Illicit Drugs Treatment and Rehab

Content Overview

Treating addiction – whether at rehab or not – can be divided into three main phases. Firstly is detoxification, the process by which an addict’s system is cleansed of substances of abuse. Once this cleansing process has taken place, and the immediate pressures of drug dependency have been lifted, the addict will then need to address the psychological aspects of their addiction, including understanding the root causes and seeking to put measures in place to ensure that they do not stumble back into addiction by relapsing.

Ever since drug addiction first emerged as a recognised medical condition, a huge number and variety of different treatment methods have emerged. Some of these are medically approved, tried and tested; others are of extremely dubious efficacy, and can even be extremely dangerous to those going through them. It is absolutely vital that if you are an addict seeking help for your condition you do not embark on any course of treatment that is not medically approved; always consult your GP and/or an addiction specialist before beginning any treatment.

Of those treatment methods that are medically approved, not all are equally effective in terms of providing the best possible basis for a permanent recovery. It’s generally agreed that residential rehabilitation – “rehab” – is the best approach to treating addiction, and has consistently delivered the highest rate of success. Of course, every addict is unique and responds differently to different types of treatment, different therapy models, different medications et cetera; however, the medical and therapeutic staff at rehab have experience of working with countless individuals and their expertise can be invaluable when it comes to optimising your own journey to recovery.

Types of Treatment

In rehab this phase involves a variety of therapy models, including one-to-one and group therapy. Finally, there is long-term support – possibly including attendance at fellowship groups – to ensure that having broken the back of the addiction, the former addict can remain in recovery and enjoy a drug-free life.

Rehab includes all three of these phases in one holistic programme; many other approaches to treatment only deal with the first – detox – phase and do not address the more complex underlying issues which led to addiction in the first place.

Inpatient rehab

Inpatient – or residential – rehab sees the addict staying on-site at a dedicated facility staffed by highly trained professionals who are on hand 24/7 to ensure that each addict’s individual needs are met as fully and as appropriate as possible, and that they go through each of the first two aforementioned phrases safely and in maximum comfort.

Along with detox – which may be medically assisted – and therapy (good rehabs provide a range of therapy models so that each addict can find that which works best for them), rehab also offers bespoke dietary and fitness plans.

Working on the basis of “healthy body, healthy mind”, holistic and psychological therapies are used for healing. Potentially, elements such as family support are also included in the programme, depending on the situation.

The length of time an addict will remain as an inpatient in rehab will vary from individual to individual, and different facilities will offer programs of different durations. A typical stay will last around a month, although some shorter-term programs – one or two weeks – are available, in many addicts choose to stay longer than a month if they feel their recovery will be helped by an extended stay.

Outpatient rehab

Although inpatient rehab is generally considered the most effective approach treatment, some people feel that an extended stay at such a facility is not appropriate for them because they have obligations – for example to family or work – which require their attention and do not permit their absence from home or the office for a month or more.

In such cases, some rehabs offer outpatient services: the addict can go through the detox phase with medical help as and when required, and can then visit the facility for therapy sessions by appointment. Indeed it is often also possible to have phone therapy sessions if the addict cannot make it physically to the facility (this is often the case with professionals who travel a great deal and may not be in the country for an extended period).

Disadvantages of Outpatient Rehab

However outpatient rehab is not without its disadvantages. For one thing, addicts attending rehab on an outpatient basis do not get the full benefit of its peaceful, pleasant environment and its facilities (which may include for example a gym or fitness suite).

More problematically, they are also not removed from their home environment which has proven to facilitate the drug-taking behaviour which has led to addiction, and are still able to contact their dealer/s if the temptation to relapse proves overpowering. Their whole recovery rests upon their strength of will – which in some cases may not prove sufficient at critical times.

Where can I find treatment for drug abuse?

Drug addiction is a problem whose effects are felt in every corner of the country; however, this means that there are also treatment facilities right across the UK, and wherever you are you will not be too far away from the treatment you need. Your first port of call should always be your GP who will assess your situation and who can tell you what options exist for you locally.

You should also speak with an addiction specialist who can give you a wider-range view of treatment options both in your area and further away (some people choose to place quite some distance between their recovery and the environment in which they have been abusing drugs), and who will be able to give you the benefit of more specialised experience and insight than your GP.

Not every rehab offers the same range of therapy models and other facilities, and if you have particular requirements it is important that you check out a variety of different facilities to see which are able to provide exactly what you feel you will need to suit your lifestyle and any professional or family obligations that you have.

