Substance abusers who are prepared to turn their lives around have a number of drug and alcohol recovery programs to choose from—including inpatient programs, other residential programs, outpatient recovery programs, and support groups.
There is a lot of information on the topic of addiction recovery, and sometimes it can be overwhelming to try to weed through all the information. Read on to learn some of the most key points about what the recovery process entails and what you can expect as you move forward in your recovery.
The Addiction Recovery Process at a Glance
Many start their addiction recovery process with a period of detoxification (detox), where the body rids itself of the toxic influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Detox allows the body to restore itself to a stable starting point from which substance abuse treatment efforts may more effectively begin. While detox programs vary, medical detox programs may utilize certain medications to manage withdrawal, when applicable, and otherwise facilitate this early recovery step.1
During addiction recovery, individuals in treatment may also undergo various types of therapy and participate in support groups as they work to address and heal the attitudes, thoughts, emotions and behaviors that led to substance abuse in the first place. Ongoing participation in therapy and support groups may continue long after the initial period of treatment as they may continue to provide lasting recovery benefit for many individuals.
Inpatient Recovery Programs
Inpatient or residential recovery programs provide an intensive, immersive treatment experience for those seeking to recover from addiction. The nature of an inpatient setting allows treatment team member personnel to provide round-the-clock supervision of program residents.
Individuals at hospital-based facilities stay overnight and have access to physicians and nurses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Other residential facilities situated outside of a hospital generally will provide some access to healthcare professionals, when it is needed.
The main goal of inpatient programs is to provide a safe, supportive environment for patients, and to give them the tools they need to achieve long-term abstinence. The length of stay in the recovery program is determined by the nature and severity of the substance addiction.
Luxury rehabilitation is a type of residential treatment that provides the utmost level of addiction recovery care—often in a desirable setting or surroundings, and with access to a number of luxury amenities.
As part of a solid aftercare regimen, after leaving an inpatient center, patients often regularly attend group meetings. Support groups help individuals maintain sobriety by providing peer and mentor relationships as well as a variety of "tools" that help individuals maintain abstinence.
What to Expect
While inpatient recovery programs vary depending on the physical and psychological needs of the patients, certain components remain constant. These components may include:1
- Medical supervision—particularly when severe withdrawal is a risk.
- A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation.
- Prescription and management of treatment medications.
- Dual diagnosis care—where health professionals simultaneously care for any coexisting medical or mental health conditions.
- Individual, group and family therapy.
- 12-step support groups.
- Relapse prevention education.
- Many inpatient and residential programs host aftercare programs and/or will help patients plan an aftercare regimen to facilitate continued recovery services even after rehab completion.
Outpatient Recovery Programs
For some individuals whose circumstances or conditions don't require a full-time, residential recovery process, outpatient recovery may be a viable recovery option. In an outpatient recovery program, individuals undergo addiction rehabilitation while living at their own homes. They are able to schedule regular check-ins at a clinic or treatment center for medication and counseling on a regular basis.
While the general addiction therapy methods are essentially the same at both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs, outpatient treatment is not for everyone. Many individuals require more intensive inpatient recovery treatment—including long-term substance abusers and those with coexisting medical or mental health conditions.
In order to effectively recover from an addiction, professional help in the field of substance abuse is only part of the equation. Often times, recovering individuals additionally need the support of others who are also recovering from addiction. This is where support groups can provide a critical element needed to bring success to an individual's recovery process.
Recovery support groups may be divided into two main categories: 12-step support groups and non-12-step support groups. In either case, support groups are most effective when used as either supplemental or ongoing support—either alongside, or after completion of—additional recovery methods such as formal rehabilitation programs.
What to Expect
Support groups differ from each other, depending on the treatment methods used and whether the group is a 12-step or a non-12-step group. However, most support groups are alike in that they consist of a small group of members who want to recover from addiction. Meetings are frequently member-guided but may be led by counselors or therapists.
12-Step Support Groups
Twelve-step programs are some of the most popular drug and alcohol recovery programs and work very well for certain individuals. They often emphasize spiritual reliance on a higher power and complement ongoing behavioral therapeutic efforts as the main mode of treatment that occurs while people work the 12 steps.
