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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

A Guide to Drug Rehab

Addiction is arguably one of the most destructive forces of the modern era. It’s currently estimated that about one in ten American adults suffers from the disease of addiction, which itself is defined as a chronic relapsing brain disease. But it’s far more than a neurological affliction because having a substance abuse problem affects virtually every aspect of a person’s life. After becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs, an individual will behave differently, think and feel differently, lose interest in things that he or she previously enjoyed, damage or even destroy important relationships, and so on. However, in the face of all this destruction the disease causes, there are drug rehabs available to help these individuals reclaim their sobriety and health.

In spite of how much we’ve learned about this disease through decades of research and study, addiction remains a very poorly understood disease at large. Similarly, the general population tends to harbor many misunderstandings about the recovery process, so it’s important for information about addiction and recovery to be made available and accessible. For instance, how does drug rehab work? Are there medications used as part of the alcoholism and drug addiction rehabilitation process? Will a private or government health insurance plan cover the cost of treatment? And, perhaps most importantly, does drug rehab actually work?

How Drug Rehab Works

Clinical recovery might seem like a straightforward process, but there are actually quite a few moving pieces. In fact, it helps to think of drug rehab as a watch, comprised of various cogs and wheels that work toward the singular goal of lasting sobriety.

As for what those specific cogs and wheels actually are, the traditional view of drug rehab is that it consists of the following: Detoxification, inpatient care, outpatient care, and aftercare. But to make matters a bit more complicated, there are actually different types of each. Rather than attempting to shoehorn every unique individual into a single type of program with a single trajectory, the idea with having several variations of each type of treatment is to tailor the curriculum offered at a drug rehab to the specific variables and recovery needs that tend to be associated with each form of addiction.

Let’s consider this hypothetical example: An individual who’s addicted to opioids seeks treatment at a drug rehab. Of course, opioids are a very different type of drug from substances like alcohol and stimulants; therefore, it stands to reason that opioid addiction wouldn’t be treated in exactly the same manner as alcoholism or cocaine addiction. For someone addicted to opioids, there would likely be an initial detox period of between three and five days, serving as a period during which the body is cleansed of opioids and other toxins, helping the individual to return to a state of physical wellness. In other words, detoxification treatment is meant to help sever an individual’s physical addiction so that he or she is able to focus on physiological recovery without the distraction and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

Once detoxification is complete, a patient will proceed to the actual treatment phase of recovery. There’s a tendency to associate drug rehab with inpatient care, which is frequently viewed as the most effective form of rehabilitative care. Virtually any individual with any form of chemical dependency would benefit from inpatient treatment at a drug rehab, but it’s important to note that inpatient care is not always necessary. In some cases, outpatient treatment may be sufficient, or else the outpatient care is offered as a follow-up to inpatient treatment. It’s important to remember that there are many ways to progress through the phases of recovery at a drug rehab since the many components of recovery can be mixed and matched in whatever way that best accommodates a patient’s specific needs.

Recovery doesn’t end with the completion of an inpatient or outpatient program at a drug rehab. The idea is that a drug rehab will help an individual achieve sobriety and teach him or her a variety of skills and strategies that will help with maintaining that sobriety upon returning home. In fact, it’s often said that the real work begins after treatment once the patient returns home as this is when he or she becomes solely responsible for staying sober. For this reason, there are certain resources that are available and meant to minimize the likelihood of relapse.

Aftercare is a very common resource offered by many drug rehabs. In effect, aftercare provides a number of supplemental services and support to patients, ensuring that their transition from treatment to sustained recovery is as successful as possible. Specifically, the support and services offered as part of aftercare can include job and career placement, financial management training, providing recommendations for medical and healthcare resources if/when they’re needed, and fostering a sense of community among program graduates through the hosting of social gatherings and get-togethers for alumni.

