image: drug abuse facts

Drug Rehabilitation


Similar to other diseases and illnesses, drug addiction can be overcome with top quality treatment, increased research efforts, and prevention.

As serious as drug addiction is, fortunately it can be treated. Drug rehabilitation treatment programs commonly use a mixture of therapy and counseling AND doctor prescribed medications to help drug addicts stop their abusive behavior.

In most instances, the first step employed in the drug rehabilitation treatment process is detoxification, a process which lets the body rid itself of drugs while monitoring and managing the withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment.

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse, also known as substance abuse, can be defined as the excessive and repeated use of a drug in order to escape reality, feel pleasure, or avoid difficulties, regardless of deleterious, unhealthy, and destructive effects.

The substance that is abused can be an illegal drug such as morphine or crack, inhalants such as industrial solvents or various glues, or prescription drugs used inappropriately such as abusing codeine or percocet.

Drug abuse is typified by the dysfunctional way in which it takes over a drug dependent person's life, disrupting his or her relationships and daily functioning at school, home, or work, adversely affecting his or her peace of mind, and experiencing recurring drug-related legal problems.


Drug addiction can be physical, psychological, or both. Physical addiction refers to the physiological effects of drug abuse and is characterized by tolerance, defined as the need to take increasing amounts of the drug in order to feel the initial "buzz" or "high" and withdrawal symptoms that occur when the addict suddenly discontinues drug use.

Psychological addiction, conversely, refers to the cravings and subjective feelings the addict has in order to experience sensations of well-being and euphoria.

For example, taking a drug in order to "cool down" or to overcome the discomfort of a painful situation are illustrations of psychological dependence.

Regrettably, the more that drug abuse starts to affect and control a person's life, the more likely it is that this person has a serious drug problem.

Ironically, the individuals who are actively involved in drug abuse are typically the last persons who are aware of their destructive drug-related behavior and their own symptoms of abuse.

Drug Rehabilitation Treatment: An Overview

Similar to other diseases and medical conditions, drug addiction can be overcome with professional treatment, prevention, and increased research.

By providing more people with access to competent treatment, the costly drain on society and the physical, financial, and emotional burdens drug abuse places on families can be significantly diminished.

To be sure, the current research literature has uncovered solid evidence that successful prevention and quality drug rehabilitation treatment programs result in substantial reductions in HIV, crime, unwanted pregnancy, strokes, child abuse, strokes, cancer, traffic fatalities, and heart disease.

Not only this, but effective drug rehab treatment improves an individual's job performance, quality of life, and health while at the same time diminishing involvement with the criminal justice system, family dysfunction, and drug abuse.

Drug rehabilitation treatment programs usually use a combination of counseling, education, and therapy as well as doctor-prescribed medications to help an individual abstain from substance abuse.

Statistically speaking, while most drug addicts need professional assistance in order to recover from their disease, addiction researchers have demonstrated that with support and productive treatment, many drug addicts are able to refrain from drug abuse and re-establish their lives.

Drug Rehabilitation Treatment: Withdrawal Symptoms

When a drug addict suddenly discontinues taking drugs, he or she almost always experiences withdrawal symptoms. Essentially, drug related withdrawal symptoms are responses by the addict's brain and body to the lack of the drugs to which they had become adapted.

Depending on the drug in question, some of the more common withdrawal symptoms are as follows: nausea, irritability, depression, vomiting, anxiety, headaches, rapid heart rate, and insomnia.

It is interesting to point out that even with competent medical treatment, it can take the body days or weeks before it returns to "normal" after these symptoms have manifested themselves.

A number of various techniques exist for treating drug withdrawal symptoms. While many, if not most of these treatment approaches use doctor-administered medications, a number of therapies, to the contrary, do not.

Indeed, according to research literature, often, the safest way to treat mild withdrawal symptoms is without medications. Such non-drug detoxification methodologies employ screening and extensive social support and counseling throughout the withdrawal protocol.

Traditional Forms of Drug Rehabilitation Treatment

There are numerous traditional drug rehabilitation treatment approaches that are fairly well established and widely available. The following drug rehabilitation treatment protocols and programs, all of which are considered "mainstream" approaches, will be discussed: Detoxification, Behavioral Treatment, Therapeutic Medications, Outpatient Treatment and Counseling, Residential Treatment Programs, and Family and Marital Counseling.


Detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of drugs and toxins while managing and monitoring the withdrawal symptoms in a safe atmosphere. Drug detox treatment is usually done under the supervision of a medical doctor and is, in the vast majority of cases, the first step used in a drug rehabilitation treatment protocol.

Detox procedures typically include closely monitoring the individual's vital signs, therapeutic counseling and support, and doctor-prescribed medications.