Support for Families

It is not just the addict who suffers from addiction: those around them, especially family members, can be profoundly affected too. Some good rehabs have a strong focus on the family, in terms both of the role the family can play in an addict’s recovery, and of the recovery of the family members themselves who may have experienced great distress and even trauma as a result of their loved one’s addiction.

A family recovery programme may involve therapy for family members both alongside and independent of the addict themselves, which will allow the addict’s loved ones to address any psychological and emotional damage which they may have experienced.

It is giving them an opportunity for catharsis in terms of letting out their frustrations and anger in a healthy and appropriate manner.

The help of family members can be absolutely invaluable in terms of supporting the addict through their recovery over the long term after they leave rehab, and they can get support and advice on what they need to do to continue to encourage their loved one through the process of their recovery, how to avoid triggering them, how to help them prevent relapse and various other things which together can make the difference between success and failure in recovery.

What Should I Look for in a Rehab Facility?

Having made the decision to reach out for help in overcoming addiction, you may feel overwhelmed by the variety of options available to you – and, of course, choosing the right rehab is absolutely crucial. You need a facility that will best suit your particular needs and wants – but how will you know what those are, when you have never been through this process before?

Some factors are relatively straightforward – for example, location (unless you feel that you would benefit psychologically from knowing that you are as far away as possible from your dealer/s and your drug-taking environment, it is usually best to look for a facility relatively close to you) and cost (it may be that some specifically luxury facilities are outside what is affordable for you).

However, other elements – for example the type of therapies available – may lie completely beyond your understanding and experience. With this in mind, it is always advisable to speak with an addiction specialist who will almost certainly be able to think of things which may not occur to you but which could be very important. By leveraging the vast experience of an addiction specialist you can be sure that issues of great importance will not go unaddressed.

One issue of extreme importance that you should consider is whether or not a facility is CQC-accredited (Care Quality Commission). You should only consider rehabs which have been approved by the CQC.

What Does Drug Addiction Treatment Involve?

Drug addiction treatment can typically be divided into three phases: detox, therapy and long-term recovery. When discussing the treatment of drug addiction, many people focus only on the first phase, detox; while detox is of course a crucial component of treatment, it is only one element and having gone through detox and withdrawal if an addict believes that their recovery is complete they are almost certainly doomed to fall back into addiction very quickly since the underlying causes of their addiction have not been addressed.

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Drug detox

Detox begins as soon as the effects of your last dose wear off and your system begins to readjust to life without your substance of abuse. Just as everyone is unique, everyone experiences detox differently; however, it is usually accompanied by withdrawal symptoms.

Nature, severity and duration of which will depend on the drug you have been taking, the dosages you’ve been consuming, the method of abuse, your age and physiology and other factors – and those symptoms can be dangerous, even fatal in some cases, without the correct medical assistance.

Medications may be prescribed to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of withdrawal – for example, antidepressants to cope with depression, or sedatives or hypnotics to treat insomnia.

Meanwhile, in the case of certain substances of abuse, it may be possible to prescribe substitute drugs to replace temporarily the worse, more pernicious drugs to which you have become addicted, and for you then to be weaned off those substitute drugs over a short period so that the worst effects of withdrawal are not felt.

Therapy

Therapy is a fundamental aspect of the treatment of addiction. In order to avoid returning to addiction in future, after the immediate pressures of dependency have been lifted from your shoulders through detox, it is vital that you understand the aspects of your character and the behaviours which led to your becoming addicted in the first place.

Then you can recognise if you are experiencing the feelings or exhibiting the behaviour which resulted in substance abuse and the development of addiction, and change that behaviour and/or seek support so that you do not relapse.

Therapy can be hugely beneficial in all cases of addiction, but not everyone responds the same to any given therapy model and it may be that you need to try various different models and combinations thereof before settling on the precise structure of treatment which best suits your particular case.

Even if you have experienced therapy before, for reasons not necessarily associated with addiction, what worked for you then might not be particularly appropriate when it comes to treating addiction specifically; good rehabs will have a range of different therapy models on offer to give you the greatest possible chance of developing the recovery programme that is optimal for you.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

CBT can be delivered in both one-to-one and group therapy sessions. It provides the perfect foundation for recovery by demonstrating to each addict what it is that they need to change and how they are able to change it beginning with their very thought processes.

