Addiction Among First-Time Drug Rehab Clients

Evaluating an Individual’s Treatment Needs
First-Time Drug Rehab Clients

Entering drug addiction rehabilitation for the first time can be daunting. Choosing to enter treatment is the first step in the long process of recovery and understanding the treatment process can help you feel prepared.

Drug addiction is a chronic illness that involves intense cravings for the addictive substance, along with seeking out and using that drug, in spite of negative consequences. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the chronic drug abuse present in addiction is a result of the drug’s effects on the brain. Illicit drugs affect areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation, along with impulse control and decision-making. This makes it very difficult to stop using the illicit substance once an addiction has been formed. As a result, an effective treatment plan is an important component of recovery from addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) reports that in 2009, 23.5 million people in the US needed treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. Of those, only 11.2 percent received treatment at a specialized facility. Approximately 41.4 percent of admissions to treatment facilities in 2009 entered treatment for alcohol abuse, while 20 percent entered treatment for drug addiction.

Entering Rehab

First-time rehab clients may be unsure about various aspects of the process, and the truth is that your chosen rehab center will be able to alleviate many of your concerns. There are, however, a few things to know and expect that are pretty universal across all facilities.

When packing for a residential program, only a few sets of clothing are typically required. Laundry facilities are usually available on site. Clothing should be modest and comfortable. Most facilities require that clothing be free of any inappropriate images or logos, such as drug paraphernalia, drug-related phrases, or offensive expressions. You will also need basic toiletries and any personal items you wish to have with you, such as a journal, books, or family photos. Most facilities will provide a list of recommended items to pack as well as a list of items that should not be brought to rehab. Policies on electronics vary, but smartphones and laptops are typically not allowed.

Addiction Among First-Time Drug Rehab ClientsAn average day in drug rehab will involve individual therapy, group therapy, and group recreational activities. Residential programs typically have both private and shared rooms available; most people who enter rehab share a room with other people who are also in treatment. Meals are often shared in a cafeteria, restaurant, or other dining facility.

While in rehab, you will interact with many different staff members, ranging from technicians to therapists to medical nurses and doctors. In addition, various staff members will lead and assist in therapy; this includes individual therapists as well as focused therapists, such as those who specialize in equine-assisted therapy, art therapy, or adventure therapy.

According to Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders the average client-to-staff ratio of outpatient rehab programs can range from 15:1 to 25:1. Residential programs typically have a much lower ratio, averaging one client for every three members of staff during day shifts. High-end, private programs generally offer the best staff-to-client ratios, offering the most individualized forms of care.

Visitors to residential programs are often only allowed on specific days of the week, and individuals may have to be a close family member to be allowed to visit. Visitation often needs to be approved ahead of time by your therapist. Phone calls are typically allowed during specific times of day. These limitations are in place to help clients focus on recovery and build healthy relationships within rehab.

Effective Treatment

Effective drug rehabilitation incorporates every aspect of the affected person’s life. Treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain sobriety, improve family life, and help with functioning within the workplace and society at large. Many people must go through addiction treatment multiple times in order to maintain their recovery from drug use, according to NIDA. Relapse isn’t a sign of treatment failure, but rather a sign that the treatment approach might need to be tweaked.

In order to get the most out of treatment, NIDA recommends that you remain in rehabilitation for an adequate amount of time. The time in treatment will vary between people and between treatment methods.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Drug rehab may be provided in an inpatient or residential setting, or on an outpatient basis. Long-term residential programs typically last 3-12 months. According to NIDA, these programs provide 24-hour care and incorporate a community approach into treatment. The residential setting is used to help develop healthy social skills and behaviors, and the controlled, drug-free environment is helpful in establishing a sober lifestyle.

Short-term residential programs may last weeks or months, and incorporate many of the same aspects on an accelerated timeline. It is typically recommended that residential treatment be followed by outpatient treatment, and time spent in treatment be gradually reduced as the individual improves.

Outpatient treatment can provide many of the same services as residential treatment, including individual and group therapy. Outpatient treatment can be more appropriate for individuals with a stronger support system outside of the treatment facility and those who can’t take a leave of absence from work, or family life, to focus on treatment fulltime.

Treatment Approaches

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment methods are available to those who wish to enter drug rehab. While inpatient treatment can sometimes offer more intensive care, and 24-hour supervision and support, effective services and treatment methods can be found in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The most appropriate setting for drug rehab is dependent on the individual.

Medications are often prescribed at different points of recovery, including during withdrawal. Certain medications are used to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal, and assist in moving from detox to the next phases of treatment. Medical detox is not enough on its own; continued addiction treatment is necessary to maintain recovery. NIDA reports that people who go through detox but do not continue treatment use drugs at the same rates as those who received no treatment at all.

Medications may also be used throughout treatment to help establish normal brain function and to lessen cravings. These medications can be very helpful in preventing relapse, but their use must be determined on a case-by-case basis by a medical professional.

Behavioral treatments can help you modify behaviors and beliefs that may keep you in the cycle of drug abuse. Gaining healthier coping skills can give you options for dealing with life circumstances other than drug abuse, and this helps prevent relapse.

Effective models of individual therapy include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy


As you get ready for your first time in drug rehab, you may wish to read more about addiction treatment. The following resources provide in-depth information on addiction and rehab, helping you to prepare for what to expect:

  • Types of Services Available: SAMHSA provides a description of the various types of services that can be helpful during drug rehab. Individual and group counseling are discussed, as well as inpatient and outpatient settings, and the use of medication during the recovery process.
  • NIDA Frequently Asked Questions: Here you will find a list of questions about drug rehab and recovery, along with answers to each question. Links to additional resources are also provided.
  • SAMHSA Provider Directory: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a searchable directory of addiction treatment providers. Providers are organized by location.
  • Information for Family and Friends: NIDA provides a list of resources for the loved ones of those with addictions. Information on effective treatment, finding a provider, and drug education are available.

Addiction within Demographics
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