If you or someone you care about has a substance use disorder and wants to get better, maybe a rehabilitation center is an answer. A rehabilitation center is a treatment facility for individuals who have an addiction disorder involving alcohol or drugs. Some people go daily or even less, often to an outpatient center for care, while others live at a center for a period of residential care.
Some people with a substance use disorder really need residential care. But there are tons of facilities to choose from, and not all of them have your best interests in mind.
“The ethics piece is really important,” says Marvin Ventrell, CEO of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), “because as treatment centers have boomed, there are some charlatans out there. They’re not the majority, but they are out there.”
But quality treatment does exist, and there are ways to find reputable centers and avoid scams. Here’s how to get started.
Define What Your Rehab Goals Are
There is a wide range of treatments for substance use disorders and finding the right rehab center can be tricky. Not everybody needs to start by going away to a residential program, which is the most expensive option, says Margaret A. E. Jarvis, MD, DFASAM, chief of addiction services for Geisinger Addiction Medicine and the Geisinger Neuroscience Institute.
Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, agrees. He’s the immediate past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, a professional medical organization that creates widely used guidelines to improve the addiction treatment system. You may know about their ASAM criteria, a set of guidelines to help determine the best course of action for a person with an addiction.
Earley says that individuals who don’t have urgent and severe physical or psychiatric problems can reach “remission” by getting regular care from an addiction specialist like a recovery coach or a therapist. Remission is when you go a certain number of months without meeting the medical benchmarks for having a substance use disorder, other than cravings.
If that doesn’t work, the specialist can work with your primary care doctor to gradually ramp up the level of care in a residential rehabilitation center —this can be an option to consider down the road.
If you decide you want to look into treatment centers right away, an addiction specialist might be able to recommend a program matched to your needs. You could also ask for recommendations from people you know who are in recovery.
“If you have friends who have been through a type of program, ask them what worked and what they thought of that program,” Earley says.
Jarvis and Earley both recommend using the online tool ATLAS (Addiction Treatment Locator, Assessment, and Standards Platform) on the nonprofit site Shatterproof.org. It can help you get an idea of the level of care you might need and where you can find a facility that provides it.
ATLAS is up and running in six states — Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and West Virginia. The plan is for it to expand nationwide.
Do Your Research On Various Rehab Options
Proceed with caution if you decide to search the internet for a drug or alcohol drug rehab center.
“Online can be a dangerous place to be,” Jarvis says, especially when it comes to treatment facility advertisements and when to find the right rehab center. “If it looks too good to be true, then it is. If there are promises of cures, [addiction] is not a disease that can be cured. It can be managed.”
Be skeptical of ads that emphasize the creature comforts a center offers, like a detoxification diet, yoga, or equine therapy. Those things are fine in and of themselves, Earley says, but there’s no research to show that they’re specifically helpful in creating the core of someone’s substance use disorder.
“The things that tend to have glamor around them tend to be things that don’t have an evidence base around them,” he says. They were expensive, too.
Some ads claim that you can get treatment in your area, but the advertiser doesn’t actually have a treatment center there just when you want to find the right rehab center.
“If you’re in any location, you don’t have to fly 500 miles or 1,000 miles to treatment. There’s probably a good treatment program in your area,” he says. “This idea that you have to go to Florida or Southern California if you’re not there is not accurate.”
Ventrell also suggests you check the NAATP’s industry directory. The association is a nonprofit professional membership group of addiction treatment providers, including treatment centers.
“All NAATP members are licensed and accredited for everything they do in every location. They follow our quality assurance guidebook, and they follow our ethics code.”
Rehab facilities that are members of the NAATP are prohibited from posting deceptive or misleading ads. They also have to deliver the services they promise and follow a number of other ethical rules meant to protect patients’ health, rights, and finances.
Rehab Vs Detox Center
A rehab center and a detox center are two different processes with different purposes as well. Rehab without detox is usually unsuccessful. This is because detox is basically prepping an individual for treatment and rehab focuses more on treating the body, mind, and behavior of the addict. These two come hand in hand to help you regain control of your life.
Overcoming addiction without the other might cause you to relapse. Detox without rehab does not provide the critical support and therapy you need.
Even though rehab and detox work together to provide successful treatment, you’ll need to get involved in both processes. The more you understand the differences between the two, the more you’ll understand why successful recovery usually involves both, and even how to find the right rehab center.
Detox: Preparing the Body and Mind for Treatment
The first phase of addiction treatment is detox. The goal is simple: to prepare the body and mind for treatment. The most important way to do this is to rid the body of any toxic substances. Most detox programs last anywhere from 3 to 10 days and help:
- Cleanse the body of toxins
- Reduce the pain and discomfort of withdrawal
- Lower stress and anxiety levels
- Strengthen your body’s immune system
- Regain your ability to control your behavior
- Manage withdrawal symptoms
- Lessen drug and alcohol cravings
But that’s not all. Drug and alcohol detox also helps to establish the foundation of your sobriety. During detox, you regain control of your body while your brain starts to function optimally again. Without detox, addictive substances can continue to cause your body to malfunction, making rehabilitation a distant dream. Luckily, after your body and brain are free of drugs and alcohol, you’re in the perfect position to remain sober. That’s where rehab comes in.
Rehab: Regaining Control of Your Mind and Life
Drug and alcohol rehab, unlike detox, focuses on the health of your mind. In fact, the ultimate goal of rehabilitation is to develop a new lifestyle with new habits that encourage sobriety. When your body is free of drugs and alcohol, you’re able to start working toward your new life. That process takes longer than detox does. The average rehab program lasts for 30 to 90 days. But you might need treatment for up to 120 days depending on your history of substance abuse. In rehab, your focus will shift from physical symptoms to coping skills that will help reduce your chance of relapse. You’ll participate in a range of activities designed to help you regain control of your mind, including the following:
- Individual, group, and family therapy
- Mindful meditation
- 12-step programs, and other peer support groups
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), will teach you how to live in the moment, handle stress, manage emotions, and improve your relationship with others.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), will help you develop healthier thinking habits.
Rehab will also help you focus on your holistic health. Most programs have activities that focus on your health, spiritual well-being, social needs, and creativity, as well. In rehab, you’re not defined by the substances you once used, you’re identified by the person you’re becoming. Rehab also helps equip you for life beyond the treatment program by providing you with aftercare services and alumni program activities.
These are science-backed treatments for substance use disorders. Some of them are:
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help you spot and change negative thoughts
- Dialectical behavioral therapy can help you control strong emotions
- A type of counseling called motivational interviewing
- Medications that treat opioid and alcohol use disorders
If a representative at a residential rehabilitation center tells you they don’t believe in using FDA-approved meds for alcohol or opioid addiction, that’s a red flag, Jarvis says.
“Ask about your specific circumstance and how they would manage it,” Earley says.
For example, if you’re a young adult who began alcohol and drug abuse in your teens, your treatment needs are going to be different than a 50-year-old who’s had a substance use disorder for 30 years, he says. Or, if you have depression or anxiety, it’s important that the center has an addiction psychiatrist on staff.
Make sure the facility can meet your specific needs and that they have experience treating people whose age and life circumstances are similar to yours, Earley says.
Licenses, Certifications, And Accreditation
Like most people would say, it is important to note that the center you will be considering should be licensed to provide addiction treatment. Make sure that it is accredited by the organizations that prove that the staff and crew of the facility meet the standards necessary for it to provide care.