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Drug Rehabilitation: A Guide to Beating Drugs

Drug use may initially seem harmless and casual, but it often escalates into dependency before you even realise it. How can you turn your life around when drug addiction turns life into a series of downward spirals and it becomes clear that you’re no longer in control?

Maybe you’ve found yourself burning bridges with your friends and family. Perhaps you had a serious health scare. Or maybe you’ve run into legal or financial trouble as a result of your drug use. Whatever the reason, the good news is that you’re here – and recognising the problem is half the battle. 

Addiction makes us feel isolated and hopeless. But the truth is, you’re not alone. With the right resources and support, you can not only get well, but create a life of meaning and value. 

If you’re worried about your loved one’s drug use, we understand how stressful it is to be in your situation, and we know it’s been a long road. But you don’t have to do this on your own – there are plenty of ways to find help.

With so many options available, finding the right drug rehab can be intimidating. We’re here to demystify the process, so you can feel confident about taking the next step. 

In This Article

Getting help for drug addiction is crucial, and choosing the right rehab is an important decision. In this guide, we’ll:  

Drug Rehab: Treatment Options

Private vs Free

Drug rehabilitation in the UK is available at the following price points. 

NHS 

Public NHS rehab services are free. Your GP or social worker can refer you to a local drug and alcohol team, who will provide an assessment and connect you to the appropriate services. This usually entails outpatient treatment, with regular appointments at a local clinic. While NHS’s no-cost model is a lifeline for those who can’t afford inpatient treatment, waiting lists may be problematic for those with urgent concerns. 

Charity 

Some drug rehabs operate as charities. These non-profit organisations may be donation-based, sponsored by religious organisations or funded by social businesses, which may also employ programme participants. These may follow faith-based models or have programming geared towards certain demographics. 

Private

Private rehab clinics may or may not take insurance, and it’s sometimes possible to secure NHS funding for treatment. The latter is less common, however, and requires patience and persistence. A private rehab clinic often offer higher-quality, more personalised care, but costs are considerable and may not be accessible to everyone. 

Inpatient vs Outpatient Drug Rehab

Residential Rehab

In residential (or inpatient) rehab clinics, patients live onsite at a treatment centre while attending a full schedule of therapeutic activities. This includes 24/7 access to care, and is the most comprehensive option for drug addiction treatment.   

Outpatient Rehab 

In outpatient rehab, patients continue to live at home while attending therapy sessions several times a week at a local clinic. This provides an intensive level of care, but allows you to maintain your daily responsibilities and stay in touch with loved ones. 

Addictions Counselling 

Some mental health therapists specialise in substance abuse treatment, or offer addictions counselling as part of their private practice. This usually centres on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other talk therapies. 

Support Groups 

12-Step groups like NA are free and available worldwide. Those who prefer non-12-Step approaches can also find recovery support groups based on various activities or therapeutic means. Some people attend support groups as a primary means of rehabilitation; others do so to complement their rehab programme or maintain sobriety.  

DIY Sobriety and Self-help

Some people choose to quit using drugs on their own, using resources like literature, videos, podcasts, online courses and other self-care techniques. It should be noted, however, that some substance addictions cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms during detox, and require medical supervision. The overwhelming nature of drug addiction makes this route significantly more challenging than any of the treatment options mentioned above. Getting sober in a context of professional care and community support is far more likely to result in a successful outcome.

Types of Drug Rehabilitation 

Residential Drug Rehab

What is residential drug rehab?

In residential (or inpatient) rehab clinics you’ll live onsite at a treatment facility, usually for a minimum of four weeks, during which you’ll focus entirely on recovery. Residential rehab is very structured and offers the highest available level of professional support.

Who is residential drug rehabilitation for? 

Residential rehab is best for people who need detox, have severe addictions, or prefer to be removed from their using environment. It may be more appropriate for those who can afford both treatment costs and time off work – though costs may be offset by the financial losses of active drug addiction. 

When to go to residential drug rehab:  

Inpatient treatment is useful for those who are having difficulty carrying out the tasks of day-to-day life and need a retreat from their current environment. 

How effective is residential drug rehab? 

Due to the immersive setting, fullness of daily programming and unavailability of substances, residential rehab shows the best overall outcomes of any drug addiction treatment option.

Outpatient Drug Rehab

What is outpatient drug rehabilitation?

In outpatient rehab, you’ll live at home and commute to treatment a local clinic. Individual and group therapy sessions are scheduled according to your availability, usually for a total of about 10 hours per week. Outpatient rehab is less intensive, and more affordable, than inpatient care. 

