How does drug treatment work and what can you expect in rehabilitation

Beginning drug treatment can be a daunting process — it may be your first, critical step towards recovery.

Addiction is a chronic condition,” says Amy Shanahan, clinical administrator for Addiction Medicine Services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC.

That means drug treatment should include long-term management, much like other chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

To learn more about effective drug treatment options, visit our Addiction Medicine Services website.

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Treatment Options for Substance Abuse

The two most common forms of treatment for substance use problems are inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient rehabilitation.

Inpatient or residential rehabilitation is an intensive form of treatment, in which individuals stay overnight in a treatment center, where much of the time is spent stabilizing their symptoms. It is best to follow up in an outpatient rehabilitation program after completing an inpatient program.

Outpatient rehabilitation comes in several different forms:

  • Partial hospitalization involves receiving up to 20 hours of treatment on a weekly basis. This is an intensive form of therapy recommended for those who cannot attend an inpatient program and struggle with avoiding substance use.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment is a program in which people attend treatment for less than 10 hours a week. Treatment includes group and individual therapy.
  • General outpatient drug treatment may include treatment once a week on an individual or group basis. Many community programs offer this form of recovery treatment.

For some people, halfway houses or supportive living communities are an important part of recovery. These facilities help those who need additional support in their transition to independent living.

RELATED: Is Medication-Assisted Drug Treatment Right for You?

How Does Drug Treatment Work?

When you arrive at a drug treatment program, health care providers first perform an evaluation to determine the level of care needed.

“Your risk for withdrawal, other medical conditions, and emotional or cognitive issues are some factors that help providers determine the best level of care,” Amy says.

Some people may need medical support to stop using alcohol or other substances and would benefit from detoxification. Detox helps your body get rid of the drugs in your system and helps reduce discomfort and cravings.

Treatment is individualized and may include medication. Doctors may prescribe medication for either short- or long-term use. Some of these medications can reduce the symptoms of alcohol and other drug withdrawal, lessen cravings to use, and block the effects of substances.

Some forms of treatment used during both inpatient and outpatient drug rehabilitation include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Relapse prevention treatment
  • Motivational incentives

Treatment programs may invite families and loved ones to take part in your recovery process. These family sessions may involve talking about treatment and progress. Families also have an opportunity to learn about substance use disorders, treatment, and recovery.

Information regarding available community support programs is provided to assist family members in understanding your needs and taking care of their own.

How Long Does Drug Treatment Last?

The length of time someone stays in treatment can vary and depends on the severity and number of problems, concerns, and resources a person has.

Short-term, residential rehab can range between two to four weeks, while long-term rehab can last up to three months.

What Makes Treatment for Drug Addiction Effective?

There are many proven, effective treatments to address substance use problems and disorders, including motivational incentives, cognitive-behavioral, motivational enhancement, medication-assisted, and family behavior therapy.

Your participation in your treatment is an important factor in your treatment’s success. You can explore with your treatment team which therapy might work best for you.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.