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What to Expect at Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Posted on March 6, 2021

What to Expect at Drug and Alcohol Rehab

According to estimates provided by the charity Action on Addiction, around 1 in 3 people in the UK have an addiction [1] and government statistics show that 132,124 adults entered treatment between 2019 and 2020 [2].

Hopefully, these numbers reassure you that you are not alone in your addiction or recovery, but it can still be a daunting process to begin treatment.

Although treatment programmes vary from facility to facility, they tend to follow the same pattern. This article will detail what you can expect in general when you start a programme in the hope that this knowledge will leave you feeling more confident to start your journey to recovery.

Checking In

The recovery process is very much an individual one so an initial assessment is required to ensure you get the right treatment. Typically, this will involve an interview with a trained professional to understand the nature of your addiction and how it impacts your physical health, mental health and social life.

This is also your opportunity to discuss what you want to get out of the programme and how you might achieve it.

This initial assessment provides you with a highly customised programme, so it is a vital part of the process.

Detox and Withdrawal

The vast majority of programmes start by addressing the physical aspects of addiction through detox. This is the process, beginning after your last drink or hit is where your body gets rid of any harmful products that may have built up due to alcohol or drug excess. For some, this can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

These unpleasant symptoms are the result of the body has grown accustomed to having a certain level of alcohol or drug in the system, interfering with certain chemical signals in the brain [3].

Withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, headaches, fevers, sweating and anxiety. On average, withdrawal lasts around a week.

For some, this may progress to a potentially serious condition, delirium tremens [4], characterised by seizures, hallucinations and acute confusion.

Trained medical staff will be on hand to help you through this period and can provide access to a range of medications [5] that can make the detox process safer and more comfortable. More information about detox and withdrawal can be found on the online resource centre, Very Well Mind [6].

Behavioural Therapy

Once your physical dependence on drugs or alcohol is addressed, work begins to manage your psychological dependence. This will help you understand your addiction, how and why it developed and learn better-coping strategies to deal with the stressors that life brings without having to turn to drugs and alcohol.

It has been shown that in combination with medical treatment, behavioural therapies really do increase your ability to manage your addiction [7].

Often these psychological therapies take the form of talking therapies, examples of which are:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This talking therapy helps you recognise negative thought patterns that you might be trapped in. These patterns can lead to addictive behaviour so CBT teaches you how to replace them with more positive ways of thinking.

Commonly used in the treatment of anxiety and depression, CBT is clinically proven to help overcome addictions [8].

  • Trauma Focused CBT

As the name suggests, this is a form of CBT that looks at any traumas you have had in your life and explores whether they contribute to the roots of your addiction. It then tries to break any links you may have between the trauma and your behaviours around substance use [9].

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

This therapy is used with great success with those who have mental health conditions like some personality disorders [10]. This makes it particularly useful for those who might have a dual diagnosis; addiction and another psychological problem.

This is especially relevant as it has been reported that up to 87% of people dealing with addiction also have another mental health illness [10].

  • Interpersonal Therapy

Social networks and other sources of support are vital in building long term recovery with limited relapses as they help address emotional drivers of addiction such as loneliness and depression [11].

Family and Marriage Therapy

In some cases, the dynamics of family and relationships can play a role in how somebody responds to treatment for their addiction. Therefore, therapy including those close to you and your family can help you along your recovery journey [12].

It may be unbeknownst to them, but family and spouses might be enabling or exacerbating your drug or alcohol use through their response to your addiction. Therapy can help them understand how they could be contributing to your behaviours, instead becoming supporters of your recovery.

Having family present at therapy can also provide a source of support for yourself, reminding you throughout the course of the programme, that people are there you believe in your abilities to overcome your addiction.

Your loved ones will also benefit from therapy as it can help heal any hurt that has been inflicted on them by your addiction.

Education and Preparation for Beyond Treatment

As your time in treatment draws to close, you will start to make the slow transition back to your normal life, by no means an easy task, so adequate support and preparation is vital.

During your preparation for life beyond formal therapy, you might learn about all the support available to you out in the community. This support is often in the form of peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

These groups run by and for people who are in a similar situation to you to let you know that you aren’t alone, especially when you’re having a tough time avoiding triggers for your substance abuse.

A comprehensive list of these different support groups can be found on the charity Mind’s website ]13].

As addiction is a long term, chronic condition, relapse is very common and in no way means that you have failed or lost or the progress you’ve made. However, adequate support after treatment helps make these relapses less frequent.















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