When you’re in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction, seeking various addiction treatment options feels like a daunting task. You’re struggling to get through the day, managing sickness while trying to score your next pickup or make it down the street to the liquor store. Sobriety seems like an impossible feat. Detox and inpatient rehab seem like distant possibilities, much less a 12-step program or other alternative.
Facing the detox process and impending withdrawals of getting sober is scary but you don’t have to do it alone. There are dozens of options for those hoping for long-term recovery but it takes initiative to find out what is available to you. This guide aims to provide an overview of addiction treatment options for those with substance dependence issues. From treatment facilities to 12-step programs, we aim to provide an easy-to-understand breakdown of each offering.
If you or a loved one are trying to manage addiction alone, give yourself a break, take a pause, and read through this guide. You may discover a program you weren’t aware of or learn about an option you were previously considering.
Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs
Drug and Alcohol Detoxification (Detox)
Drug and alcohol detox, short for detoxification, is the process of removing the toxins of drugs and alcohol from the body. When alcoholics and addicts have been using or drinking for any extended period of time, the toxins build up. Detox helps to safely separate individuals from their substances of choice over a 1 to 10 day period, depending on the facility. It’s often considered the first step in the process for anyone trying to get sober using treatment programs.
Oftentimes, most facilities use a medication-assisted detox. This method uses drugs like suboxone, methadone, or benzodiazepines to aid the withdrawal process. Withdrawal symptoms are experienced when an individual has been using drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time. The types of drugs and alcohol used determine the severity of the withdrawals and their symptoms.
These are just a few examples of the many drugs you can experience withdrawals from. Although it’s an unpleasant process, it is necessary in order to get sober. With the assistance of a medication-managed detox facility, you can make it through withdrawals and to the next step of the process: inpatient rehabilitation.
Inpatient rehabilitation is one of the multiple options available after detox. Some inpatient rehab facilities include detox as a part of their program and after separating from drugs and alcohol, you’ll be transferred to the inpatient portion of the facility. Other times individuals attend a standalone detox facility and select an inpatient rehab to transfer to once they’re entirely clean. These programs usually consist of treatment lasting anywhere from 28 to 90 days.
When you arrive at inpatient rehab, you’ll undergo an intake process consisting of an initial assessment of physical and mental health. From there, you’ll be fitted with an individualized treatment plan and assigned a dedicated counselor for the duration of your stay. Your 28 to 90 days is intended to guide you through the first months of your recovery in a safe, sober space.
Medical staff provides any additional care necessary after detox and medication management. Staff is generally available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most rehabs operate on a combination of individual and group therapy sessions as well as educational classes aimed to provide a better understanding of addiction and alcoholism. Some facilities utilize 12-step recovery in addition to their own programs.
One of the most important things inpatient rehab provides is a network of peers with the same goals as you have. You don’t have to suffer through early sobriety alone; there is almost always someone in the same point of the recovery journey as you are. Although you may not have drank or used the same substances or gone to the same depths, you’re always able to relate to the way your fellow addicts and alcoholics felt while in the grip of substance dependence.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
Partial Hospitalization Programs provide the same intensive care offered at inpatient rehab but on an outside basis. PHP can be the next step after inpatient rehab, but most often takes place directly after detox. You’ll attend programs such as individual and group therapy during the day. These programs are more rigorous than an intensive outpatient program.
A PHP aims to heavily support addicts and alcoholics during the early phases of recovery. If you feel that you may not be able to return to your regular environment, it will supply a sober living environment to foster your growth. You’re surrounded by peers like an intensive outpatient program but not required to stay long-term in a hospital environment.
Some but not all PHPs require stays in a sober living or other accommodation. Other programs allow participants to return home at the end of the day. If you feel that you need a more well-rounded approach to your recovery, option for a PHP that utilizes an overnight component may be more beneficial to you.
PHP without the overnight component is a great option due to its high level of care similar to an inpatient rehab, but lower overall cost. Oftentimes it is confused with IOP, but there is a distinct difference in the amount of treatment provided. PHP requires 4.5 to 5 hours of treatment per day, 5 days a week.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Utilizing a treatment approach similar to PHPs, Intensive Outpatient Programs also offer a more flexible schedule due to the lesser amount of required hours. IOP consists of 2.5 to 3 hours of treatment spread over 3 to 5 days of the week, totaling 9 hours of treatment per week. It can be a follow up to inpatient rehab and detox or it can be the first step for those who feel they don’t need the intensive approach of those types of treatment.
