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Steps of the Addiction Rehabilitation Process

The journey to a healthy, sober life is not a quick and easy one. It is a lifelong commitment of dedication and hard work that is well worth the effort. Like any journey, the road to sobriety begins with simple steps forward. The specific steps of one's addiction rehabilitation process will vary according to the addiction, the treatment plan used, and the individual; however, all recovery processes share certain similarities.

If you have any questions concerning the rehabilitation process or your individual journey to recovery, contact one of our treatment advisors. We are here to offer addiction help 24/7. Just call 1-888-992-3387 and we'll answer your questions, confidentially, at any time of day or night, with no obligation. You can also click this link to contact us by email.


When it comes to addiction rehabilitation programs, there is no shortage of options out there but it's important to find a program that is a good match for you. If you feel comfortable with the facility you've chosen, you're more likely to stick with the program and see it through to its end, increasing your chances of long-term health and sobriety.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several things to consider when choosing a drug treatment program.
These include:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to treatment. Different treatments work for different people.
  • Patients must commit enough time to treatment in order to effectively overcome their addictions.
  • Everyone should have easy access to treatment when they need it.
  • Addiction affects the way the brain works.
  • Effective treatment should address all areas of the addict's life, not just the abuse or addiction.
  • Medicinal treatment is often necessary and should be used in conjunction with therapy.
  • Treatment plans should continually be tailored to meet the individual's needs and circumstances.
  • Mental disorders are often linked to drug addiction and should be addressed in treatment.
  • An addict does not have to voluntarily go to treatment in order for it to be effective. Many addicts are compelled to go to rehab by the court system, family or friends, and still achieve recovery once they go through the program.
  • If patients receive medications during treatment, they must be monitored closely by staff members to ensure the medications are not abused.
  • Treatment should include warnings about the health risks of drug use, and include medical testing to ensure patients are free from infectious diseases.

Inpatient treatment programs remove addicts from their old ways of life and place them into a medically supervised treatment facility. This inpatient care helps to eliminate stress by removing the individual from temptation and the ability to relapse, both during the detox and rehabilitation processes. In most inpatient rehabilitation programs, 24-hour medical supervision during detox is provided.

Oftentimes, patients are restricted from contacting family and friends during the first portion of the rehabilitation process. This allows them to focus solely on their recovery without distractions from the outside world. Over time, family members and close friends may be invited to participate in visiting days or family therapy sessions. This helps to build the support system that is so crucial to recovering addicts once they leave the rehab facility.

Outpatient programs are very similar to inpatient programs with the exception that the addict is allowed to return home each night. If a patient has familial obligations, such as caring for children or elderly parents, outpatient care allows them to maintain some of those responsibilities. In some cases, if a patient has work obligations, they can work part-time while in outpatient care. As a general rule, the less stress, the better during treatment as it's important for the patient's focus to be on the recovery process. Outpatient care is best for those with short-lived addictions. It is not recommended for those with serious or long-term addictions or those with dual diagnosis conditions.

Regardless of whether you choose inpatient addiction treatment or outpatient care, the intake process will be nearly the same and conducted by a counselor at the facility. This first step uses guided diagnostic tests to determine the severity of the addiction, personal drug use history, family history, and even financial arrangements for treatment.


Most drug and all alcohol addictions require a detox program before the start of the rehabilitation program. This process of detoxification removes all traces of drugs and alcohol from the body in some cases. In other cases, maintenance medication may be given to counteract the withdrawal symptoms associated with certain drugs, such as opiate prescription drugs and heroin.

The severity of the detox process varies from person to person, depending on the substance in question, how long they took the drug and at what dosage levels, and if there are any other addictions involved. When a person takes a drug or consumes alcohol regularly, the body becomes accustomed to having certain levels of the substance in it. Once the substance is removed, the body can go into a type of shock, causing withdrawal symptoms to occur. According to the US National Library of Medicine, some withdrawal symptoms can occur immediately, but most usually occur within 24 hours after the last dose.

Withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Extreme depression
  • Issues with concentration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Severe fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Runny nose
  • Inability to sleep
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Troubled breathing
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attack

The type of treatment, including any medicinal assistance, received during detox will depend on the specific type of addiction being treated. Prior to detox, patients should be assessed by professional medical personnel to determine what degree of medicinal assistance they may need during the detoxification part of rehabilitation. Certain addictions, such as those to cocaine and marijuana, may not require any medications during detox. In fact, certain addictions may not even require a detox process prior to the therapy portion of treatment. Other addictions, such as those to heroin, opiates and alcohol, often require medications to combat the severity of the withdrawal process. Medications sometimes employed during detox include:

Detoxification is generally a safe process when undergone in a supervised medical setting. Addicts should never attempt to detox on their own at home; the results could be deadly.

If you have any questions concerning detox and withdrawal during the rehabilitation process, call us at 1-888-992-3387. We can answer your questions and connect you with one of our affiliated rehab centers that can help you through the detox process.


