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Your Guide to Addiction Recovery Programs and Groups

Addiction Recovery Programs

Addiction recovery programs generally include any process that treats patients for dependency on psychoactive drugs or behavioral addictions. In the case of the former, this typically includes alcohol, opiates, barbiturates and amphetamines.

The general purpose of drug rehab is to allow the patient to stop abusing these drugs, which can have serious financial, legal, physical and psychological consequences.

Many specific types of drug addiction treatment exist, although they can generally be divided into medical and psychological methods. Psychotherapy is usually used in drug rehab programs, but medical treatments are typically used only for some types of drug addiction.

Drug Recovery Programs Overview

Drug recovery programs generally try to teach the patient ways to live in a drug-free environment. They encourage the patient not to associate with people who are still using drugs, and some programs explicitly prohibit this behavior. These programs typically emphasize the concept that recovery from drug dependency is a continuing process without a specific resolution.

Some programs may advocate a reduction in the use of illegal drugs rather than outright abstention, although this is typically not a sustainable treatment plan in the long term. However, programs that deal with illegal drugs typically recommend abstention due to the legal consequences of consuming any amount of these substances.

Some plans such as the 12-step programs used by Alcoholics Anonymous also encourage patients to change habits that may have led to their drug addictions. Call today to find out more about finding the best addiction treatment center for you.

Disease Model of Drug Addiction

The disease model of drug addiction holds that patients are incapable of abstaining from drug abuse alone.The disease model is one of the oldest methods of viewing drug addiction that is still in common use. This model contends that the patterns of behavior leading to drug abuse have biological causes that are exacerbated by environmental factors.

The disease model of drug addiction holds that patients are incapable of abstaining from drug abuse alone. Drug rehab programs based on this model require patients to admit their addiction and cease the behaviors that caused them to use drugs.

These programs also instruct patients to obtain a support network of friends and family members in their effort to remain clean and sober. The 12-step programs are strongly based on the disease model of drug addiction.

A 1999 study originally published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that participation in 12-step programs is an accurate predictor of success after one year of abstinence. However, these programs have also received significant criticism based on the spiritual orientation of these programs.

A socio-cognitive analysis of substance abuse appearing in a 1999 issue of Psychological Science challenges the psychological basis for 12-step programs.

A class-action lawsuit in 2006 opposed the constitutionality of court-ordered 12-step programs. These programs are most successful with alcohol abuse, which was their original focus. They are less successful with opiate addiction, which tends to do best with maintenance therapy.

Drug Rehab Facility Types

Drug rehab facilities may take many specific forms such as the following:

Some centers cater to population groups based on criteria such as age, gender and religion. Organizations such as the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors classify treatment providers according to the providers’ spiritual beliefs.

Most treatment centers currently treat multiple issues for each patient rather than just the addiction. Medical treatment for drug addiction in particular is generally viewed is ineffective by itself. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that detoxification should be the first step in a drug rehab program and be followed by behavioral and medical therapy.

NIDA also recommends that these therapies be followed up by a program to prevent relapse. Patient motivation is generally regarded as a critical factor in the success of a drug rehab program regardless of the specific methods used. Call to discuss treatment options if you want to follow a sober lifestyle.

Psychological Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common types of psychological therapy used in the treatment of drug abuse. The purpose of this therapy is to allow patients to recognize the situations that are most likely to result in a relapse and help them to cope with the situations.

Family therapy is intended to improve a family’s functioning to support the patient’s recovery. The intent of motivational interviewing is to increase the patient’s motivation to enter a rehab and recovery treatment program. This technique relies primarily on positive reinforcement as an incentive for abstaining from drugs.

Chemical Therapy

Medical treatments may be used for opiate and alcohol dependence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these treatments can help treat addiction when paired with psychological therapy. 1

Opiate Addiction

The same medications can be used to treat addiction to a number of different opiates or opioid medications.

  • Methadone is one of the most common medical treatments for dependence on opioids, which include heroin and morphine in addition to the prescription opioid painkillers.

    Methadone is a long-acting drug with effects similar to the abused opiate drugs, but without the intense highs and lows.

  • Buprenorphine (also available combined with naloxone as Suboxone) partially blocks the effects of other opiates if the user takes these drugs while buprenorphine is in his or her system. It is capable of producing a mild euphoria, but one with a “ceiling” effect, which means that once the drug completely occupies the opioid receptors in the brain, the user cannot achieve a greater effect by taking more of the drug.

These medications are used as a detoxification aid to minimize withdrawal, as a way to prevent cravings, and sometimes as maintenance addiction therapy, meaning a person can take them for an extended period of time or even indefinitely.

Maintenance therapy is especially important for opiate addiction given the high relapse rate. One study found that 91% of opiate-dependent participants in a residential addiction treatment program relapsed after discharge, with 59% relapsing within the first week. 2

Alcohol Addiction

Medications approved to treat alcohol dependence help recovering users detox or maintain abstinence from alcohol.

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) causes nausea, dizziness, and even vomiting when a person drinks. Knowing that this unpleasant reaction will follow a drinking episode can help someone abstain from alcohol.
  • Naltrexone blocks the pleasurable effects of alcohol and can help prevent cravings.
  • Acamprosate (Campral) can help curb cravings by restoring chemical imbalances in the brain that are caused by long-term alcohol abuse.


Counseling often takes the form of regular sessions, typically on a daily or weekly basis.

Counseling is the traditional treatment of drug addiction, although this process is more difficult when the patient has a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is most often performed in a group setting where the patients have some traits in common. Individual counseling is more likely when the patient has unique psychological issues. Counseling often takes the form of regular sessions, typically on a daily or weekly basis. Additional counseling sessions may occur as needed, such as crisis counseling or drop-in counseling. Intervention is a similar process in which family members request that a counselor convince the addict to enter treatment. Please call us today at if you want help finding a recovery support group.

[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Effective Treatment.

[2]. Smyth, B.P., Barry, J., Keenan, E., & Ducray, K. (2010) Lapse and relapse following inpatient treatment of opiate dependence Irish medical journal 103(6):176-79.