Who is outpatient drug rehab for? 

Because you’ll still be exposed to triggers and substance availability, this option requires more motivation. Outpatient rehab is appropriate for high-functioning addicts who are able to manage the cravings and stressors they’ll encounter during treatment. 

When should you go to outpatient drug rehab?  

Some people can enter treatment at the outpatient level – most centres offer an assessment that can help you determine this. Others attend outpatient treatment as a follow-up to residential rehab. This may be a good alternative for those who are unable to put life on hold to attend inpatient treatment.

How effective is outpatient drug rehab? 

How successful you are in outpatient rehab depends on your commitment to consistently attending sessions, focusing on therapeutic work, and planning for long-term recovery. 

Therapy (Private Practice)

What is private drug therapy:

Talk therapy as a means of drug addiction treatment can be delivered by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or counsellors. These addiction treatment professionals can help you identify core issues, change behaviours, build healthy coping skills, and address underlying mental health concerns. 

Who is private drug therapy for? 

Talk therapy is a core component of drug addiction treatment, whether it takes place in a residential rehab setting or independently. Family members, partners, and loved ones of addicts can also join in therapy. 

When to go to private drug therapy:  

When you decide to get sober, you may turn to a therapist who can then refer you to additional resources. Many people in recovery continue private therapy sessions as a way to talk through problems, continue personal development, and maintain sobriety.  

How effective is private drug therapy? 

Psychotherapy is proven effective for treating various mental health issues. The success of talk therapy for recovery from drug addiction depends largely on patient-therapist rapport. It’s important to find a therapist you’re comfortable with, and whose values are aligned with yours.  

Charity or Non-profit Addiction Treatment

What is non-profit addiction treatment?

Some organisations operate treatment facilities or help arrange funding for those who can’t afford rehab. Funding for these centres may come from donations, grants or sponsorship by faith-based organisations. 

Who is non-profit addiction treatment for? 

Eligibility for these programs is determined by need, and may entail a process to find and be admitted to a program. As charity centres are fewer in number and have limited funding, they may have a wait list. Since drug addiction issues are often urgent, it’s helpful if loved ones can help you arrange treatment. 

When to go to non-profit addiction treatment?:  

It’s best to seek treatment as early as possible to avoid further consequences of active drug addiction. In this case, it’s helpful to be extra proactive as it may take longer than usual to identify and access a fitting program. 

How effective is charity addiction treatment? 

As with other rehab options, your success depends on the quality and intensiveness of the program, whether or not you complete treatment, and your dedication to long-term recovery. 

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

What is NA:

In this 12-Step group, members attend meetings in which they share their experiences, discuss 12-Step literature, or listen to a speaker. NA’s primary goal is freedom from active addiction. Each meeting is autonomous, but follows a similar structure. 

Who is NA for? 

NA is available to anyone struggling with drug addiction. It’s recommended that you try several different meetings to find a group you feel comfortable in, as atmosphere and dynamics vary from group to group. Most NA members prefer certain meetings.  

When to go to NA?  

Some people use 12-Step groups like NA as their sole recovery program. Support groups can also be used indefinitely to help maintain sobriety.  

How effective is NA? 

Due to its anonymous format, there’s no definitive evidence on the effectiveness of NA. But it is widely attended by people around the world who credit it with saving their life.

Support Groups for Loved Ones

Who are drug support groups for? 

When you’re in any type of relationship with an addicted person, your life is impacted, too. Support groups are available specifically for loved ones of those in recovery. 

What they are:

  • Nar-Anon is a support group for partners and family members of those in Narcotics Anonymous. 
  • FamAnon is a support group for loved ones of those participating in any 12-Step programme. 
  • Al-Anon is a support group for loved ones of AA members.
  • CoDA or Co-dependents Anonymous, is for people struggling with co-dependency, a common theme in relationships involving drug addiction.

How to choose a drug support group:

If your loved one is struggling and isn’t in a 12-Step treatment programme, you may attend the group that corresponds to their primary issue. Most importantly, go where you feel most comfortable – you’ll likely need to attend several meetings before you find the group that best suits you. 

What Should You Look for in a Drug Rehab Clinic?

How can you tell if a drug rehab clinic is good or bad? 

Each person in recovery has a different background, personality, set of circumstances, and specific recovery needs. Look for a treatment programme that you feel is compatible with your personal values and recovery goals.

