What is Drug & Alcohol Rehab? Understanding Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Approaches

Last Updated: December 13, 2023

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Article at a glance:

– Drug and alcohol rehab is an essential tool for those seeking to overcome addiction and substance abuse.
– Rehab can vary greatly in terms of its approach and methods, with different programs offering different philosophies and techniques.
– The rehab process is highly individualized and tailored to meet the needs of each person undergoing treatment.
– Different levels of care are available in rehab programs to provide the necessary support in the least restrictive environment.
– COVID-19 has led to adjustments in rehab protocols, including increased safety measures and expanded virtual treatment options.
– After rehab, individuals have the option to continue with ongoing treatment and support to maintain their sobriety.

With all of the levels and styles of rehab, making a good choice about available care can feel complicated. Knowing the features of different programs can help you decide.

For those hoping to leave the path of addiction, dependence and substance use, alcohol and drug rehab is an essential tool. Although rehab is tremendously helpful to many, the process may be uncomfortable and challenging at times. Because of this, people should fully understand what alcohol and drug rehab is and how it works.

What is Drug Rehab?

Drug rehab is an extremely broad and generalized term that can apply to many professional and nonprofessional services aimed at ending substance use and starting a period of sobriety. Depending on the program and their clients’ needs, one drug rehab could look and operate very differently from another.

Drug rehab may refer specifically to the building where addiction and substance abuse treatments are offered, or drug rehab can refer to the process of undergoing treatment to confront and eliminate addictive thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In any case, drug rehabs help you recover from alcohol and other drugs while committing time, energy and attention towards health and well-being.

Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Approaches

Substance use disorders never present in a one-size-fits-all way, so neither do substance abuse rehabs. Different rehabs will employ different philosophies, techniques and styles to aid the recovery process.

Some types of substance abuse rehab approaches include:

  • Faith-based: This approach incorporates many aspects of religion and spirituality into the recovery process. With this, you can gain a closer connection to your God or higher power to create motivation and a new perspective that encourages sobriety.
  • Holistic: Rather than viewing addiction and substance use as an independent issue, holistic approaches look at substance use existing within the context of the entire person. Without addressing all of your needs and stressors, recovery cannot occur.
  • Luxury: The luxury model of addiction rehab places increased importance on your comfort during rehab. By having incredible accommodations, expert staff and countless amenities like fine food and facilities, treatment can produce better outcomes.
  • 12-step: Based on the fundamental core of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 12-step approaches guide people through the recovery process in a structured way. The 12-steps can move you from an unmanageable life to sustained abstinence.

Many approaches to substance abuse rehabs exist, which can make choosing a rehab hard, but there is good news. Many rehabs integrate aspects of different approaches to create a well-rounded rehab experience.

Drug Rehabilitation Process

The drug rehabilitation process is an extremely individualized experience. No two people will have the exact same path as they move from addiction to recovery, but some standards guide the journey.

The drug rehab process for many will include:

  • Detoxification: Detox is a period of time focusing on ridding your body and brain of the abused substances. People abusing opioids, alcohol and sedatives will likely need a detox lasting from a few days to years, depending on their goals.
  • Treatment: The treatment phase may occur during or after detox. During treatment, you will likely attend individual, group and family therapy sessions to address and resolve issues linked to addiction. Regular appointments with a prescriber may give you helpful medications, while support groups form a sense of community and fellowship with others battling addiction.
  • Recovery: A period of recovery is the goal of addiction treatment and rehab. Recovery can start the day after last use, but recovery usually refers to a stretch of time where you feel more control over your substance use and life. You can still attend a combination of professional and nonprofessional treatments focused on maintaining sobriety and improving your happiness in the recovery phase.

Types of Drug Rehab Programs

Rehab programs are designed to meet the needs of groups and the individuals within those groups. Rehabs and substance abuse treatment programs have several levels of care to deliver the care people need in the least restrictive environment possible.

Available levels of drug rehab treatments include:

  • Medical Detox: Medical detox offers a supportive environment where the body rids itself of substances in its system under 24-hour medical supervision. Professional staff are on-call to help clients manage withdrawal symptoms and make the process as safe and comfortable as possible.
  • Inpatient: Inpatient rehab is an intensive level of care where people stay overnight at the rehab facility to receive round-the-clock care. Inpatient treatment can be restrictive and highly scheduled, but offers individual and group therapy, regular medical visits, nutritional support and recreational therapy. People with severe addictions or those with unstable home environments often benefit the most from inpatient care.
  • Outpatient: Any level of substance abuse treatment that permits the individual to live and sleep at home is outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatments offer fewer restrictions and more freedoms, but the risk of triggers and cravings are often greater when you’re in your normal environment. Outpatient treatments can vary greatly in intensity, with some treatments involving up to 30 hours each week of care.
  • Aftercare: Following your time in inpatient or outpatient treatment, your professional team will work with you to develop a relapse prevention plan, organize ongoing care and connect with support groups and other recovery resources.

If you have a mental health condition in addition to your substance use issues, co-occurring disorders treatment helps you manage those symptoms to treat you as a whole person. Therapy and medications should work to address all disorders simultaneously.