By going through CBT, addicts develop a greater understanding and a better awareness of themselves, and can think with more clarity and honesty – crucial if they are to stay away from temptation over the long term.

Dialectical behavioural therapy

DBT – dialectical behavioural treatment – is a specific form of CBT which was initially developed to treat patients suffering from chronic suicidal ideation; its creator aimed at helping patients come to terms with things they were unable to change, while simultaneously working around those elements to create a positive and enjoyable life.

DBT is designed to be supportive in every way, helping addicts discover their strengths and using those strengths to build defence mechanisms against relapse; because of its origins in CBT, dialectical behavioural treatment is also able to help the addict identify the negative thought processes and beliefs which act as obstacles in the way of a person’s ability to overcome their particular problems.

Crucially, DBT is also collaborative: it relies upon the ability of the addict and therapist to work things out together interactively. DBT is broken down into four modules – Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness – which is an approach which allows addicts to focus on one particular task or aspect of themselves at once, and enables the therapy to be targeted more acutely at the individual addict and their own particular situation.

How is medication used to treat addiction?

There is no “universal” pharmacological cure for addiction. However, medication does play various roles in the treatment of addiction, especially in the detox phase. Doctors may prescribe certain medicines to ameliorate the worst effects of withdrawal symptoms.

Some medicines are extremely effective at reducing the impact of symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.

The specific medicines prescribed will vary depending upon your own particular experience of withdrawal and the symptoms you are manifesting, and it may be that certain medications will not be appropriate depending on your substance of abuse or your own personal health history; an experienced medical professional will be able to make those decisions to ensure you go through withdrawal as safely as possible.

Medication may also be prescribed which can act as a substitute for your substance of abuse in the case of certain drugs where less addictive and damaging alternatives may be provided in the short term. Heroin addicts may be given methadone temporarily to replace heroin, from which they can then be weaned off with withdrawal symptoms that are much less unpleasant than those associated with heroin itself.

Again, an experienced medical professional will need to assess your particular case to determine whether or not such substitution drugs are appropriate.

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What Happens after Rehab?

It’s vital to bear in mind that the process of recovery is not complete the moment you leave rehab – in fact, it is often best to work on the basis that recovery is never complete, and that it is a lifelong process at which you need to work continually in order truly to protect yourself from temptation and the chance of returning to the terrible condition of addiction.

Just because your system has been cleansed of substances of abuse during detox, and you have gone through productive therapy and equipped yourself with defence mechanisms against relapse, does not mean that you can let your guard down and consider yourself “cured”: that mindset is asking for trouble as it encourages you to become too casual and overconfident about your position in relation to substance abuse.

Instead, you should follow the procedures and mechanisms worked out during your therapy, and take all steps agreed upon to minimise your exposure to risk. During therapy you will have worked to identify triggers which can set off the desire to consume drugs; now, in the outside world, it is your responsibility to avoid those triggers in any way possible.

It is also time for you to learn to enjoy life again in all its splendour, and to enjoy the fantastic experience of living without the addiction that has burdened you for so long.

It is always recommended that you join a fellowship group such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) which can provide you with ongoing support and advice (as well as companionship) from others who have also experienced addiction and understand the challenges that you face day-to-day. Find out when and where such fellowship groups meet in your area and try to attend regularly and frequently at least in the months following your treatment and rehab; you may find that as time passes you need to attend meetings less frequently but they will always be a useful adjunct to any therapy that you may have on an ongoing basis as well as being invaluable if and when you feel the cravings which could derail your recovery.

Secondary Care Facilities

Once an addict has completed a treatment program at rehab, they may find further benefits from attending a secondary care program, possibly at the same rehab but more likely at a different facility dedicated to secondary care (typically a sober living facility).

Secondary care reinforces and develops the techniques and safety mechanisms which you have learnt during your initial treatment, but also provides a program designed to make readjusting to life after rehab as easy as possible.

Why Secondary Care?

People who may benefit especially from secondary care include those who have completed treatment at rehab but do not yet feel physically or mentally prepared to reintegrate fully into day-to-day life with all its attendant stresses and pressures. Secondary care facilities are not typically as strictly monitored and secure as rehab itself, but those living on site at such a facility need to abide by certain rules – most importantly, staying clean and sober for the duration of their stay.