Getting a recommendation for a drug rehab clinic

Many people receive referrals from their GP or primary therapist. You might wish to seek recommendations from friends or family members who have been to rehab. If you’re researching online, you can also check reviews and testimonials from previous clients. 

Beware of unethical referrals to drug rehabs

Some drug rehabs who are motivated by profits pay doctors, therapists and other referrers a substantial commission, based on a percentage of your treatment cost. In some cases, seemingly independent addiction websites that appear in internet search results are in fact owned by private rehabs. To protect yourself from this practice of “patient brokering,” 

  • Be cautious of free hotlines and helplines.
  • Ask referrers if they receive any benefits in exchange for recommending you. 
  • When considering a rehab, ask their stance on referral fees. 
  • Request an itemised quote, and feel free to question any costs that are unclear.

Regulator reports 

In the UK, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates drug rehab treatment centres in England and Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) regulates drug rehabilitation treatment clinics in Scotland.. The CQC conducts inspections and publishes their resulting reports. They also offer resources to help you choose a care provider – all of which is available on their website. 

Questions to consider when deciding on a drug rehab clinic

When evaluating a drug rehab, you may want to ask the following: 

  • Do they have doctors, nurses and counsellors on staff with experience in your specific drug addiction? 
  • How do they handle detox? 
  • What is their medication policy?
  • Can they treat co-occurring disorders?
  • How many one-to-one therapy sessions will you receive per week? 
  • Does the program include family or couples therapy? 
  • What holistic or complementary therapies do they offer?
  • Which extracurricular activities or outings are available? 
  • What is their aftercare programme like?
  • How much does the treatment programme cost, and do they accept insurance or provide financing options? 

What Happens in Drug Rehab

How to Get Into Drug Rehabilitation

The journey to drug rehab can begin by talking to your GP or another drug addiction specialist, who can then refer you to a drug treatment facility. You can also contact a rehab directly: their admissions team will answer your questions and guide you through the admissions process. They can also help you sort out logistics such as arranging transportation.

Denial is an inherent part of drug addiction, and it’s sometimes difficult to convince our loved ones that they need help. If this is the case for you, you may want to look into hiring an interventionist who can help motivate them to enrol in drug treatment. Waiting until your loved one comes to terms with their addiction on their own may mean missing opportunities to intervene when doing so is easier and more effective. 

Detox

For those with severe or chemically dependent addictions, detoxification is the first step to preparing for treatment.

Therapy

Drug addiction treatment professionals use a selection of therapies, in both individual and group settings, to aid rehabilitation. 

Recovery

Sustainable sobriety is achieved via a long-term commitment to recovery. 

Drug Detox

Some drugs (such as marijuana and cocaine) are primarily psychologically, not physically, addictive. While their withdrawal symptoms may be uncomfortable, they’re not necessarily dangerous. However, the discomfort of withdrawals is a common cause of relapse, which is why it’s a good idea to detox in a setting that provides support for managing withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs (like alcohol and opioids) require medically supervised detox.

Medical Detox

Depending on your drug use and severity of your addiction, medications and other interventions may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms. At medical detox facilities, doctors and nurses supervise the detox process to ensure safety and respond to any complications that may arise. This stage typically takes five to 10 days. 

Detox at Home 

Some people choose to detox on their own. While this works for some, it involves significant risks. The pain of withdrawals often results in more drug use. Relapsing after detox increases the risk of overdose due to decreased drug tolerance. 

The risks of detox aren’t just physical. The distress of the withdrawal process can trigger mental health issues, which may result in critical symptoms like acute depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Whether your detox is medically supervised or not, it’s best to undergo this challenging process in a safe and supportive environment. Also keep in mind that detox is not rehab. This only prepares you to begin drug addiction treatment; sustainable sobriety requires a long-term practice of recovery.  

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Sometimes, medication-assisted treatment is used to treat opioid addictions. Medications may be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings and step down drug use in a controlled way. These include: 

  • Opioid agonists (such as methadone and buprenorphine), which produce similar effects to opioids but can be managed by a doctor via replacement therapy 
  • Opioid antagonists (such as naltrexone) that block the effects of opioids so users can no longer get high 

The success of these treatments varies and their use is controversial. Some people are able to quit opioid use using MAT over a period of time. But these medications carry their own addiction risk, and misusing them only prolongs and complicates the struggle with drug addiction. Your treatment provider can assess your situation and advise you on the best course of action.

