medical care and can work on recovering without the potential triggers and temptations you might encounter in your regular life.

In the case of residential treatment, you will typically be in treatment for anywhere from six months to a year, and the amenities provided will be less clinical and more similar to those of dormitories or apartments.

Every drug rehab center is different, so the amenities and specific treatments offered will vary, but at every recovery facility, you will learn coping skills, relapse prevention techniques, and other tools to help you successfully manage your addiction.


The next level down from inpatient is outpatient. Someone may downgrade from inpatient to outpatient treatment as they progress through their recovery and no longer require the same intensive level of support and monitoring.

If someone’s addiction is on the milder end of the spectrum and they have a strong support system at home, they may not need to start at the inpatient level of care and just attend treatment on an outpatient basis.

A subtype of outpatient is what is known as intensive outpatient treatment (IOP). For people who have progressed beyond the need for the intensive level of care of inpatient but still need more support than regular outpatient can provide, IOP acts as an in-between mode of treatment.

Many people at the IOP stage will live in a halfway house or some other form of structured sober living home and commute to intensive therapy sessions that are usually between three to five times a week for at least four hours at a time.

After IOP, outpatient is the lowest level on the continuum of ongoing care, providing minimal clinical support and, for those who have progressed to the point from inpatient care, offering a means of assistance as they make the transition back to their normal lives.


Even after you have technically completed your drug rehab program, it is important to remember that addiction recovery does not end when your treatment program does. Addiction recovery and management is a lifelong process, and you will have to maintain your sobriety actively. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you take part in an aftercare program of some kind.

There are several types of aftercare programs available in which you can participate. The treatment center may offer alumni services, which can help you keep in contact with the other people who you may have met and bonded with during your recovery. This provides a network of support in the form of people who have been through similar experiences.

You can also attend 12-step programs or other support groups within the surrounding recovery community to help you stay on track and avoid relapse.

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