Rehab for Drug Addiction Explained

Drug addiction — whether to legal prescription medication or to any of a huge array of illegal substances of abuse — is a huge problem in the UK. It affects hundreds of thousands of people and claims thousands of lives each year, as well as placing great strain on emergency and social care services, the police and many other public bodies. However, there is a silver lining to this picture, in the form of a growing number of excellent drug addiction treatment services and facilities working across the country to turn users’ lives around and get them back on the road to health and happiness. If you are struggling with a drug addiction of any kind, read on to find out about the type of help you may be able to access and how to access it.

Where to Get Help for Drug Addiction/Substance Abuse

It is a cliché, but the hardest part of getting help for a drug addiction is often accepting that you have a drug problem in the first place. Once you have reached that point and decided to get help, however, you may be able to choose between numerous different treatment options. Speaking with a professional, such as an addiction specialist, can make all the difference when it comes to making the right choice for your own situation. Along with your GP, an addiction specialist should be your first contact as soon as you have decided to reach out for the help you need.

Importance of treating drug addiction & when to seek treatment

Obviously, some drugs are more dangerous than others, but regardless of the nature of your drug addiction, addiction itself can ruin your life. Alongside any damage to your health that may result, addiction can destroy treasured relationships, finances, careers and much else. It is imperative that you act as quickly as possible to tackle your addiction in order to avoid it doing even more harm than it may already have done.

There is never a wrong time to seek help for a drug addiction, but if you have tried and failed to stop taking drugs and/or your addiction has begun to harm you or anyone around you, you should consider the situation urgent and reach out to your GP and an addiction specialist as soon as you can.

Understanding drug addiction treatment and rehab options

There are now a great many organisations and clinics in the UK with substantial experience in the treatment of drug addiction, and it is an increasingly sophisticated practice. However, not every clinic will be appropriate for your particular situation and addiction. Of those that are, you may prefer some over others for a variety of reasons, including the location of treatment, the nature and duration of the treatment provided and cost (if going down the private route).

Regardless of whether you opt for treatment provided by the NHS, one of the several charities active in this area or a private drug addiction treatment organisation, the most important thing is that you do get the help you need.

Don’t be put off getting help by the apparent complexity of the choices before you. An addiction professional can help you make sure your choices are the right ones for you, and failure to get the help you need could ruin — or even end — your life.

  • Charities
  • NHS Options
  • Private Rehab
  • Residential Care

Private rehab vs free treatment options for drug addiction

Understandably, some clients prefer initially to investigate free treatment options. The NHS and numerous charities offer free drug addiction treatment services, many of which are of a high quality; however, places tend to be very limited, and waiting times can be prohibitive. Unfortunately, long waits for treatment can be extremely distressing, and many people prefer to get help immediately, which typically involves going down the private healthcare route. Of course, this comes at a cost, but many clinics now provide credit or easy payment terms, while private health insurance pays for many clients’ treatment.

Executive/luxury rehab programmes for drug addiction

If you work in a high-pressure, senior role, you may feel that taking time away from work for drug addiction treatment might prove detrimental to your career, as well as having an impact upon your organisation. However, some treatment organisations now offer executive rehab programmes designed for clients in such jobs; amenities such as videoconferencing and secure internet access can ensure that you remain closely in touch with the office and are able to fulfil most if not all of your professional obligations.

Meanwhile, if you are a high net worth individual, you may wish to consider a luxury rehab programme, in which treatment is provided in a high-end facility with standards of accommodation, cuisine, etc., similar to those provided in luxury hotels.

What Happens in Drug Rehab

It is important to bear in mind that everyone’s journey through treatment and recovery is unique; moreover, no two facilities — not even those within the same treatment organisation — are identical. With that in mind, however, it is possible to give a rough guide to a typical experience of rehab for drug addiction.

Drug rehab admission process

It is in rehabs’ interests — and, more importantly, those of their clients — to make their admissions processes as simple and straightforward as possible. People making contact with them are often at the lowest point of their lives, and any extra stress at this stage can prove extremely distressing and potentially triggering. Usually, when you make contact with a treatment organisation, staff will simply request some basic details about your addiction and your condition before recommending a particular clinic. At this stage, private organisations usually request a deposit, and once that is paid, your place at the clinic will be confirmed and you will be able to make your way there.

Drug addiction assessment

The first thing to expect upon entering rehab will be a health assessment, which will give doctors an understanding of your condition and the severity of your addiction. Based on this initial assessment, doctors will create your individual addiction treatment plan, which will govern the rest of your treatment during your stay in rehab. A degree of flexibility is required; your doctors will need to be able to respond to any developments — positive or negative — during your treatment.