It’s not always the case, but twelve-step programs and other support groups can be an integral part of an individual success in recovery. Many drug rehabs actually incorporate tenets of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous into their curricula, but it’s particularly common for drug rehabs to encourage patients to join support groups in their respective communities. Much like aftercare, support groups often serve to safeguard a patient’s newfound sobriety by facilitating the development of supportive relationships with other individuals who are knowledgeable of, experienced with, and sympathetic to recovery.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Drug Addiction?

The general perspective is that recovery is a process through which an individual learns to overcome the habitual urge to use mind-altering substances. While this perspective is mostly accurate, many people are surprised to learn that it’s not uncommon for the use of certain medications to be an important part of the recovery process. In fact, there are certain medications that actually facilitate an individual’s transition away from his or her chemical dependency to a state in which he or she is no longer physiologically dependent on alcohol or drugs.

Medications used as part of drug rehab treatment include the following:

  • Replacement drugs (i.e., Suboxone, methadone)
  • Benzodiazepines (i.e., diazepam, lorazepam…)
  • Muscle relaxants (i.e., cyclobenzaprine…)
  • Sedatives & hypnotics (i.e., zolpidem…)
  • Miscellaneous (i.e., beta-blockers, blood pressure, anti-nausea…)

Suboxone and methadone are two medications that are particularly well-known for their utility as aids of the recovery process, particularly when it comes to recovery from opioid addiction. The former medication — Suboxone — is comprised of two specific substances, buprenorphine and naloxone, which work in tandem to satisfy the physiological aspects of chemical dependency so that an individual can cease intake of heroin or prescription painkillers without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone actually works very similarly to Suboxone, but the latter has an additional function in that it can actually block the effects of opioids. As such, these medications are most familiar to the general public as being medications used in replacement therapy such as with methadone maintenance programs; however, in cases where patients have experienced long-term opioid addiction, or when there have been previous failed attempts at recovery, Suboxone or methadone might be used during the detoxification process, helping a patient break his or her opioid dependency while mitigating the severe withdrawal symptoms he or she would otherwise be feeling. As the patient progresses through the detoxification, tapering his or her dosage of Suboxone or methadone ensures that the process sees individual becoming physically independent of opioids and all other medications.

Another type of medication that’s commonly used at drug rehabs is benzodiazepines. Of course, benzodiazepines are known to be an extremely addictive type of pharmaceutical medication. The neurological changes caused by habitual benzodiazepine use can potentially make it dangerous for an individual to abruptly stop using benzodiazepines altogether; therefore, tapering the individual’s use of benzodiazepines throughout supervised detoxification treatment would be a safer alternative to immediate cessation. Alternately, benzodiazepines are sometimes used with individuals who are detoxing from alcohol since many of the dangers associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal also apply to alcohol withdrawal.

Muscle relaxants are also commonly used at drug rehabs to ease the symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal. Depending on the substance from which the patient is detoxing, muscle relaxants may help to alleviate tension in the muscles, discomfort in the joints and limbs, and can help with general restlessness. Further, sedatives and hypnotics can may be offered to individuals who are having difficulty sleeping or staying asleep at night.

There are a variety of medications that may be employed at a drug rehab to combat some of the more specific symptoms a patient might experience during rehabilitation, particularly during the early stages. When a patient abruptly stops using the substance to which he or she has been physically dependent for an extended period of time, it’s expected that he or she would experience withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms, including elevated heart rate and blood pressure, may make medications meant to help regulate and stabilize an individual’s blood pressure necessary. Additionally, some individuals experience nausea during the first couple days of detoxification, so anti-nausea medication would help to alleviate that nausea. There’s even been evidence that beta-blockers can help to stabilize a patient who is experiencing discomfort during detoxification.

Does Drug Rehab Actually Work?

To understand how drug rehab works, it’s necessary to break the rehabilitation process down to its various parts and discuss how each of those parts address facets of addiction. Once you’ve reached the end of this section, you’ll see that drug rehab has been carefully designed and planned, ensuring that each component of drug rehab serves as a necessary piece of the puzzle.