Utilizing mainly a cognitive behavioral therapy approach, IOP is run by addiction therapists and mental health providers. Through individual and group sessions, you’ll learn methods and practices to cope with day to day life, a necessity for anyone seeking long-term sobriety. You will learn about your triggers and how to manage or avoid them. You’ll also learn about how to handle feelings and stressors that can lead to relapse.
IOP is ideal for individuals who don’t have the time available to attend an intensive day program such as inpatient rehab or PHP. If you have a strict work or school schedule, there are many facilities that offer evening programs to help you receive the help you need. It provides the community offered by higher levels of care while still allowing you to attend to your daily responsibilities. Like PHP, IOP is a more affordable alternative to detox and inpatient rehab.
Outpatient Program (OP)
Outpatient Programs, or OP, are individually scheduled drug and alcohol counseling sessions available during most hours of the day, throughout the week. There are no set time requirements for outpatient programs and you will usually use them as an aftercare program once detox, inpatient rehab, PHP, or IOP are completed. You set your own schedule as needed and no one is dictating how often you need to attend.
OP is most often offered on an individual, one on one basis with certified a addiction counselor, psychiatrist, or therapist. Coping skills and day to day management are further explored and practiced. You are able to work through the occurrences that take place in your life which trigger the feelings leading to a relapse. It is more useful for individuals who have established a solid baseline of recovery, usually after a few months of sobriety.
Some OPs offer treatment in a group counseling or support environment. Oftentimes you’re able to use both individual and group sessions, combining them in your personal path as necessary. Some people desire the community surrounding a group session and benefit from the peer-supported environment. Others prefer to forge their treatment approach alone and receive support from individuals outside of their recovery circle.
There is no “wrong way” to use OP; whatever works best for you and your recovery is what is encouraged. Usually you will work out a plan with the provider you are seeing as they are able to provide insight as to what is the most helpful and effective approach.
If you need additional support or don’t feel comfortable returning home right away, long-term residence programs (usually referred to as sober living) are an excellent option after detox and inpatient rehab. They can also be used concurrently with PHP, IOP, or OP as a safe and sober environment in which to lay your head at night. Sober living teaches you to live life sober on a daily basis and how to coexist with other individuals.
The ultimate goal of sober living is to transition you back into living in the “real world” without using drugs or alcohol. You can’t live in a strictly sober environment forever and must return home or to living independently eventually, and they work to make the switch as seamless as possible. While you’re living there, you must follow house rules and a curfew established by the residence. You’re usually assigned chores such as cleanup, trash, or dishes and must make your bed in the mornings. These small tasks instill as sense of discipline and personal responsibility that was generally absent during your days of drinking and using.
Additionally, sober livings will often transport you to and from 12-step meetings throughout the community, and sometimes hosting meetings within the residence. Usually they are focused on a 12-step approach for long-term sobriety as it is a free way to maintain your recovery efforts. Though no residence will officially endorse a 12-step program, they are extremely prevalent within the sober living community.
Holistic treatment programs are not necessarily an actual type of treatment center; rather, it’s an approach to treatment. Holistic care approaches treatment with a focus on the body, the mind, and the spirit as one. Rather than looking at you as simply an addict or an alcoholic, treatment providers view you as a whole person in order to treat your substance dependence.
Often considered an alternative form of care when used alone, holistic care neglects to focus psychotherapy as a solution to recovery. Instead, it requires you to take into account body, mind, and spirit, treating each area together to forge your path to sobriety. Often, holistic treatment programs utilize healthy, organic meals; extensive, but not too strenuous, physical activity; unconventional forms of therapy such as art or animal-assisted therapy; and meditation.
Some facilities approach recovery as a holistic treatment program instead of a typical cognitive behavioral therapy modality. Other facilities use a combination of the two in order to provide well-rounded and mindful care.
12-step programs can be used either after, in addition to, or as an alternative to rehab. Though these programs are often incorporated into inpatient rehab, PHP, IOP, and sober livings, none of the 12-step programs either oppose or endorse these facilities. They stand alone as an approach to recovery. Some members of 12-step programs believe treatment centers are not necessary in order to achieve sobriety, while others respect the necessity of treatment to help a person reach a sober state of mind.