It is absolutely imperative that you are completely honest with your doctors during this assessment. If you are not and supply your doctors with incorrect information, they will be unable to draw up the best possible treatment plan for you and may even include elements — such as the prescription of certain medications — that could be harmful to you.

Acceptance of the problem

Treatment will only be successful if you are prepared to accept that you have a drug problem and have a genuine desire to stop taking drugs; admitting that you have a problem is a crucial first step on your path through treatment and into recovery.

Some users find it difficult to concede that they have a problem with drugs; they may be unwilling to admit to what they see as weakness or wish to avoid confronting the reality of what addiction has led them to. Nevertheless, no matter how hard it may be, it is imperative that you do make such an admission, as only then will you be able to devote yourself properly to the treatment that lies ahead.

Medically assisted/controlled detoxification

Following your assessment, you will proceed to the first phase of treatment: detoxification (detox), during which your system will be cleared of any substances of abuse. Depending on the nature and severity of your drug addiction, withdrawal symptoms may appear during detox. If, based on your initial assessment, doctors feel these symptoms may be especially unpleasant and distressing and/or potentially dangerous, they may prescribe medication immediately following your assessment in order to get a head start on alleviating the worst aspects of withdrawal syndrome. They may also decide during detox to give you medicine if withdrawal symptoms prove especially severe.

Because further treatment will be futile if you are still struggling with drug dependence or abusing drugs, detox is an indispensable part of treatment. Whether or not your detox is medically assisted, in rehab doctors will be on hand 24/7 for your optimal comfort and safety, as withdrawal syndrome can be very dangerous and even deadly when dealing with certain substances of abuse.

Rehabilitation

The next phase of treatment after detox, sometimes called the rehabilitation phase, has therapy as its heart. Once you have finished detox and your system is clean, and any withdrawal symptoms have disappeared or subsided, you will participate in therapy sessions to reveal and address the causes of your drug addiction and equip you with tools and techniques to resist relapse and reshape your self-perception and outlook on the world. During this phase and for the remainder of your time in rehab, you will also benefit from bespoke dietary and fitness plans and from whatever facilities (such as a gym, pool, etc.) your particular clinic offers.

Recovery

At the end of your stay in rehab, your recovery will not be complete simply because you have completed your treatment plan. Recovery is a long-term, even lifelong process, with many potential challenges along the way, and you will need to remain vigilant and dedicated to maintaining your hard-won abstinence. Because of this, good rehabs typically offer up to a year’s free aftercare to ensure you have the optimal foundations for your recovery.

What Is an Inpatient Rehab Programme?

When people think of rehab, they typically mean inpatient or residential rehabilitation, in which clients reside and receive treatment on-site (normally for between one and three months). Rehabs are safe, confidential, tranquil and substance-free locations conducive to healing and introspection. In an inpatient rehab programme, as well as being provided with therapy, medication and other elements of your addiction treatment plan on-site, you will have 24/7 access to medical professionals. You may also benefit from the presence of fellow clients who can provide companionship, advice and support throughout the highs and lows of your treatment.

What Is Outpatient Rehab?

Although inpatient rehab is typically seen as the approach to treatment with the greatest likelihood of resulting in long-term abstinence, it is not appropriate in every case. You may feel unable to take the time away from obligations such as family and work to stay in inpatient rehab. If this is the case, outpatient treatment may be worth investigating.

Outpatient rehab sees you attending certain appointments (such as therapy sessions, check-ups, prescription renewals, etc.) on-site but requires you to carry out other elements of your addiction treatment plan by yourself. While the flexibility this provides can be highly beneficial, outpatient options can be problematic in that you will not be removed entirely from your daily environment and are therefore still able to make contact with drug dealers, making relapse much more likely.

Day programmes

Some clinics offer day programmes, in which you will attend the clinic for treatment during the daytime (for anywhere between one and seven days a week) before returning home or to other accommodation at night. Day programmes are considered particularly appropriate in certain scenarios: if you live close to the clinic and do not have to travel far; have a robust support network you can rely during any times of crisis; have obligations at home such as a young baby that would make staying overnight away from home much more difficult; or have completed an addiction treatment plan but still desire ongoing support.

If none of those describe your situation, day programmes may not be appropriate for you; they may likewise be inappropriate if you suffer from dual diagnosis or any other co-occurring health issues that may complicate treatment.

Intensive outpatient programmes

Created in response to the demands of modern life, intensive outpatient programmes are shorter and more intensive than traditional outpatient programmes, with clients attending the clinic for four or more sessions per week and sessions typically lasting between three and five hours, much longer than standard outpatient sessions. Because of the comparatively large amount of time you are able to spend outside the clinic, in an intensive outpatient programme you will be required to engage in regular drug testing to ensure you are remaining compliant.

