Frequently Asked Questions

What is addiction?

Addiction, which is referred to clinically as substance use disorder, is a disease that is characterized by a pathological series of behaviors that are related to the use of a specific substance. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) notes that the essential feature of a substance use disorder is the presence of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms involving an individual’s continued use of a substance despite significant problems related to that behavior. Individuals who develop an addiction will experience powerful cravings for the substance upon which they have become dependent, will lose their ability to control the amount and frequency of their substance abuse, and will develop tolerance, which means that they will need to ingest larger or more potent doses of the substance to experience the desired effect.

Is addiction inherited?

Significant research strongly suggests a genetic component to addiction. Individuals whose parents and/or siblings have struggled with a substance use disorder are at increased risk for having a similar problem. This research is supported by studies involving identical twins and adopted children. However, this research does not indicate that there is an absolute correlation between having addicted family members and becoming addicted oneself. Genetics appear to increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing an addiction. The development of an addiction can also be influenced by a variety of environmental factors.

Is alcoholism different than addiction?

Alcoholism, which is referred to clinically as alcohol use disorder, is a type of addiction. The DSM-5 identifies 10 classes of substances upon which a person can become dependent: alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, sedatives, hypnotics, stimulants, and tobacco.

Can addiction be treated?

Individuals who struggle with addiction can learn to manage their behaviors, control their urges, and achieve long-term sobriety. Depending upon the nature and severity of a person’s addiction, treatment may include a variety of therapeutic interventions, and may occur on the inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels. Addiction treatment is typically a multi-phase experience that begins with ridding an individual’s body of the drug or drugs upon which he has been dependent, and continues through increasingly less-intensive levels as he or she develops the skills and strategies that will support lifelong recovery.

Can a person who has already failed at treatment ever get better?

Yes! One or more “unsuccessful” treatment experiences should not prevent a person from continuing to work on his or her recovery. Recovering from an addiction to alcohol or other drugs is not a simple or straightforward experience. Many individuals will relapse into substance abuse after weeks, months, or years of sobriety. In some cases, these people will need to re-enter a treatment program in order to address the issues that led to their relapse, while others may be best served by increasing their level of participation in a support group such as a 12-step group. Even people who have not relapsed find that from time to time it is beneficial to get a “tune up” via a short-term stay in a treatment program or via outpatient care. The short answer is that abusing drugs after completing treatment does not condemn an individual to lifelong addiction. Treatment does not only help people to avoid alcohol and other drugs, but it also prepares them to react in a healthy and productive manner if they relapse.

What is detoxification?

Detoxification, which is often referred to as detox, is a supervised process through which an addicted individual can rid his or her body of the substance or substances upon which he or she has become dependent. When an addicted individual stops abusing the substance that he or she has become dependent upon, his or her body may experience a variety of distressing symptoms that are known collectively as withdrawal symptoms. Detox provides a safe and supportive environment in which a person can complete withdrawal without risking his or her continued health. For many people, detox is the first step in their addiction treatment experience

Yes, many programs provide support, or can refer individuals to organizations that will provide support, for legal problems that are related to a person’s addiction. In many cases, judges and juries will look much more favorably upon an individual who has sought or is seeking treatment for his or her substance abuse problems. Depending, of course, upon the nature of the problem that has brought the individual into contact with the judicial system, completing an approved addiction treatment program may minimize or eliminate punishments that may otherwise have been imposed upon the individual.

Is affordable treatment available? What is the range of treatment costs?

Treatment is an intensely personalized experience, and the range of costs reflects this reality. Some treatment programs are completely subsidized by local or state governments for eligible individuals, which means that a person may be able to receive services at no charge. At the other end of the cost spectrum, some exclusive programs charge larger amounts of money for more personalized services and certain other treatment elements. When you contact a treatment program, the intake or admissions personnel with whom you speak should be able to provide you with an estimate of what your treatment may cost. If you contact a program whose costs exceed your ability to pay, the program should also be able to refer you to programs that fit within your financial parameters.

How long does treatment last?

Drug rehab treatment can vary from a few days to many months. Research shows that the longer a person remains in treatment, the greater the likelihood that long-term sobriety will result. As with most aspects of treatment (such as therapy types and program structures), determining ideal length of stay involves an analysis of a number of personal factors.

What is a typical day in treatment like?

Every program operates according to its own rules, policies and procedures, so a specific day in the life of a treatment client will vary from program to program. However, in general, most effective treatment programs offer highly structured schedules that combine individual and group therapies, addiction education, relapse prevention training, recreational activities, meals and time for personal reflection.

Some programs take clients into the community for recreational activities or to attend off-campus support groups, while others prefer clients to remain at the facility at all times. In most cases, clients start by following a more highly structured schedule (which allows them to focus entirely on their initial recovery). As they progress through the program, they have more freedom and more options for development that slowly prepares them for productive return to their homes, communities and places of business.

What types of therapies are used in treatment?

Depending upon the nature and severity of an individual’s addiction, therapies completed during drug rehab may include counseling, psychotherapy, group therapy, 12-step support groups and family therapy.

Some drug rehab programs use expressive arts therapies such as music therapy and art therapy, while others employ more traditional therapeutic techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Will I have to take medications during treatment?

The use of medications during rehab depends upon two factors: the needs of the client (you) and the philosophy of the program. Some programs use no medications whatsoever; others provide medically assisted detox services (as quitting some drugs cold turkey isn’t only difficult, but dangerous); while still others others provide medications to support long-term sobriety (such as methadone maintenance programs for recovering heroin addicts).

Because addiction recovery often involves the treatment of co-occurring disorders such as depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, certain medications may be prescribed to treat these conditions during rehab.

However, you will never be forced to take any medications that you do not want to take. When you enter rehab, you do not give up your rights as a person or a patient, in fact, one of the primary objectives of effective rehab programs is to allow you to take greater (and more positive) control over your life.

Will my family be involved in my treatment?

Family involvement is an integral component of an effective drug treatment program. In many cases, the difference between long-term sobriety and relapse is the ability of a recovering individual’s loved ones to offer the necessary support (and to make the necessary changes) to promote healthy living. Though every recovery experience is unique and personal, most effective treatment programs will encourage strong family involvement in the recovery and aftercare process.

Does entering rehab mean I have to join AA or complete a 12-Step program?

Many drug and alcohol treatment programs incorporate the 12-Step principles into their recovery plans, while others do not. Some programs require participants to participate in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous programs, some give clients the option to participate or not, and some don’t have any AA/NA association.

As with every aspect of treatment, the important thing is finding a program that is ideally suited to you. The 12 Steps have helped tens of thousands of men and women achieve and maintain long-term sobriety, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect for everyone. Talk to an advisor, educate yourself about your options, then find the program that’s right for you.

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