Drug Rehabilitation Therapies

Drug addiction treatment usually involves some combination of the following therapies: 

One-to-one therapy

Individual therapy takes place in private meetings between one person and one therapist. This allows you to build a relationship with your therapist and offers focused, personalised care. Everything discussed in private therapy sessions is confidential.

Group therapy

Group therapy offers the emotional benefit of supporting one another in shared experiences. Hearing others’ stories helps you understand that you’re not alone, and fosters a sense of belonging. Group members listen, provide feedback, and hold each other accountable, and often form lasting friendships.  

Therapeutic Methods Used in Addiction Treatment 

Some effective treatment modalities commonly used by drug addiction treatment professionals are: 

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – Proven effective and widely used for substance use disorders, CBT helps you identify negative thought patterns, change behaviours and build skills to manage cravings.  
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) – DBT teaches a set of skills designed to change addictive behaviour. This is based on four modules covering mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotional regulation.
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation And Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) – EMDR works by using bilateral eye movements to affect the way your brain processes trauma. This technique is proven effective for substance abuse, as most addictions stem from some form of unresolved trauma. 

Other drug addiction treatment therapies include: 

  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Rational emotive behaviour therapy 
  • The Matrix Model
  • 12-Step facilitation
  • Contingency management 
  • Family therapy 
  • Couples therapy 
  • Person-centred therapy

Alternative, holistic and complementary therapies 

Some therapists offer holistic therapies as an alternative or complement to more conventional treatment approaches. These may include: 

  • Mindfulness meditation 
  • Yoga 
  • Massage and bodywork 
  • Emotional freedom technique (EFT) 
  • Art, music and other creative therapies 
  • Equine and pet-assisted therapy 
  • Adventure and eco-therapy 
  • Energy medicine 
  • Nutrition 

Leaving Drug Rehab

Continuing Care

Continuing care is a crucial component of long term drug rehabilitation. As drug addiction is considered a chronic illness, staying sober requires a consistent, lifelong practice of recovery. 

Aftercare as part of an inpatient rehab program

Some residential rehabs offer continued individual and group therapy sessions, and connection to additional resources, after you complete treatment. These may take place online, by phone, or at an outpatient treatment centre.

Alumni networks 

If you attend residential rehab, you may also be able to stay in touch with other programme graduates via their alumni network. 

Sober living

Sober living provides a drug-free environment where those in recovery can live with sober peers and practice recovery-focused living. This may serve as a transition from residential rehab, for those who are ready for more autonomy but still prefer a supported environment. 

12-Step group meetings and sponsorship 

12-Step groups like AA and NA connect you to others in the recovery community. This is a crucial aspect of recovery, as supportive relationships are crucial for navigating the challenges of sobriety.  

Sober coaches and companions 

Sober coaches and companions can support you in growing your coping skills, help you stick to your recovery plan, and accompany you during travel or other situations in which you’re concerned about relapse.

Ongoing therapy 

Many people continue attending therapy sessions, either via their treatment centre or independently, to support their sobriety and continued personal growth.

FAQs

How Long Does Drug Rehab Take?

Drug rehab at a residential treatment centre typically takes a minimum of 28 days, and can be extended for as long as needed to ensure treatment is effective and sustainable recovery is achieved. Rehabilitation via other methods varies and is largely up to the patient, but longer treatment episodes generally show better outcomes. 

How Much Does Drug Rehab Cost?

Drug rehab costs can vary widely depending on which treatment route you choose. This range from free treatment via a non-profit rehab or NHS services, to private rehabs that may start at £4,000 for 28 days. 

What Types of Drugs Does Rehab Treat?

Rehab is available for any type of drug. However, it’s a good idea to make sure the rehab you’re looking into has experience in treating your specific issue, especially if you have a co-occurring disorder. 

What Happens in Drug Rehab?

The road to recovery varies from person to person, but the stages of drug rehab generally involve detox (as needed), primary treatment, and continuing care. After rehab, sobriety is maintained via group meetings, therapy and other recovery support.   

How Does Drug Rehab Work?

Drug rehab works by providing a safe, supported space for detox, therapeutically addressing the mental and emotional issues underlying your addiction, and teaching skills to help you cope with life’s challenges without drugs.  

What is Drug Rehab Like?

Residential drug rehab typically entails a full schedule of therapy sessions and recovery-focused activities. Outpatient rehab involves regularly scheduled appointments at a local clinic. Other forms of drug rehabilitation include addictions counselling and 12-Step groups.