Alcohol and Drug Abuse Recovery Programs and Options

Last updated on November 12th, 2019

Addiction treatment programs provide some of the best chances for lasting recovery by giving people the physical and psychological support they need to manage substance use and withdrawal and, in the longer term, effectively treat their substance use disorder (SUD).

Those ready to turn their lives around have a number of drug and alcohol recovery options and a variety of treatment settings to choose from—including inpatient, residential, outpatient, as well as recovery fellowships and support group meetings.

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.1 Detox allows the body to restore itself to a stable starting point from which substance use treatment efforts may more effectively begin. While precise detox protocols are likely to vary, medical detox programs may utilize certain medications to manage withdrawal symptoms, when applicable, and otherwise facilitate this early recovery step.2,3

Detox allows the body to restore itself to a stable starting point from which substance use treatment efforts may more effectively begin.

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 might otherwise support continued, problematic substance use.3 Ongoing participation in therapy and support groups may continue long after the initial period of treatment as they may continue to provide lasting recovery benefits for many individuals.

Inpatient Recovery Programs

Inpatient or residential recovery programs are able to offer a relatively 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.1,2

Individuals at hospital-based facilities stay overnight and have access to physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.2 Other residential facilities situated outside of a hospital should be able to arrange for quick access to medical services, when needed, should a healthcare professional not be on-site at the time.

Inpatient or residential recovery programs are able to offer a relatively intensive, immersive treatment experience for those seeking to recover from addiction.

Inpatient programs strive to provide a safe, supportive environment for patients while giving them the tools they need to achieve long-term abstinence. The length of stay in any inpatient or residential recovery program will be influenced by the nature and severity of the SUD.

Luxury rehabilitation is a type of residential treatment that provides addiction recovery care against a backdrop of desirable settings or surroundings and with access to a number of luxury amenities.

What to Expect From Inpatient Recovery Programs

Inpatient or residential recovery programs are able to offer a relatively intensive, immersive treatment experience for those seeking to recover from addiction.

Inpatient recovery programs vary and though not every program will offer all elements, here are some of the more commonly encountered treatment elements:1,2

  • Medical supervision—particularly when severe withdrawal is a risk.
  • Prescription and management of treatment medications.
  • A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation.
  • Dual diagnosis care—where health professionals simultaneously care for any coexisting medical or mental health conditions.
  • Individual, group, and family therapy.
  • Support group meeting attendance.
  • 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. 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.3,4

What to Expect From Inpatient Recovery Programs

Inpatient recovery programs vary and though not every program will offer all elements, here are some of the more commonly encountered treatment elements:1,2

  • Medical supervision—particularly when severe withdrawal is a risk.
  • Prescription and management of treatment medications.
  • A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation.
  • Dual diagnosis care—where health professionals simultaneously care for any coexisting medical or mental health conditions.
  • Individual, group, and family therapy.
  • Support group meeting attendance.
  • 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. 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.3,4

Outpatient Recovery Programs

For some individuals whose circumstances or conditions don’t require a full-time, residential recovery process, outpatient treatment may be a viable rehabilitation option. In an outpatient recovery program, individuals undergo addiction rehabilitation while living at their own homes. It can cost less than inpatient treatment and is usually better for people who have an extensive support system.1 Outpatient treatment varies in types of services available.While outpatient programs do not involve living on the premises of a facility, certain outpatient models, including intensive day treatment, can be comparable to residential programs in services and effectiveness, depending on the individual patient’s characteristics and needs.1

In many outpatient programs, group counseling may be a major component.

In many outpatient programs, group counseling may be a major component.1 Outpatient behavioral treatment may include a variety of programs for patients who meet with a behavioral health counselor regularly, including individual and group counseling.2 The types of behavioral therapy may include the following:2

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs.
  • Multidimensional family therapy—developed for adolescents with drug use problems as well as their families.
  • Motivational interviewing, which makes the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment.
  • Motivational incentives (contingency management), which uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs.

Treatment may initially be intensive and then, after completing intensive treatment, the patient may move to regular outpatient treatment, where the program involves less sessions for a shorter amount of time each week.2

While outpatient programs do not involve living on the premises of a facility, certain outpatient models, including intensive day treatment, can be comparable to residential programs in services and effectiveness, depending on the individual patient’s characteristics and needs.

While certain therapeutic approaches will be similarly utilized in both inpatient and outpatient recovery settings, outpatient treatment is not always right for everyone. Many individuals require more intensive inpatient recovery treatment—including long-term substance users with significant physical dependence and withdrawal risks, as well as those with coexisting medical or mental health conditions.

Support Groups

Though important, professional treatment interventions for substance use disorders is only part of the equation when it comes to long-term recovery. In many cases, people in recovery benefit greatly from the support and guidance 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.

Many recovery support groups fall into two broad categories: 12-step support groups and non-12-step support groups.4 In either case, support groups can be very effective when used as supplemental or ongoing supporteither alongside, or after completion of—other recovery methods such as formal rehabilitation programs.

Support groups may 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, different support group meeting environments may feel somewhat similar in that they consist of a relatively small grouping of participants sharing recovery wisdom with their peers. Meetings are frequently member-guided but may be led by counselors or therapists.

12-step Support Groups

The best rehab centers place resources and attention on each patient’s aftercare plan.

Twelve-step programs are a popular means of sober support and, with their near ubiquity, benefit many individuals. 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.

 Twelve-step programs are some of the most popular drug and alcohol recovery programs and work very well for certain individuals.

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:5,6

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help recovery organization for people who are committed to sobriety from alcohol. AA first introduced, and still uses, the 12 steps of recovery. This alcohol recovery program is based on a group of spiritual principles that are believed to rid the need to drink and help the user find contentment.5 Members are expected to attend meetings regularly and encouraged to seek out a sponsor who has successfully maintained sobriety.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Narcotics Anonymous is an organization that adapted the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous. 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.6

Other 12-step support groups also include Cocaine Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous.

Non-12-step Support Groups

For some people, non-12-step support groups offer a more secular alternative to the 12-step programs. Though 12-step participants are free to adapt what they conceive as their higher power, some are more comfortable not placing emphasis on surrendering to outside forces for recovery at all. 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. SOS is comprised of a network of autonomous local groups that help individuals achieve and maintain sobriety. In SOS, sobriety is presented as the number one priority for individuals suffering from alcoholism or addiction.
  • Rational Recovery (RR). This secular 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.
  • SMART Recovery (Self Management and Recovery Training). SMART Recovery is a network of support groups that use the latest scientific research to shape their tools for addiction recovery and involves participation in a community which includes science-based support groups. SMART Recovery supports the use of prescription medications and behavioral therapies in the treatment of substance use.

Support Groups for the Families of Alcohol and Substance Users

Family members’ lives are often closely connected with, and deeply affected by, the loved one who has been abusing a substance.

In many instances, individuals struggling with their addictions have families that would additionally benefit from their own form of 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.

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, people affected by someone else’s drinking are able to share their personal experiences, discuss difficulties, and find effective ways to deal with problems—regardless of whether that friend or family member has 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 is a 12-step program that helps relatives and friends better deal with the effects of living with an addicted family member.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Types of Treatment Programs.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition):Principles of Effective Treatment.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery.
  5. Alcoholics Anonymous. (n.d.). What Is A.A.?
  6. Narcotics Anonymous. (n.d.). About Us.
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