First, let’s consider some of the established effects of addiction: Although it’s a chronic brain disease that causes some profound changes in cognition and emotional state, an individual who suffers from addiction experiences overall deterioration in physical health; a significantly weakened immune system and greater susceptibility to illness; a proneness to abnormal and reckless behavior; damage to or destruction of important relationships; financial hardships; inability to meet personal and professional obligations; loss of opportunities and prospects; and the list goes on. Clearly, there are many effects of addiction that a drug rehab must address, which is quite the tall order.

Before an individual can hope to overcome the psychological components of addiction, the essential first step is to help him or her stop using the substance to which he or she is addicted. This is achieved through detoxification treatment. As mentioned above, the use of medications is not an uncommon feature of detoxification treatment as these medications are meant to alleviate much of the discomfort associated with withdrawal; typically, an individual with a substance abuse problem will experience severe withdrawal symptoms anytime he or she is unable to use the substance of choice, and fear of these intense withdrawal symptoms becomes one of the biggest motivators for him or her to continue using alcohol or drugs. Since withdrawal symptoms essentially safeguard addiction, offering relief from withdrawal symptoms mitigates an important driving force behind the compulsion to keep using.

But detoxification isn’t the only important treatment that’s offered at a drug rehab. Once an individual has successfully detoxed, he or she will begin the actual treatment phase of addiction. With a strong foundation of psychotherapy and individual counseling, the treatment phase of drug rehab sees the patient participating in a well-rounded curriculum that’s been tailored to his or her specific needs. Through counseling, group therapy, holistic treatments, and other complementary modalities, the newly-sober patient will learn about what circumstantial and experiential factors contributed to his or her addiction; develop important life skills; and prepare for the future with relapse-prevention strategies that will minimize his or her likelihood of relapse. Meanwhile, the patient is developing social and communication skills and developing supportive relationships with other patients; this affords patients with the opportunity to learn how to establish supportive relationships with others, a vital ingredient when it comes to the longevity of recovery.

There are other signs that drug rehabs actually work, too. As mentioned above, aftercare is a very common resource for patients as they graduate from treatment and return home, becoming accountable for maintaining their sobriety. Without a resource like aftercare or the continued support that many drug rehabs offer alumni, these individuals would essentially be turned loose and on their own. Instead, drug rehabs serve as a safety net, ensuring that program graduates will always have access to whatever resources they may need to fortify their recoveries and avoid situations in which they may be tempted to relapse. In other words, a patient develops a lasting relationship with his or her drug rehab, and this relationship remains a guiding light as the individual moves forward.

Does Insurance Cover Drug Addiction Treatment?

Historically, individuals who required treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction would have to pay for treatment out of their own pockets. With quality addiction treatment inevitably being pricey, this made recovery inherently prohibitive and available only to those with the means to pay. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. While high-quality drug treatment sometimes represents quite an expense, individuals in need now have many more ways to fund their recoveries.

With the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2011, substance abuse treatment was made one of the essential health benefits of health insurance coverage. This meant that most private and government health insurance plans would offer coverage for alcoholism and drug addiction treatment, either in part or possibly even in full. For the first time ever, addiction treatment wasn’t only accessible to individuals with deep pockets. Further, there are even other ways to cover the cost of addiction treatment.

It’s increasingly common for drug rehabs to offer flexible payment options. This can mean being able to pay for treatment in installments over time, or perhaps even having the cost of treatment subsidized per one’s income level. Alternatively, there are even some banking institutions that offer loans and other forms of financing that’s mean specifically for addiction treatment. And there are still scholarships and grants available, often offered on the basis of financial need.

Although recovery is quite a complex and lengthy process, evidence has shown that a high-quality drug rehab offering programming that can be tailored to one’s specific needs offers individuals the highest chances of success in achieving lasting sobriety. So whether you’re researching recovery options for yourself or a loved one, we offer free assessment and drug rehab placement services to those in need, so take the first steps toward a new life by calling us today.