For some people, secondary care is an essential phase between intensive treatment and rehab and a full return to normal life; this is especially likely to be the case if an addict’s home environment is dysfunctional or challenging in other ways, and the addict does not yet feel robust enough in their recovery to deal with those challenges as well as the ongoing challenge of staying drug-free.

Aftercare support

A good rehab will offer free aftercare for a guarantee period – usually one year. Aftercare is intended to make the transition between rehab and normal daily life as easy as possible as nobody expects the months and even years after an addict leaves rehab to be entirely problem-free.

Many challenges and obstacles will rear their heads. As a result, an aftercare programme can generally mean the difference between success and failure in recovery.

The specific details and content of aftercare will vary from one facility to the next, but typically it comprises a participation in various therapy sessions on site, alongside phone sessions if and when required. The rehab will give you a bespoke recovery plan to take with you once you leave the facility which will include these aftercare sessions as well as recommendations for attendance at fellowship groups.

It has been proven that people who attend after-care sessions regularly are significantly more likely to maintain their coping strategies and resist relapse. It can also be a pleasant experience, reinforcing recovery, to revisit therapists over the course of the year and demonstrate your ongoing sobriety and enjoyment of your drug-free life.

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FAQ

What is drug rehab?

Drug rehab - short for " rehabilitation" - is the provision of drug addiction treatment at a dedicated secure facility away from the temptations and distractions of the outside world, and in particular the environment in which an addict has become accustomed to indulging in substance abuse. At rehab an addict has access to highly experienced medical care 24/7, as well as to a variety of therapies through which they can come to understand the nature and underlying causes of their addiction. Rehab is also, crucially, highly confidential, allowing the addict to remain confident that their condition will not become common knowledge outside the facility.

How much does rehab cost?

The cost of rehab varies considerably from one facility to the next and depends on the specific treatment which an addict requires. Moreover, logically the longer a person spends in rehab the more the process will cost. As a result it's impossible to put a price on rehab which will apply to every given circumstance, though roughly speaking patients should typically expect to pay somewhere around £3,000 per week - which compared with the long-term cost of most addictions should be considered one of the most valuable investments you could ever make.

How do I pay for private rehab?

Patients can either pay for rehab treatment privately, or through medical insurance, and some patients receive funding through their national health insurer – in the United Kingdom this is the NHS or the local authority.

How does drug rehab work?

Drug rehab invariably begins with the process of detoxification - "detox" - whereby the addict's system is cleansed of substances of abuse (and during which they may experience withdrawal symptoms, which may be ameliorated with medication); following detox, they move into a therapy phase during which the underlying causes of their addiction are investigated and defence mechanisms put in place to enable them to resist relapse once they leave the facility.

Pros and cons of NHS versus private rehab?

NHS treatment is of a very high quality, and is of course free at the point of service, while private rehab does come with a significant cost attached. However with NHS budgets strained to bursting, and with so many addicts competing for such limited space, there is no guarantee that you will get a referral at all, and even if you do waiting times can be extremely long - which in a tragically high number of cases has meant the difference between life and death. Private rehab are able to admit addicts immediately so that they can begin getting the help they need straightaway.

What is a medical drug detox?

A medical detox involves the provision of drugs to treat symptoms of withdrawal, or to substitute less harmful and addictive drugs on a temporary basis for the substances to which an addict has been addicted; they are then able to be weaned off the substitute substance whilst experiencing less severe withdrawal symptoms.

What type of drugs does rehab treat?

The drugs treated will vary from one rehab to another, with some specialising in certain substances and others catering for many or all types of addiction. Most rehabs will have experience in treating addiction to prominent drugs including cocaine, heroin, amphetamines (including ecstasy) and cannabis, as well as alcohol. Speak with an addiction specialist to find out which rehab facilities have experience in treating specific drugs - or contact the facilities directly.

How long does rehab take?

How long a person stays in rehab will vary case-by-case, but a typical stay will last 28 days, with some programmes designed to be of much shorter duration and, at the other extreme, with some addicts choosing to stay for significantly longer, even several months, if they do not feel able to return to daily life after one month.

How to stay drug free after rehab?

Remaining drug-free after you leave rehab is an ongoing challenge; however alongside the defence mechanisms you will be given during therapy in rehab, you may benefit from attending fellowship group meetings or having ongoing therapy, as well as taking advantage of any aftercare provided by your rehab.

Is drug rehab covered by private insurance?

Some health insurance does cover private rehab; contact your insurer to check whether this applies to your policy specifically.

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