Ongoing care

Ongoing care — another term for aftercare — is care provided following the completion of an addiction treatment plan, once you have left the clinic. Anyone who has gone through treatment usually requires supplementary assistance such as counselling, as well as the further prescription of medication if the recovering client continues to suffer withdrawal symptoms (such as in cases of post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS).

A quality rehab will give you an aftercare plan covering up to a year’s assistance after you leave the clinic. This plan may include a schedule of appointments (growing less frequent as your recovery solidifies) as well as a commitment on your part to participate in, for example, ongoing counselling or support group meetings like those provided by an organisation such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

How Is Medication Used to Treat Addiction?

There is no pharmaceutical cure for drug addiction yet. Treatment is based on the twin pillars of detox and therapy, which seeks to identify and remediate the thought processes and behaviours that have resulted in substance abuse and addiction.

However, medication may be prescribed for a number of purposes: to reduce the frequency and severity of cravings; to act as a substitute for a dangerous and/or illegal substance of abuse; to help you reduce your drug intake; to alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms and reduce as much as possible the danger posed by withdrawal syndrome; and even to deter substance abuse altogether.

Medications used in addiction treatment & rehab

A significant number of medications have been approved by UK authorities for the treatment of drug addiction, though understandably not every medication is relevant in every case of addiction.

Your doctors will base any decisions regarding medication upon your initial assessment and how you respond to treatment. It is important to bear in mind that even relevant medications will not be appropriate in every case, and doctors may not prescribe you with any medicine whatsoever. This does not mean your situation is less serious than anyone else’s or that your treatment is less likely to result in complete abstinence.

It may be that your doctors feel the prescription of medication would be counterproductive or even dangerous. Some medications interact dangerously with others, or with certain substances of abuse, while some can cause problems for clients who suffer from health issues, such as dual diagnosis, that can complicate treatment.

It is absolutely imperative that you never attempt to self-medicate your drug addiction. Only take medication in strict accordance with the instructions of the prescribing doctor. A failure to observe this rule could prove fatal.

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
  • Buprenorphine (Buprenex)
  • Methadone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Bupropion (Buproban)
  • Gabapentin (Fanatrex)
  • Vigabatrin (Sabril)
  • Baclofen (Kemstro)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)

Psychotherapy for Drug Addiction Treatment

The treatment of drug addiction invariably has therapy at its heart. Taking the perspective of “healthy body, healthy mind”, if detox could be said to treat the body, therapy treats the mind — and both aspects of treatment need to be engaged in if the treatment is to be successful. Tackling only one of the two components will inevitably result in the overall failure of treatment. Both therapy and detox are required if you are to achieve and then sustain the abstinence you seek.

Coping-focused psychotherapy

Coping-focused psychotherapy models such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) aim to enable clients to develop better coping strategies than those they have employed in the past. As we grow from childhood through adolescence into maturity, we develop mechanisms to cope with the challenges with which we are confronted during our lives. In psychotherapy, coping means “to invest conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems in order to try to master, minimise or tolerate stress and conflict. Unfortunately, the coping strategies some people develop prove insufficient, and many subsequently adopt substance abuse itself as a coping strategy, with obvious ramifications. In coping-focused psychotherapy, the therapist will work with the client to investigate how and why the client’s existing coping strategies have been unsuccessful, to help them learn from these failures and to create more effective and less harmful coping strategies that can be employed once the client leaves the clinic.

Social skills/interpersonal/growth psychotherapy

The connections between poor social skills and substance abuse and addiction are many and profound. Inadequate interpersonal skills can make it very hard, if not impossible, for a person to develop and maintain important relationships such as fulfilling romantic and sexual ones. This in turn can create significant psychological challenges that some people seek to resolve via negative coping strategies, including substance abuse.

Interpersonal psychotherapy sees the therapist and client working together to improve the client’s social skills, with the aim of enabling them to develop better and longer-lasting relationships of all kinds. This will reduce the severity and impact of any challenges linked to interpersonal interaction. Not only does this have benefits for the client’s life once they leave the clinic, but it can also make treatment itself easier and more effective as the client becomes able to express themselves more articulately during therapy.

Exploratory psychotherapy

Exploratory psychotherapy — also known as psychodynamic psychotherapy — examines the connections between past events and experiences and present behaviour. The better the client’s understanding of the origins of their problematic thought processes and behaviour, the more effectively they are typically able to address and remediate those factors. Often, trauma of one form or another in a client’s past is a major contributing factor to the development of addiction. Working extremely carefully (in recognition of the distress the exploration of traumatic events can cause), a therapist guides the client through past events and works with them to analyse, and gain maximal therapeutic benefits from, this exploration.