Detoxification is almost always the first step in drug rehabilitation treatment because of the following: until there are no drugs in the person's body, withdrawal can cause intense craving for more drugs.

In addition, and equally as critical, while a person is in a drug induced state, he or she is not completely ready to involve himself or herself in the therapeutic and educational components of the drug rehabilitation treatment process.

Stated more precisely, until a person successfully goes through the detox process, he or she is simply not ready for successful drug rehabilitation.

While it would appear to be logical to state that ALL drug addiction rehab would necessitate medical detox, this is not the case. That is, some drugs require medical detox while others do not.

For instance, opiates, such as methadone and heroin, prescription medications such as Vicodin, Xanax, Codeine, Percocet, and Oxycontin, and alcohol require medically monitored and managed detox.

Other illegal drugs, such as crack, marijuana, crystal meth, and cocaine, conversely, do not typically necessitate medical detoxification.

Often, however, there is a powerful sense of psychological dependence related with these latter mentioned illegal drugs that requires a period of medical monitoring and stabilization.

There are many ways to perform drug detoxification. These different detox therapies depend on the treatment methodology, the philosophy that lies beneath the treatment that is employed, and the drug that has been abused.

Interestingly, the more effective and productive detox centers provide counseling and therapy during and after detox. This typically helps the individual identify and work through his or her social and/or emotional problems that he or she may be experiencing.

Due to the necessary medical monitoring involved in this process and the relatively long time frame for this procedure, most medical detoxification programs are part of a residential, inpatient, drug rehab program.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are the result of abruptly quitting or significantly reducing drug use after heavy and long-term use. The following represents some of the more typical drug related withdrawal symptoms:

  • Drug craving

  • Irritability

  • Headaches

  • Confusion

  • Insomnia

  • Vomiting

  • Depression

  • Shaking or the shakes

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Agitation

  • Diarrhea

  • Sweating

  • Anxiety

  • Nausea

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments include such approaches as 12-step programs, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Motivation Enhancement Therapy.

12-Step Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Programs

  1. Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA) is a 12-step support program for people who manifest an inability to involve themselves in and maintain meaningful, functional relationships.

  2. Nar-Anon is a 12-step support program for family members, relatives, and friends of addicts.

  3. Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are used to stay sober.

  4. Narcotics Anonymous is a 12-step program for people who have a major drug problem. Membership is open to all drug addicts, regardless of the specific drug or drugs that have been abuse.

  5. Alateen is a 12-step program for youth whose parents are problem drinkers.

  6. Al-Anon is a 12-step support program for family members and friends of problem drinkers.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a systematic therapeutic approach that is, from a treatment perspective, almost diametrically opposed to the different 12-step drug and alcohol programs in that it uses motivational strategies to elicit the addict's own change mechanisms. Some of salient characteristics of MET are the following:

  • Receiving clear advice to make healthy changes

  • Therapist empathy

  • Providing the client with a number of alternative change options

  • Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse

  • Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change

  • Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

There are several forms of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The majority of them, however, share the following characteristics:

  • CBT is based on stoic philosophy. CBT does not tell clients how they should feel. Rather, this form of therapy focuses on helping clients learn how to think more logically and effectively.

  • Homework is a central feature of CBT.

  • CBT theory and techniques rely on the Inductive Method. This method has clients look at their thoughts as hypotheses (or suggested explanations) that can be tested and questioned. If clients discover that their hypotheses are incorrect, they can then change their thoughts and feelings to be more in line with reality.

  • CBT is structured and directive.

  • CBT uses the Socratic Method that is based on the asking of questions for insight.

  • CBT is based on an educational model that views most emotions and behavioral reactions as learned responses. Thus, the therapeutic goal in to help the client unlearn undesirable reactions and emotions and replace them with new and more positive ways of feeling and reacting.

  • In CBT, a solid therapeutic relationship is necessary but not the primary focal point for effective therapy.

  • CBT is a mutually shared effort between the therapist and the client.

  • CBT approaches are based on the cognitive model of emotional response. That is, if we change the way we think, we can act and feel better, even if the situation doesn't change.

  • CBT usually has therapeutic sessions that are briefer and fewer in number than most other forms of therapy.

Therapeutic Medications

In this therapeutic approach, medical practitioners administer medications to treat drug dependency. Many substance abuse practitioners and researchers claim that long-term addicts who cannot sustain abstinence should receive doctor-prescribed medications for treating and controlling their withdrawal symptoms.

Another critical advantage of treatment that utilizes therapeutic medications is that addicts are less likely to experience possible brain damage and/or seizures when they receive therapeutic medications for their dependency.

