Addiction Recovery - Drug and Alcohol

What Happens After You Take the First Step to Drug Rehab?

Knowing what to expect can make drug and alcohol addiction treatment easier to take. Here's what to expect at a drug rehab.

What Happens After You Take the First Step to Drug Rehab?

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

January 10, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that causes compulsive, drug-seeking behavior in the abuser and chemical changes to the brain. Addiction affects not only the body but also brain activities and behavior. The path to addiction is a voluntary choice of an individual, and even after attempts to stop the practice, the disease often relapses.

Drug-compulsive behavior causes damage to the body, mental health, and social life. This makes it crucial to treat drug addiction as it affects an individual, family members, and social circle. 

Scroll down to learn more about the treatments for drug addiction, the first step to take, and future steps to follow.

Is Drug Addiction Treatable?

Yes, drug addiction is treatable, and people can ultimately return to their daily lives. However, the treatment process requires self-discipline and routine follow-up practices. In addition, as addiction is a chronic disease, it is not simple for abusers to stop taking drugs and get cured.

Thus, the treatment process is divided into certain phases to ensure complete recovery and minimal relapse via repeated, long-term care.

  • The goal of an ideal drug treatment process should be:

  • To help an abuser stop taking drugs

  • To ensure an abuse stays drug-free

  • To empower an abuser to recover and take control over one’s life completely

  • To enhance an abuser’s productivity towards work, family, and society

Check Out This Incredible Success Story

What Is the First Step to Drug Addiction Treatment?

The very first step to the treatment of drug abuse is recognizing that substance abuse is a problem and acknowledging it. When one comes to terms with one’s inner self that drug addiction is disrupting their social life, work, family, recreation, or dreams, one begins to search for all the drug treatment options available.

What Are the Treatment Options Available for Drug Addiction?

Treatment options are devised based on one’s unique needs and several other factors like the type of drug being taken, age, the severity of usage, length of a treatment plan, drug addictive disorders, mental health illnesses, and the effects on the individual. Thus, the options are person-specific and what works for one person may not work for another.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has suggested certain treatment interventions that have proven successful in multiple clinical case studies. These are listed below.

  • Behavior-based Counseling

  • Medicated Treatment

  • Medical Applications and Devices in Treating Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Evaluation of Co-occurring Mental Health Problems and Treatment

  • Routine Follow-up for a Long Duration to Prevent Relapse

After an individual approaches a treatment center, professionals formulate a treatment plan or an addiction treatment program based on the above treatment options and the specific needs of the drug abuser. Following this, every drug addict passes through 5 phases of treatment – detox, behavior counseling, medication, intensive outpatient, and outpatient.

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What Is the First Phase of a Drug Addiction Treatment Program?

Drug detox is the first step in a drug addiction treatment program. During this stage, addictive substances are flushed out of an addict’s body. Addictive substances cause physical and mental chemical changes to the body. Upon prolonged drug abuse, the body of a drug addict adapts and becomes dependent on drug usage.

During detox, a substance abuser stops one’s intake of drugs and lets the body regain its internal balance, trying to cope without the substance. Unfortunately, this causes the body to show withdrawal symptoms, which depend on the severity of the drug usage period.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, as listed under:

  • Tremor

  • Seizure

  • Anxiety

  • Craving

  • Body Pain

  • Appetite Change

  • Vomiting and Nausea

  • Fatigue and Diarrhea

In about 80% of the treatment cases, treatment centers have used medications to reduce drug addiction withdrawal symptoms. This is per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Furthermore, in 2017, the NSS-2 Bridge, an electronic device, was developed and approved to help relieve the withdrawal symptoms of opioid drug addict patients.

What Are the Next Stages of Drug Rehab?

Every successful drug addiction treatment program follows 5 phases sequentially, starting with the detox phase. The following 4 stages of an addiction treatment program are discussed below.

#1: Residential Care and Behavior Counseling

Over the last decade, successful case studies on drug addiction treatment programs have revealed that behavior therapies like cognitive-behavior therapy, family therapy, couple therapy, contingency management, etc., have been identified as potential treatment interventions. These therapies help to alleviate several types of drug abuse and dependence.

This combined with residential therapy, where abusers are monitored in a close environment, helps them to recover from symptoms of detox, and control drug cravings, negative influences, and triggers on their path to recovery.

#2: Medication

Medications are essential to drug abuse treatment, mainly when applied to behavior counseling and therapies. In addition, proper FDA-approved devices and medications are used to help abusers cope and manage drug withdrawal symptoms.

Specific drugs require a specific type of medication in the proper dosage. The medication implemented also depends on the severity of the drug abuse and an individual’s withdrawal symptoms. Medications also help prevent relapse and treat an abuser’s co-occurring disorders, if any.

This helps an individual to continue with one’s treatment program and move forward to the next stages of treatment.

#3: Intensive Outpatient (IOP)

This is the fourth stage of recovery treatment. It is introduced after a patient completes partial hospitalization care and provides an easy transition to independent living. Even though this stage consists of individual and group therapies, it primarily focuses on developing the essential life skills of a drug abuser.

This stage also aids an abuser to maintain positive and healthy, long-term relationships; and empowers one towards independent living. One can spend flexible hours at a care center, and invest time on work, school, and other social life activities to maintain a healthy life.

#4: Outpatient

This is the last stage of a treatment program and is less intensive, mainly aimed at ensuring that an abuser does not go back to drug abuse and that drug relapse is avoided. In addition, this stage encourages drug abusers as individuals to chalk out their long-term goals and take control of their lives.

Treatment of Drug Addiction: Stages

To recover completely from drug addiction, willpower, time, support, and effort from one’s side are necessary. Furthermore, seeking advice from healthcare professionals and professional drug rehab centers is mandatory. They have trained staff to guide an abuser through all treatment stages, ensuring supportive follow-up and successful completion.