Twelve-step support groups share a few distinct features—many of which derive from a book written for Alcoholics Anonymous that was originally published in 1939. These groups require individuals to admit their need for help for their substance abuse and renounce their lifestyle of addiction.
There are a variety of 12-step support groups, depending on the particular addiction with which one is struggling. During the meeting, members often read and discuss literature on the 12 steps of recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous support groups, for example, read together from the 12 steps and 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
A couple of the more well-known and heavily attended 12-step groups include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help recovery organization that is made up of support groups for people who are committed to beating alcoholism. AA first introduced, and still uses, the 12 steps of recovery, which have been in use in the United States and Canada for the last 60 years. This alcohol recovery program encourages its members to reach out to a higher power to help people overcome their addictions. With more than 56,500 AA support groups and alcohol addiction recovery programs throughout the United States, most communities have at least one AA support group. Support group meetings may be open or closed. Open meetings allow the attendance of both the substance abuser and his or her family members. Closed meetings only allow the attendance of the substance abuser. Members are expected to attend meetings regularly and encouraged to seek out a sponsor who has managed to successfully maintain sobriety.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Narcotics Anonymous is an organization that adapted the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous. Just like AA, NA emphasizes a spiritual connection to a higher power. The program is targeted towards men and women for whom drugs have become a major problem. These people come together regularly in support group meetings and help one another to maintain abstinence as they recover from their addictions.
Other 12-step support groups also include Cocaine Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous.
Non-12-step support groups provide a secular alternative to the 12-step programs and may be more comfortable for those not wanting to place such an emphasis on a higher power for recovery. Non-12-step groups sometimes involve fewer group sharing scenarios—which can provide some relief for those individuals who aren't as comfortable sharing sensitive personal information in group settings. Below are a few examples of non-12-step programs:
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS). SOS is presented as a secular alternative to the more spiritual 12-step addiction recovery programs (such as AA and NA) that encourage people to reach out to a higher power. The program targets substance abusers who would like to separate sobriety from spirituality and religion. The organization credits the individual for maintaining sobriety as opposed to crediting a higher power. SOS is comprised of a network of autonomous local groups that help individuals achieve and maintain sobriety. The organization has meetings in many cities across the United States. In SOS, sobriety is presented as the number one priority for individuals suffering from alcoholism or addiction. It emphasizes the use of clear communication and scientific knowledge in choosing the most rational approach to living a sober and rewarding life.
- Rational Recovery (RR). This secular, non-12-step recovery program mainly utilizes Addictive Voice Recognition Techniques. The techniques enable individuals to identify and manage the "Addictive Voice"—which is defined as any thought or feeling that supports the continued use of drugs and alcohol. The program encourages individuals to make a commitment to abstinence. Unlike other addiction recovery programs, attendance of RR support groups is not considered necessary once an individual has learned the techniques.
- Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery). SMART Recovery is a network of support groups that advocate the use of scientific research in addiction recovery. SMART Recovery supports the use of prescription medications and behavioral therapies in the treatment of substance abuse. Since scientific knowledge is constantly evolving, the SMART Recovery program is also constantly evolving. The organization has face-to-face meetings across the United States and daily online meetings.
Support Groups for the Families of Alcohol and Substance Abusers
When an individual has been struggling through an addiction, it is usually not simply the substance abuser who needs support. Family members' lives are often closely connected with, and deeply affected by, the loved one who has been abusing a substance. Thankfully, there are also support groups to help carry these loved ones through the difficult times and questions that may arise in these circumstances.
A few of these family support groups include:
- Al-Anon and Alateen. Al-Anon is an organization comprised of support groups targeted towards friends and family of individuals suffering from alcoholism. In these groups, family members and friends are able to share their personal experiences, discuss difficulties and find effective ways to deal with problems—regardless of whether the alcohol abusing individual in their lives have completed an addiction recovery program. Alateen is a fellowship that is specifically targeted towards younger Al-Anon members, particularly teenagers.
- Nar-Anon. Nar-Anon, like Al-Anon, is a fellowship for friends and family members of those struggling with drug addiction. Nar-Anon takes the shape of a 12-step program and helps relatives and friends better deal with the effects of living with an addicted family member.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.