Medications Used to Treat Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

The most frequently used therapeutic medication to treat the withdrawal symptoms associated with a variety of drugs is Klonepin, a drug which helps minimize physical withdrawals. Buprenophex, an anticonvulsant, is also employed to a great extent when treating drug withdrawal symptoms.

In a word, both of these medications have been proven to provide much needed relief for substance abusers who suffer from drug related withdrawal symptoms. In most instances, drug detox takes between three and seven days and requires the constant supervision and monitoring by professional healthcare practitioners.

Klonepin and Buprenophex, however, are not the only medications that help relieve withdrawals. Indeed, with respect to heroin withdrawal, for instance, a drug known as "clonidine" helps block some of the physical withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate agonist drugs such as methadone are also used for heroin withdrawal. In a similar fashion, clonidine is the most prescribed therapeutic medication for the reduction of the physical withdrawal symptoms related to prescription drugs.

In addition and not unlike heroin treatment, progressively decreased doses of methadone can also be employed to reduce the intensity of the withdrawals that commonly occur when prescription drugs are suddenly discontinued.

It needs to be emphasized, however, that this latter treatment approach is typically more effective when it is administered in inpatient, residential, rehab as opposed to outpatient rehab treatment.

And finally, it can be mentioned that methadone is also used as a replacement therapy for opiate addiction.

Outpatient Drug Rehabilitation Treatment and Counseling

There are many approaches to counseling that teach substance abusers how to become more aware of the circumstantial and emotional "triggers" of their drug abuse.

Armed with this information, drug addicts can then learn different ways in which they can control and cope with situations that do not include the use of drugs. These types of alcohol treatment therapies, unlike detox methodologies, can be provided on an outpatient (or on an inpatient basis).

Residential Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Programs

If the individual's withdrawal symptoms are excessive, if a person needs drug and/or or alcohol overdose treatment, if there's a need for drug AND alcohol addiction treatment, and if support-oriented and outpatient programs such as the different 12-step drug and alcohol programs are ineffective, the person frequently needs to enroll into a residential drug rehab treatment facility or a hospital and receive inpatient rehabilitation.

Such programs are typically targeted for drug addiction inpatients and commonly include doctor-prescribed medications to help the addict get through detox and overcome his or her drug related withdrawal symptoms in a harm-free manner.

Family and Marital Counseling

Since the rehabilitation process is so intimately related to the support the substance abuser receives from his or her family, many drug rehabilitation treatment protocols include marital and family counseling as primary components in the treatment process.

Such therapeutic methodologies, furthermore, may also offer addicts essential educational and community resources, such as parenting classes, job training, financial management classes, legal assistance, and childcare courses.

Alternative Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Methods

Although the research findings are inconclusive, there are several alternative drug addiction treatment approaches that are becoming more accepted and available.

Some of these "nontraditional" therapeutic methods are perceived as "natural" forms of drug rehabilitation treatment and include the following: "Drumming out Drugs" (a type of therapeutic approach that features the utilization of drumming by addicts), various supplement, vitamin, and mineral therapies, and the holistic and naturalistic treatment protocols used by Traditional Chinese Medicine.

A more "revolutionary" approach regarding alternative substance abuse treatment, however, involves giving drug dependent person's such as crystal-meth and cocaine addicts substitute, less dangerous and less addictive drugs.

As encouraging as these alternative treatment approaches are, additional research efforts are needed in order to verify their effectiveness and to establish whether or not they provide lasting treatment success.

Conclusion: Drug Rehabilitation

Despite the fact that a cure for drug addiction has not been found, a number of drug rehabilitation treatment approaches, however, have been created and implemented that help substance abusers recover from their addiction.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that a multitude of drug rehabilitation treatment information has become available, both online and offline.

As people try to sort through this mountain of information, some of them cry out for answers and ask the following question regarding treating drug addiction: "What is the most effective long-term drug rehabilitation treatment?"

Similar to most long-lasting illnesses and diseases, there are different levels and degrees of "success" related to drug rehabilitation treatment.


For instance, some substance abusers, after treatment, abstain from abusing drugs--period. Other drug dependent individuals, on the other hand, experience relatively long periods of abstinence after receiving treatment, and then suffer a relapse.

And still other drug addicts cannot stop using and abusing drugs for any sustainable period of time, irrespective of the quality or type of treatment they have received.

Not surprisingly, all of these treatment outcomes happen with every known type of drug rehabilitation treatment.

Even considering the fact that the "magic bullet" of drug rehabilitation treatment does not currently exist, one thing, however, is clear regarding drug addiction recovery: the longer a drug addict abstains from abusing drugs, the more likely he or she will be able to remain sober and possibly avoid the need for additional drug rehabilitation treatment.