Last updated: 26 January 2024 & medically reviewed by Hailey Shafir
Addiction treatment includes a range of options available to help people overcome various types of substance use disorders. Addiction treatment options include individual and group therapy, intensive outpatient addiction programs, inpatient rehab, and in some cases, medication to reduce cravings or withdrawals.
- Some forms of treatment will be more suitable to some people than others. For example, those with severe addictions to substances like alcohol and opioids may require medication-assisted treatment (MAT), inpatient rehab, or medical detox to ensure they go through the detox process safely
- Addiction medication treatments are used not only to help people in recovery manage withdrawal symptoms, but are also often used as part of a long-term recovery plan
- Many support groups including AA, NA, and SMART recovery, are free to attend and operate off of voluntary donations
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What is addiction treatment?
Once someone has acknowledged they have a problem with substance abuse, their next step is often to seek out addiction treatment. Luckily, there are many options available for substance abuse treatment to suit a range of individual needs and preferences. For many, the ultimate goal of treatment is to stop using drugs or alcohol but some people also seek treatment to reduce, moderate, or control their substance use.
Some forms of treatment will be more suitable to some people than others. For example, those with severe addictions to substances like alcohol and opioids may require medication-assisted treatment (MAT), inpatient rehab, or medical detox to ensure they go through the detox process safely. Others with mild to moderate substance use disorders may need outpatient treatment only, sometimes in addition to the help of support groups to manage and overcome their issue.
Recovering from an addiction can be difficult, but treatment can help. For those in early recovery, treatment can help to reduce discomfort during withdrawals, provide a drug-free environment to reduce the risk of relapse and help you map out a plan to get and stay clean and sober. Treatment offers the chance to form valuable relationships, either while in inpatient rehab with other residents or from bonds made by support groups. It also gives you the chance to mend any personal relationships that have become damaged due to addiction.
Types of treatment
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to addiction treatment. No matter what your circumstances are, there will be a method of treatment that best suits your needs and that can be customized to ensure the best chances of continued recovery. Seeking treatment greatly improves the likelihood of full recovery from substance addiction.
Detox and withdrawal
For some, detoxification is an important first step in treatment, especially for those with moderate to severe addiction. It allows the body time to remove harmful substances from its system and process any withdrawal symptoms.
In some cases, such as with opioids, these withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and for those addicted to benzodiazepines or alcohol, even life-threatening. In these instances, a medically supervised detox may be necessary to ensure the process is handled safely. This may also include a course of prescription medication to help alleviate symptoms of withdrawal.
Inpatient rehab treatment
Inpatient rehab facilities offer the most all-encompassing form of addiction treatment. Those opting for residential treatment will receive around-the-clock care in a substance-free environment, as well as a safe space to detox under medical supervision.
Inpatient treatment programs are usually recommended (but not reserved) for those suffering from more severe forms of addiction, especially with drugs that have dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Inpatient treatment is also beneficial for those suffering from co-occurring mental or behavioral disorders, or for those who have tried unsuccessfully to get clean on their own or in outpatient levels of care.
Outpatient rehab treatment
Almost all treatments and therapies available in inpatient care are offered to those who chose an outpatient option. The only real difference is that outpatient rehab allows the person suffering from addiction or dependence to return home after treatment. This makes it a preferred option for those who have families to look after or otherwise can’t commit to the time or money inpatient rehab requires. They may also be a better option for those suffering from mild to moderate substance use disorders.
While this may be a benefit to some, it can become problematic for those with more serious addictions. Unlike the supervised environment found in inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment does not remove temptations and triggers from a person's life. This means outpatient treatment requires a high level of discipline from those who attend it and a committed approach to recovery. Outpatient treatment may also provide a good follow-up treatment program for those who have recently finished an inpatient rehab program.
Addiction treatment medications
Addiction medication treatments are used not only to help people in recovery manage withdrawal symptoms but are also often used as part of a long-term recovery plan. For example, those in recovery from opioid addiction may be offered a course of methadone or suboxone to help manage cravings and avoid more potent opioids such as heroin.  Addiction medication is almost always used in conjunction with a treatment program, often consisting of therapies and counseling to address the underlying psychological aspects of the condition.
Sober living homes
Sober living homes offer an extended form of residential isolation from triggers and tempting environments and are beneficial for those who have finished inpatient rehab but are not yet ready to return to normal life. These facilities offer a safe place for those in recovery to reinforce the lessons learned in rehab and adjust to a life without substance abuse.
Most sober living homes require people to hold jobs, pay rent, help with household duties, and also attend some form of addiction treatment. Many also require random drug screening to ensure that residents are not abusing drugs or alcohol. Failing to meet the requirements can result in getting kicked out of these programs.
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There are many treatment options that use a spiritual approach to recovery. Faith-based rehab centers offer programs that use treatments based on faith, allowing like-minded individuals to seek guidance from a higher power to aid in their recovery. For those that believe, faith-based rehab centers can give addicts the strength they need to overcome substance abuse as well as form a community on which to lean in times of need. Support groups like 12-step programs also incorporate faith-based treatment, which can deter people without strong religious or spiritual beliefs, while appealing to those who hold these beliefs.