How Drug Rehab Facilities Are Adapting to COVID

The emergence of COVID-19 has forced mental health and substance abuse providers to adjust to support their clients’ safety and needs. Many rehabs are following new precautions to test and distance during in-person treatments. At The Recovery Village, these new protocols include screening all staff and clients, requiring face masks and restricting visitation and offsite travel, in addition to the medical-grade cleaning and sanitation procedures already in place.

Rehab programs are also expanding services to make treatment more accessible from home, including teletherapy services and free online recovery meetings.

When Is Rehab Necessary?

People do not usually resolve their substance abuse issues independently. Most of the time, they require the guidance and interventions of mental health professionals.

When people are seriously addicted to and physically dependent on their drugs of choice, rehab is truly necessary to avoid harmful effects. When substance abuse stops, a person dependent on alcohol and other drugs will experience physical and mental withdrawal symptoms that range from distressing to deadly.

Although many substances produce these unwanted effects, alcoholopioids and sedatives like benzodiazepines create the greatest risks.

Drug Withdrawal & Detox

Depending on the substance, drug withdrawal can begin just minutes after last use and trigger a group of symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms are normally the opposite of the intoxication effects. For example, sedatives make people feel calm and sleepy, but people withdrawing from sedatives will feel restlessness, anxiety and trouble sleeping.

People detoxing from high-risk drugs should seek medical detoxification treatments to avoid effects like seizures, cardiac complications and severe depression. Professionals can manage the symptoms with medications and close monitoring. The body naturally removes the drugs from the body, but medical intervention can ease the process.

What Happens After Rehab?

What happens after rehab is always dependent on the person. The rehab should always offer follow-up care recommendations and referrals, but the client is never obligated to maintain treatment.

People ending rehab must remember one profound fact3 — those who enjoy longer periods of substance-free time have engaged in longer periods of treatment. Because of the structure of addiction treatment, rehab never has to end.

A person can always continue attending some level of outpatient therapy, some level of medication management with a prescriber, and involvement with the recovery community through support groups and recovery-oriented activities. Continuing with aftercare and follow up services will not guarantee sobriety, but it will greatly improve results.

Otherwise, a person will return home and restart life after rehab. Some people may decide to make radical changes to the people, places and things in their life to maintain recovery. They may switch jobs, find new friends and move to another part of town to avoid falling back into old habits and escape old triggers.

Finding the Best Drug Rehab

Great rehabs are hard to find because a rehab that works well for one person may not work well for their friends or family members. However, the best rehabs will provide evidence-based mental health treatment delivered by experienced and licensed professionals. Important components of successful rehabs include:

  • A high education level and long tenure of staff
  • Availability of psychiatrists or prescribers to assess symptoms and recommend medication
  • A high staff-to-patient ratio, where enough time and resources are devoted to each client
  • Holistic treatments that address the entire person, not just the addiction
  • Addressing other needs in treatment, like legal, financial, employment, educational, housing and relationship issues
  • Accommodations, rules and expectations that are geared towards recovery

Feel free to tour all potential rehabs before committing to any one in particular. Once a person commits to treatment, they should put their trust and faith in the process. Rehab is meant to be uncomfortable, so do not let the discomfort scare you away from helpful care.

Good rehabs don’t have to be the most expensive options, but a rehab that is too expensive will not be the best choice for many. People should always explore payment options and learn about using their health insurance to offset the expense. Helpful rehabs will have a staff member to explain the cost and payment options.

Once you’re ready to consider rehab options for yourself or a loved one, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is here to help. Contact our helpful representatives to discuss available treatments, schedule a tour and answer any questions you may have.


What services do drug rehabs offer?

Some rehabs will offer very basic individual and group therapy sessions paired with infrequent medication management appointments with a prescriber. Other rehabs will have an extensive array of therapies and treatments to heal the mind, body and soul, like yoga, meditation, equine therapy, acupuncture, fitness centers, meals and more, all devoted to health and recovery.

How much does rehab cost?

The cost of rehab will vary greatly. Centers in better locations, with better staff and more luxurious accommodations, will be more expensive than others. When looking into rehab, it is important to focus on value over price. Some centers will strike an appealing balance between cost and services. Searching for the cheapest rehab could end poorly. With luck, insurance will cover all or most of rehab and reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

What is rehab like?

Everyone’s rehab experience will be unique, so some people may find their treatment an enlightening and empowering search to better understand their motivations and triggers, while others find rehab to be demanding, uncomfortable and irrational. Along the way, it is important to note that someone who sees the value in treatment will have a different experience than someone who is not ready to attend.

Can you force someone into rehab?

The simple answer is no. Unless someone is a danger to themselves or others, you legally cannot force treatment on anyone. Offering ultimatums on a person experiencing addiction is one way to strongly encourage treatment, but in the end, the choice is theirs. Luckily, evidence shows2 that treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective, so even resistant people can improve their symptoms.

How long is drug rehab?

It depends. Rehab programs are commonly 30, 60 or 90 days4. Some forms of residential rehab can continue for up to a year. Outpatient treatment can last for years or decades. Recovery is a lifelong process, so treatment should be ongoing.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction: DrugFacts.” January 17. 2019. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: […]uide (Third Edition).” January 2018. Accessed October 20, 2020.
  3. Springer, Dave. “Substance Use Disorder Continuum of Care[…]gaging the Community,” Department of Health and Human Services. October 31, 2015. Accessed October 20, 2020.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.” October 2015. Accessed October 20, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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