Once an individual gets through the initial detox from drugs or alcohol, they will move on to the rehabilitation portion of the recovery process. This is where the patients get to the core reasons behind their addictions, addressing those issues so they can effectively move on with their lives without going back to drugs, alcohol or their addictive behavior.

In individual behavioral therapy, the patient will do this work by identifying when they began using the substance and why they started abusing it. The patient will receive strategies on how they can direct their time to focus on getting involved in new hobbies or interests. Time management skills will allow them to better use their time so they have less opportunity to think about relapse. Patients learn to identify triggers, and how to deal with these triggering situations when they come up. If patients have a plan for various tempting situations, they are more likely to put their plan into action and avoid relapse. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses thoughts that patients have in relation to substance abuse or life in general. It helps to reform their thinking patterns and make behavioral changes toward a healthy, sober life.

The addiction rehabilitation process usually includes group therapy. These group sessions allow the recovering addict to interact with others who are in the same situation. It is often helpful for recovering addicts to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Likewise, it can be beneficial for addicts to share their own stories of addiction and recovery, as others find solace in them. This sense of community support is integral to the recovery process.

Most addiction rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy as part of their program. Addiction is far-reaching, affecting many people rather than just the individual with the addiction. Family members are often those who are most deeply affected by their loved one's addiction, and they are an important component of the recovery process for that person. Initially, patients may be restricted from contacting loved ones but later in the recovery process, family members are often welcomed to participate in family therapy sessions. During these sessions, family members can discuss pain caused by their loved one's addiction and their desire to see that person live a healthy life. Family therapy can help to resolve issues so the family can serve as a pillar of support once their loved one leaves the rehabilitation facility.


After a patient has completed their rehabilitation program, they are not finished with recovery. In fact, recovery is a lifelong process that an addict must work at for the rest of their life. Sometimes, the path to lifelong recovery will be easy; other times, it will be difficult for individuals to withstand the temptation to relapse. Like anything in life, it's a journey that may feature varying terrain so lifelong support is essential.

Prior to leaving an addiction treatment program, the patient will meet with counselors to discuss a plan for aftercare. Many addiction rehab facilities offer follow-up programs to assist the patient as they return to normal life. These may include weekend stays back at the rehab center when the individual feels a touch-up stay is needed. Or a patient may live in a sober living facility for a while with other recovering addicts before returning home. While in a sober living facility, recovering addicts perform chores, work at an outside job and participate in group therapy sessions. This offers a supportive transitional time for recovering addicts before being thrown back into "normal" life.

Many patients maintain regular therapy sessions post rehab, and some submit to scheduled drug testing as a way to keep them accountable to their sobriety. Group therapy is a wonderful method for building a support system in your local area. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are well-known 12-step groups that many recovering addicts attend on a very regular basis. Both AA and NA have meetings all across the country at easily accessible times.

There are various offsprings of the AA model for a wide range of other addictions, such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Emotions Anonymous (EA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). There are also subsets of NA for specific drugs, like Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). Some addicts find the type of support they can get in very specific 12-step groups is more beneficial whereas other addicts gain the help they need from more general groups.

In these aftercare support groups, it's often said that participants get what they give, so they are encouraged to interact with other group members and share their experiences with the group. Once recovering addicts are more established in their sobriety, they may choose to mentor newly recovered addicts.

If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free national referral hotline at 1-888-992-3387 in order to find help. We can refer you to one of our affiliated facilities where you can find the help you need to achieve long-term recovery. Calls are always confidential, private and secure.

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Questions & Answers

6 thoughts on “The Addiction Rehabilitation Process”

  1. Penny O.

    I don’t want to take the time for a full rehabilitation program. Can’t I just go through detox?


      Detox is not a cure; it only treats the physical component of addiction. The real problem lies in the psychological component which is why you started abusing a substance in the first place. If an addict only goes through the detox process, it is very likely that they will return to drugs or alcohol once they leave the facility.

  2. Donald N.

    I have an addiction to oxycodone but I don’t want to use any medications during detox. Isn’t the whole point to be free of drugs?


      Yes, that is the ultimate goal of many recovery programs; however, it is not feasible for many addictions. For certain addictions, such as those to heroin and opiates, the body has become accustomed to the levels of the drug. If those levels drop suddenly, serious health implications exist and the patient could even die. Medications must sometimes be used to mitigate those risks. Many patients are able to reduce these medications over time and eventually be wholly free of drugs.

  3. Jessica W.

    I’m a high-level executive. I won’t be able to relate to others in group therapy at an addiction rehabilitation program.


      Many facilities offer programs catered specifically to executive or high-powered individuals. These programs are often more expensive but include luxury amenities, such as gourmet meals, spa services, private rooms and secluded locations. In group therapy sessions at luxury rehab facilities, participants often come from similar demographics so patients are able to relate to others there.

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