Remote addiction treatment
Not everyone has physical access to addiction treatment programs which can create a barrier to them receiving help. Thankfully, there are many forms of remote addiction treatment and support programs that are designed to help those who cannot get access to addiction treatment easily. These include:
online therapy programs
virtual treatment programs
support group access
Paying for addiction treatment
There are many options for paying for addiction treatment, even if you do not have a health insurance plan. Some treatment facilities will offer payment plans and others may accept scholarships or other funding. There are also state-funded and free rehab options for those with low incomes. It is always advised to check with the treatment provider about payment options before committing to a treatment facility.
For those without insurance, addiction treatment can be costly, but it’s important to consider it an investment in your health and future. Inpatient and intensive outpatient programs also tend to have higher costs than regular outpatient programs. Many support groups including AA, NA, and SMART Recovery, are free to attend and operate off of voluntary donations.
An intervention is an opportunity for the family and loved ones of someone abusing substances to come together and express their concern directly to them. Interventions should be overseen by an addiction specialist or interventionist to ensure that the direction of the intervention remains positive. The purpose of the intervention is to encourage the person suffering from a substance use disorder to seek help and let them know they are cared for.
There are many forms of therapy used to treat addiction and which one is used will depend on a person's mental health history, type of addiction, and behavior. These therapies will be in the form of either single or group sessions and will often be part of a long-term addiction treatment program. Read here to learn more about addiction therapy.
Biofeedback therapy is a medication-free treatment whereby a therapist places sensors on an addict's body to measure their brain activity in response to questions and stimuli. From the results, the therapist will be able to offer certain psychological techniques and coping mechanisms to overcome addictive tendencies that are unique to the patient's needs. This treatment can help people learn to regulate stress, anxiety, and other emotional responses.
CBT is a common form of therapy that helps people identify problematic thoughts that are linked to certain behaviors, as well as encouraging them to behave in ways that align with their goals. For those suffering from addiction, it is used to identify triggers and other behavior patterns that may compromise sobriety and lead to relapse. It is also commonly used for those suffering from co-occurring conditions like anxiety or depression.
Dialectical behavior therapy
DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from contemplative meditative practice. DBT teaches skills like emotion regulation, assertive communication, and distress tolerance, which can be useful for those in recovery who often need healthier methods of coping.
Holistic therapies have a strong focus on well-being and peace, both in mind and body. They offer the person suffering from addiction a chance to find activities that bring them joy without the need for substances, as well as coping mechanisms for cravings and triggers. Common forms of holistic therapy include acupuncture, yoga, equine therapy, meditation, and art therapy. Some holistic therapies also incorporate dietary supplements, food recommendations, and natural herbs and supplements. Most forms of holistic therapy for addiction can be found in luxury rehab settings or through non-evidence-based treatment providers.
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) are therapy styles that help people make lasting changes in their behavior. Motivational therapists help clients to weigh the pros and cons of the old behavior (ie drug use) against the pros and cons of making a change (ie getting sober). This helps to build motivation, which is then utilized to help make an actionable plan to make changes and reach specific goals the person wants to accomplish. Because overcoming addiction requires difficult lifestyle changes, these therapies can be highly beneficial to those in all stages of recovery from addiction.
Psychodynamic therapy allows patients to explore their subconscious emotional connections to substance abuse, helping to uncover the underlying root cause of their addiction. By working with a therapist, the patient can understand their emotional responses to cravings and temptations and work to overcome them.
Psychodynamic therapy is an older and less commonly used form of therapy but does have some effectiveness in helping people work through a number of emotional and behavioral issues. It is more of a long-term therapy that is less structured than other forms of therapy and is best for people who have already worked to establish their recovery.
Support groups are a vital part of long-term recovery and are highly recommended after someone has finished their initial addiction treatment. Support groups offer a non-judgmental space with fellow people in recovery to explore their feelings and experiences with addiction. Unlike group therapy, these groups are often free to attend and are run by others in recovery, as opposed to being led by a licensed addiction specialist. These groups allow people to form relationships with people who can appreciate their struggle with addiction, as well as offer continuous support and guidance.
Like with treatment and therapy, there is no one support group that is right for everyone. Many support groups utilize different sobriety techniques for different types of addiction or will specialize in a particular form of substance abuse.
12-step programs are a tried and tested form of support group and are often seen as the standard model for addiction recovery. Created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-step programs follow the 12 traditions of recovery, which cover the following principles:
Many people find the 12-step method helpful as it allows them to focus on the areas that are most prevalent to them and their addiction, as well as being able to support others. The most common forms of 12-step programs are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
AA meetings provide a space for those recovering from alcoholism to discuss their experiences of addiction and recovery with similar individuals as well as utilizing the 12-step method. Most AA meetings take place weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. They can either be in the form of closed meetings, where recovering addicts discuss their experiences in private, or open meetings where family and friends are invited to attend.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
Modeled after the AA, NA support groups offer safe environments for those recovering and in long-term drug addiction treatment. The focus is on sharing experiences and supporting other members coping with addiction and recovery, and motivating each other through sobriety.
SMART Recovery encompasses a 4-point program for recovering addicts, with stages that can be completed in any order. A popular alternative to 12-step, SMART focuses on the underlying thoughts and feelings associated with addictive behavior and develops tools to cope with temptation and cravings.
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are support groups for family and friends of people suffering from addiction. The purpose of these groups is to show loved ones that they are not alone in their struggle with having someone they care about in the grips of addiction. They also offer coping strategies and communication methods to help those suffering from addiction.
An addiction counselor will work with someone throughout addiction treatment services. Their role is to offer unbiased support, explore emotions and issues related to addiction, and create individual plans for treatment and aftercare, either through one-to-one or group sessions.
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