Drug addiction treatment has the following four stages.

Treatment Initiation: This is the stage when an individual accepts one’s problem of drug abuse and reaches out to professional rehab centers for help. A drug abuse counselor offers help in this stage to give up on ambivalent feelings, motivate and accept abstinence.

Practicing Sobriety (Early Phase): In this stage, professionals incorporate positive treatment practices into the routine. Drug withdrawal or detox starts at this stage, and for people addicted to drugs, this can be a challenging phase.

Drug addicts often face challenges in this stage as:

  • Craving for drugs

  • Withdrawal symptoms

  • Psychological dependency on drugs

  • Triggers that tempt to continue drugs

During this stage, the following strategies can help drug-addicted individuals to continue with the treatment and to step up to the subsequent treatment stage.

  • Participation in exercise, physical and fun activities

  • Finding alternative engagements instead of turning back to drugs

  • Participation in self-help groups for support

  • Identification of an abuser’s triggers (events, things, people, places, etc.)

Maintenance of Sobriety (Abstinence): This stage follows the previous stage. After around three months of practicing abstinence, a drug victim enters into the third stage of recovery, i.e., maintaining one’s abstinence.

Often in rehab centers, patients are shifted to the outpatient recovery phase with counseling follow-ups. The main goal of a drug addict now is to prevent drug relapse. Furthermore, as one enters this stage, one gains knowledge on how to live a sober life and learns coping skills, namely,

  • Avoiding the temptation of substituting one addiction with another

  • Building healthy relations

  • Developing a drug-free lifestyle

  • Management of anger

  • Learning to manage one’s finances

  • Reaping the fruits of balanced nutrition and exercise

  • Learning employability skills

Recovery: Living without drugs for a continuous period helps one learn all skills and tools to live a satisfying and healthy life. This is the final stage in treating drug abuse, and some strategies that one can adopt at this stage are:

  • Creating long-term goals and dreams in life

  • Establishing a disciplined daily schedule

  • Developing a healthy social circle of friends and family who are sober and supportive

  • Routine participation in experiential therapy, recreational sports and activities like exercise, swimming, surfing, painting, trekking, dancing etc.

  • Seeking ways towards self-fulfillment and happiness (social activist, philanthropist, animal volunteer, relief volunteer, etc.)

A long-term follow-up of these 4 stages in drug addiction treatment ensures that an abuser does not relapse but instead progresses to a fulfilling, healthy life.

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Principles of Effective Drug Addiction Treatment

Successful addiction treatment depends on whether the treatment program has certain fundamental principles integrated into the interventions. These principles were devised by scientists during the 1970s and followed since then.

Thus, one should be able to identify the right treatment program for a loved one, by checking if the underlying principles form the program's base.

  • Medically assisted withdrawal/detox is the first stage of a treatment program

  • Drug addiction is no doubt a complicated disease, which affects the behavior and brain functions of an individual, but it is a treatable one No single form of treatment suits everyone. Treatment programs should be developed based on the unique needs of a patient

  • People (drug abusers) should always have quick accessibility to treatment facilities

  • An effective treatment program is one that addresses every need of a patient and not simply the drug usage

  • Staying in drug addiction treatment for a long duration is critical

  • The most commonly used treatments for drug abuse management are counseling and behavior therapies

  • Medications, especially when used in combination with behavioral therapies, form an important part of addiction treatment

  • Every treatment plan should be patient-centric, should be reviewed often, and altered to fit the unique and changing needs of the patient

  • An efficient treatment program should address the possibilities of mental disorders

  • Treatments do not need to be voluntary in order to be effective

  • There should be continuous monitoring of drug usage during treatment

  • An effective treatment program should always test a patient for infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, etc., and teach them the measures that they can apply for reducing the risks of illnesses

This provides a comprehensive idea of the first step that a drug abuser needs to take toward the treatment of drug addiction and the stages that one needs to follow up on in the near future. Apart from this, the phases of a successful addiction treatment program, and the principles on which a unique treatment plan should be developed, have been made clear.

Ultimately, drug rehab saves lives. Avoiding rehab can result in job loss, losing family bonds, overdose, and even jail time.

Have a Partner During Every Step of Drug Rehab With The Edge Treatment Center

At The Edge Treatment Center, we believe in the power of good relationships and have many resources for family members and friends. We offer group therapy, education, and consistent contact throughout treatment. Substance use disorder affects everyone close to the client, and it often causes a strain on relationships.

If you or a loved one is struggling, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is treatment different for criminal justice populations?

The treatment principles for treating criminal justice populations are the same as the general population. However, they do not have access to certain services at times.

2. What is SAMHSA?

The agency Substance-Abuse-and-Mental-Health-Services-Administration (SAMHSA), functions to improve public health and behavioral health. The agency is focused on the improvement of the lives of civilians who are suffering from substance abuse disorders, mental health, etc., and their families.

3. How many people get treatment for drug addiction?

As per the data from SAMHSA's annual national survey,, around 8.5% of the US populace needed drug addiction treatment in 2014. They belonged to the age group of 12 years and older.

4. What are the challenges of ‘re-entry’?

For drug abusers, the primary challenges are to recognize the urges and triggers, to avoid them, and to cope with them in case they face such situations in inpatient treatment facilities or going forward in life.

5. What is meant by ‘therapeutic communities’ in addiction treatment programs?

A therapeutic community is a type of residential treatment program, which is structured to monitor patient health in a residential setting closely. The time period of treatment may range from 6 months to 12 months, and the entire community consisting of treatment professionals, staff, and other patients supports the abuser towards recovery.

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