Successful exploratory therapy usually results in long-term improvements to mood regulation, self-awareness and self-esteem. These benefits often continue to be felt long after a client leaves rehab, and it is not unusual for clients who have gone through exploratory therapy as part of an addiction treatment plan to continue therapy for many years after the end of treatment.

Types of psychotherapy used in drug addiction treatment

Significant advances in psychotherapy have been made in the field of addiction in recent decades, with many new methodologies being developed to tackle drug addiction specifically. Of course, any given clinic can provide only a limited selection of those methodologies, so if you are keen on one therapeutic model in particular, get in touch with an addiction specialist to find out which clinics, if any, might offer the therapy types you seek.

Some people need to try out various therapy models before settling on an approach that works best for them. Not all clinics allow such experimentation, however. Ask staff at any rehab you are considering how much flexibility you will have when it comes to finalising an approach to therapy in your treatment.

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Counselling
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Fitness therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Meditation
  • Music therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy

The Recovery Process

Treating your drug addiction can be a difficult process, and you feel your troubles are over once you complete your drug addiction treatment plan. This can be a dangerous mindset, however, because maintaining your hard-won abstinence will not come easy. In some ways, the most difficult part of your recovery only starts when you leave the clinic.

Elements of recovery

Whilst in the clinic, it can sometimes be helpful to break the recovery process down into various distinct components, each of which you can focus on independently during treatment. Different types of therapy can help you develop different tools and techniques to help you grow stronger in each of these elements of recovery.

  • Developing hope
  • Secure base
  • Sense of self
  • Supportive relationships
  • Empowerment
  • Social inclusion
  • Coping skills
  • Giving meaning

How Long Are Drug Rehab Programmes?

The length of your drug addiction treatment will be determined by a number of different factors, including the state of your physical and mental health, the severity and length of your addiction, the type of treatment programme that you undergo and how you respond to treatment once it is underway.

Stays in residential rehab typically last for between one and three months; however, it is vital that you retain a degree of flexibility regarding the timeframe for your treatment, because you may need to adjust that timeframe once you are in treatment. For example, if you respond especially well to treatment, you may find that your doctors are able to recommend that you leave the clinic earlier than planned. On the other hand, as your treatment progresses, it may become clear that you would benefit from an extension to your treatment programme.

What Does Drug Rehab Cost in the UK?

It is difficult to give anything other than a very rough guide to potential treatment costs in the UK. A standard residential drug addiction treatment programme will cost between £4,000 and £15,000 per month, with rates affected by numerous factors including the type and duration of treatment and the standard of the clinic you attend. Because of this very broad range of costs, it is vital that before committing to treatment, you get precise costings from any clinic you are considering. An addiction specialist can help you get a better understanding of cost and may also be able to suggest more affordable treatment options.

Drug Addiction Recovery and Aftercare

Because recovery can be so difficult, even if your stay in rehab has been a success, quality treatment organisations usually offer up to a year’s free aftercare. Although you may feel reluctant to revisit the clinic after treatment, you should take advantage of every opportunity for ongoing care offered to give you the best support possible for your recovery.

Recovery and community

A strong support network is a hugely important factor in your recovery, but you should not think only of family and friends when considering the support network to which you will have access. One silver lining to the UK’s addiction epidemic is the presence across the country of a large community of recovering users you can turn to for help in times of need and provide help to in turn. Giving your support to fellow recovering users can be of immense therapeutic value and can also help you resolve issues that may continue to burden you after you leave the clinic.

Support groups

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and various other drug addiction support groups are active across the UK, hosting meetings (usually on a weekly basis) where recovering users can come together to provide each other with advice and companionship. Attendance at such meetings is usually free, with the sole criterion for attendance being a commitment to abstinence. Speak with an addiction specialist about support groups active in your area.

12-step

NA operates on the 12-step model initially developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Millions of people around the world have been helped by 12-step organisations (though the model may be incompatible with some people’s personal beliefs). To find out more, get in touch with an addiction specialist.

Ready to Start Rehab?

Addiction is a devastating illness that claims the lives of thousands of people each year in the UK alone; do not let yourself become one of them. No matter which drug you are addicted to, there is expert help available that can help you defeat your addiction and return to a life free of substance abuse. Once you are able to admit that you have a drug problem and are willing to do whatever it takes to overcome it, call your GP and/or an addiction specialist to find out about treatment options.

Take control of your life — get started on the road to recovery

You may feel you have lost control of your life to drugs and be unable to contemplate a life without them, but it is never too late to take back that control and achieve an abstinent life. Your GP and/or addiction specialist can guide you through the UK’s addiction treatment landscape and help you make the right choices for treatment. No matter how severe and crippling your addiction, you can get the support you need to conquer it. Pick up the phone today; making that call could be your first step on the road to recovery and to the life of happiness and success you want and deserve.

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