12-step programs began with Alcoholics Anonymous and today there are many different programs, each dedicated to a particular substance.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Alcoholics Anonymous was the first 12-step Anonymous program, founded in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob. An offshoot of the popular-at-the-time Oxford Group, Alcoholics Anonymous based its program on belief that alcoholism is a disease and the only way to recover is through a spiritual experience. This spiritual experience comes after working through the Twelve Steps laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the program’s main text.
AA is not considered a religious program but a spiritual one, insisting that you need not believe in the God of your childhood but a higher power of your own understanding. It is estimated there are more than 2 million members and 117,000 groups that meet weekly worldwide. AA has no fees and takes no attendance, meeting at dozens of different locations in every city across the globe.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
Narcotics Anonymous came after AA, established in 1953 by Jimmy Kinnon. NA focuses on drugs as a whole rather than individual substances and members refer to themselves simply as “addicts”, no matter what drug they used. Anyone with a substance dependence problem is welcome in NA. The Twelve Steps of NA are based off of the Twelve Steps of AA and have the same wording, except they replace “alcohol” with “addiction”.
The Basic Text, NA’s book which outlines the program, wasn’t published for another 30 years after the fellowship was founded. After the Basic Text was published, membership numbers catapulted. NA holds almost 67,000 meetings each week spread throughout 139 countries. Second only to AA, NA provides a home to many addicts seeking long-term recovery.
There are multiple other programs based off of AA, each of which utilize the 12-step program approach and utilize AA’s traditions. These include:
Some individuals find it easier to relate to and get sober with people who used the same drugs they did. Others feel ostracized by AA’s insistence that its members refer to themselves as only alcoholics. Whatever the reason, each of these 12-step programs provide a way for addicts and alcoholics to get sober in a fellowship of others just like them. Getting sober alone can be difficult and to be surrounded by a group of your peers encourages you to remain sober, one day at a time.
Programs Other Than 12-Step
If you don’t feel that a 12-step program is right for you, don’t worry. They are not the only type of non-treatment way to get sober. Many programs other than Anonymous programs exist to help individuals struggling with substance dependence recover from their addictions. Some are religious in nature while others are secular and focused on the group or the individual.
SMART Recovery was founded in 1994 by Joe Gerstein as an alternative to AA and makes clear that it is not a 12-step program. They teach you to change your thinking, actions, and emotions in order to develop the mentality to remain sober. SMART Recovery operates on a 4-Point Program consisting of:
- Building and Maintaining Motivation
- Coping with Urges
- Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
- Living a Balanced Life
The program of SMART Recovery holds both in-person and online chat room meetings to help those who wish to abstain from alcohol, drugs, and other addictive behaviors such as overeating or gambling. It encourages the use of other 12-step programs if the individual feels they are necessary to achieve sobriety.
LifeRing Secular Recovery
LifeRing Secular Recovery understands that there are as many ways to get sober as there are addicts and alcoholics in the world. No two people approach recovery the exact same way and LifeRing is there to meet you where you are. The program provides the structure and support for you to stay clean and sober while believing that only you know the best path for yourself to recovery.
They refer to you in recovery as the Sober Self and you in your substance abuse as the Addict Self. Like SMART Recovery, Life Ring Secular Recovery offers both face-to-face and online meetings to help you achieve sobriety where Sober Selves gather to provide encouragement and advice.
Celebrate Recovery refers to itself as a “Christ-Centered Recovery Program” and is based on Biblical teachings. They borrow the Twelve Steps of AA and add their own Eight Principles, a path to recovery based on the nine blessings from Matthew, the book in the Bible. Celebrate Recovery helps those with all types of “hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” from addiction and alcoholism to gambling and sex addiction. It was founded because Pastor John Baker felt that AA’s belief in a higher power was too vague and needed a Christian direction.
Whichever avenue of recovery you select, there are many walking the path alongside you. You never have to be alone in recovery and there is a program for you no matter what you believe or how badly you may have drank or used. If you need help, there are thousands of people ready when you reach out your hand. Whether you go through detox and attend inpatient rehab, PHP, or IOP, or if you white-knuckle your early recovery and find help in a 12-step program or other alternative, you can get sober. Make the decision today to take a step towards the rest of your life as a happy, healthy, sober individual.