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The Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Process – Addiction Center

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Choosing to attend rehab for substance and/or alcohol abuse is an empowering step toward freedom. Rehab facilities provide the safest and most comfortable methods to achieve sobriety and the greatest likelihood of maintaining that sobriety once achieved. However, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all process. Every individual requires unique care based on a number of factors including what substances they are addicted to, how long they’ve been addicted, whether or not they have any co-occurring disorders, and personal preferences. Additionally, every facility has a unique treatment process that they use. Despite the many differences, there are a number of generalities that most treatment processes will follow.
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Most patients at inpatient rehab facilities will take part in the following steps as they progress in their recovery.
The patient (or a loved one) contacts and enrolls in the treatment facility. This is the first step towards transforming your life, but many who need treatment are hesitant to take it. Luckily, leading treatment facilities make the admissions process as simple and comforting as possible. All that it takes to start the process is a call.

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The patient actually enters the facility and completes administrative processes. It is at this point that staff makes sure that the patient is not bringing any forbidden items such as drugs or weapons into the facility. Intake is necessary to get each patient started off on the right foot so that their treatment is as effective as possible for their individual situation. It is also important to protect the safety and sobriety of all patients and staff.
Medical and clinical staff question the patient and determine’s their treatment plan. Examples of what is assessed at this point include what substances the patient is addicted to, how long they’ve been addicted, and whether they suffer from any known mental health disorders. This is one of the most important steps of the treatment process, as it enables staff to customize a recovery plan that is designed to maximize each individual patient’s chances of success. Most treatment facilities treat assessment as an ongoing step, whereby patients are continually reassessed to make sure their needs are being met.
Detox, or detoxification, is the process by which the body is purged of harmful substances so that the patient can start treatment sober and with a “clean slate.” Medical staff guide the patient through withdrawal to make the process is as safe and comfortable as possible. In many cases, addiction treatment medication will be prescribed to help patients successfully complete detox. In some cases, other therapies will also be started while the patient is in detox. Medically-supervised detox is greatly recommended over self-detox, as it is safer, more comfortable, and much more likely to be successful.
During inpatient care, the patient resides in the facility and receives a number of treatments, therapies, and services that help them recover in both the short and long term. The exact treatments a patient will receive vary tremendously from facility to facility, but most are designed to help the patient learn about themselves, understand their addiction and triggers, and gain valuable life skills. The goal of inpatient care is to help each patient achieve sobriety and provide them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and habits, necessary to remain free from addiction once they leave the facility.
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Examples of treatment options available during inpatient care include:
During an intensive outpatient program (IOP), patients leave the inpatient facility, but live in a supportive group of fellow recovery seekers. Patients return to the facility several times a week at least for additional treatment. Some treatment facilities offer IOP programs, enabling patients to move directly from inpatient care to IOP, while other programs do not, meaning patients interested in IOP will have to find a separate program. IOP is advantageous because it allows patients to “test themselves” and the sobriety skills they have acquired in a real-life setting.
The level of care needed for an addiction depends on the individual situation. Dr. Ashish Bhatt, MD describes the different categories of care.
Patients acquire the skills and knowledge and make the preparations necessary to successfully maintain sobriety after treatment. This step of the treatment process is one of the most variable between patients, because each patient is returning to a very different life, or in many cases starting a new one entirely. Examples of preparations that patients must make include participating in support groups and ongoing treatment, returning to/finding a job, rebuilding relationships with friends and family, securing a place to live, and caring for children and pets.
During the release phase, patients complete administrative processes and leave the treatment facility. Many facilities provide final assessments at this time and provide additional advice and guidance to patients. Release makes sure that the patient is ready to begin their new life.
Aftercare is an ongoing process that for most patients will last the rest of their lives in some form or another. Patients in aftercare participate in ongoing treatment programs such as therapy and 12-Step Groups to help maintain their sobriety indefinitely. The exact aftercare routine will depend on the patient and what options are available to them. The treatment facilities with the best results in helping patients maintain sobriety generally offer a wide range of aftercare options and they additionally help set patients up with third-party aftercare suppliers as well.
Like aftercare, alumni participation is an ongoing process that many patients engage in for years after leaving a treatment facility. During alumni participation, former patients engage and maintain relationships with others who have successfully completed rehab. Some rehab facilities maintain their own alumni participation programs and even have alumni coordinators on staff. Former patients of facilities that don’t often band together to form their own programs. Each alumni participation program is different, but examples of activities that such programs conduct include 12-Step meetings, social gatherings, and ongoing education and support.
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Last Edited: January 3, 2022
Jeffrey Juergens
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
Clinically Reviewed: December 7, 2018
David Hampton
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.
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