Seeking help for an addiction is one of the most courageous things you can do.

Millions of Americans suffer every year, and only a small portion of them seek help. Sometimes people don’t seek help because they’re overwhelmed by the idea. Because of this, we’ve put together a quick guide with everything you need to know about rehab for a drug addiction or alcohol addiction.

With this information, you’ll have a better sense of what to expect from the rehab process.


The Addiction Rehab Process

Medical Detox

Medical detox is the first step in your treatment. You’ll detox from the drugs or alcohol with a team of medical professionals watching over you. This is the safest and most painless way to detox, as your medical team can give you medications to ease withdrawal pains. Medical detox is particularly important because withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening with drug addiction and alcohol addiction.

Some medications that may be prescribed are:

  • Opioid agonists – Medications that bind to your brain’s opioid receptors to help mimic the drug’s effect and ease withdrawal symptoms
  • Non-opioid agonists – Medications that stimulate the brain without binding to the opioid receptors
  • Opioid antagonists – Medications that block opioid receptors to prevent you from getting high even if drugs are taken
  • Partial agonists – Opioids in forms that produce mild effects and don’t have withdrawal symptoms, used to ease you off more intense opioids

Your medical team will determine the best medications to make your withdrawal as painless and successful as possible. Detox usually lasts about a week, with 10 days being the maximum.


Inpatient Rehab

It’s highly recommended that you go to inpatient rehab after detox. Inpatient rehab provides a stable environment away from potential triggers. You have the chance to learn coping skills and become educated about addiction in a safe space.

The length of time for an inpatient rehab stay varies widely depending on the program. Some residential programs involve living on campus for 3 to 6 months, or sometimes even longer. Shorter term programs may last a few weeks.

In inpatient rehab, you’ll have access to an unbelievable amount of resources:

  • One-on-one counseling
  • Consultations with a psychiatrist and doctors
  • Medication adjustments
  • Group support
  • Family counseling
  • Creative therapies like art, music, and writing
  • 12-step meetings
  • Nature connections
  • Classes about addiction and mental illness

The rehab process is focused intensely on therapy and self-care. The doors won’t lock; you’re free to leave at any point if you so choose. But you won’t find any better environment for learning to love and care for yourself again.


Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient treatment centers are the next step after inpatient rehab. After you leave inpatient rehab, you’ll be going back to your normal life. All the stresses and potential triggers will be there. You may have conflict with family members and friends. You may struggle to get used to your workplace again.

Relapse is common in the first few weeks after you leave inpatient rehab. It’s extremely important to follow up with outpatient treatment centers.

Some people seek outpatient rehab immediately after medical detox, rather than going to inpatient rehab. While inpatient rehab is recommended, there are a number of reasons someone may be unable to do it. They might not be able to afford it, or they may not be able to afford time off work, or they may not have accessible inpatient centers they can travel to.

Whatever the case, it’s not only okay to go to outpatient treatment — it’s vital.

There are two main types of outpatient program: an intensive outpatient program (IOP) and non-intensive program. With an IOP, you’ll be committing to several hours a day, at least 5 days a week. These programs have a similar intensity to inpatient rehab, but you sleep at home.

Non-intensive programs tend to involve a variety of treatment resources. These might include:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental illness by a psychiatrist
  • Sessions with a trained counselor at least once a week
  • 12 step meetings
  • Group therapy programs
  • Family counseling programs


Types of Addiction Treatment

Chemical Dependency Treatment

When you have a chemical dependency, you have a mental and physical need to abuse drugs or alcohol, regardless of the negative effects on your life. Chemical dependency treatment is the same as addiction treatment. You go through the same steps of seeking medical and psychological help.


Mental Health Treatment

Addiction is a mental illness as much as a physical one. In addition, addiction is often a way of self-medicating other psychological issues. You may be diagnosed with any number of mental illnesses. Common ones include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Any other mood disorders
  • Any other trauma-related disorders

When you identify the underlying cause of your self medication, you can learn to treat it with actual medication and mental help.


You’ll receive medication during your medical detox. You may also receive medication for psychological issues. In addition, your doctor might prescribe a maintenance medication like Suboxone to help deal with addiction cravings in the long term.


Peer Support

Peer support groups are popular because they work. When you lean on other people and are accountable to them, you’re less likely to relapse. Types of peer support include:

  • Group counseling
  • Family support groups
  • 12-step meetings
  • Secular group meetings


What to Expect When Entering Rehab

Entering rehab doesn’t have to be scary. Before you go, you’ll likely talk to a counselor at the center who will tell you everything you need to know. In general, you can expect these things.

What to Pack

Most addiction rehab centers will give you a packing list. Follow it exactly — items not on the list won’t be allowed.


Intake Procedures

For medical detox, you’ll meet with your medical team. You’ll go through the same basic physical procedures at a routine doctor’s visit. You’ll also be asked a number of questions about your alcohol or drug abuse, so your doctor can tailor your plan to suit your needs.

The process is very similar when you transfer to inpatient rehab. You’ll meet with an intake counselor who will explain the treatment center’s procedures. You can also expect both you and your belongings to be searched as a safety precaution.



Visitation policies will vary depending on the center. You usually won’t be permitted visitors for the first few days, but after that, family members and friends will be welcome during certain hours. In addition, your family members may be asked to participate in family counseling.

Program Length

The program length will also vary. A three-month rehab stay is average. However, some people end up staying longer. Conversely, some people participate in 30 day programs. The best program for you depends on your unique circumstances.


Final Thoughts

No matter what your situation, there are avenues available to get drug abuse treatment. There are people who care about you and want you to get better. Seeking help to fight your addiction is one of the bravest things you can do. With a good support system and mental health treatment behind you, you’ll be able to regain control of your life, move forward, and remember true happiness.