Historically, "rehab" was a term used to describe treatment for alcohol and/or drug addiction. You often hear "drug rehab" or "alcohol rehab," specifying the type of treatment the program offers. Many of today's rehab programs address a broader spectrum of addictive behaviors involving sex, gambling and money issues, work, food, and relationships. In addition, rehab programs treat depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and other behavioral issues. Rehab typically implies intensive treatment and may include detoxification from the addictive substance and/or compulsive behaviors.

When a person seeks recovery from addictive behaviors, a rehab program helps him look at the underlying issues that have caused the self-destructive behaviors. Rehab programs offer a variety of treatment modalities to meet individual needs, often including 12 Step-based treatment. An experienced rehab program will use a multidisciplinary team approach - including psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, and other specialists - to focus on the personal needs of each patient.


Individuals need rehab if their lives have become unmanageable because of their addictive behaviors. Addiction is characterized by the inability to control the use of drugs, alcohol, sex, and/or gambling despite negative consequences. These consequences often include losing employment, family, friends, health, etc., as well as legal issues.

If an individual is concerned he is addicted, he should contact a professional counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or addiction specialist for an assessment.


Removal of denial is a major hurdle for every person to overcome. In most cases, the drug addict or alcoholic tend to minimize their use and the consequences associated with it. They tend to block out or deny the negative impact drug or alcohol abuse is having on themselves and their family. While in drug or alcohol rehab, thru the use of various clinical techniques, patients are assisted in "breaking" thru their denial and working towards accepting and taking responsibility for their actions.

The initial goal to achieve while in rehab is abstinence. As long as drug or alcohol remain in the blood stream, a person's thought process remains somewhat distorted. This process of gradual clearing may take days or even weeks as a person progresses through their detoxification process or "detox". As a person's system clears, so does their thought process. In cases, where a person's thought process remains "clouded", a psychiatric evaluation may be in order.

One aspect of addiction and alcoholism shared by everyone is the deterioration of personal relationships. People begin to isolate, as loneliness and depression set in. The rehab experience places addicts and alcoholics in an environment focused on the sharing of similar experiences. It is widely accepted that the bond that takes place between recovering people is unmatched. This process helps in creating strong interpersonal relationships. In many cases, these relationships will serve to form the beginning of a person's new support system.

Some people think rehab is a form of brain washing. While it is not, professionals nationwide tend to agree that most of the brains addicts and alcoholics bring into rehab with them, could use a good washing. Many of the belief systems addicts or alcoholics depend upon have created exactly what they have today. Through educational classes, lectures and reviewing recovery literature, you will begin to replace old ideas with new ones, designed towards achieving and maintaining a long term recovery. Don't worry; you will still be able to have fun!


Discuss your treatment needs with a health-care professional, e.g., an addictionologist, drug/alcohol counselor, psychiatrist, or primary care physician. Also contact treatment facilities and discuss their treatment philosophies and processes. Questions to ask include:

Is the facility licensed?
What is the training level of the staff?
Does the program fit your needs?
If needed, can medical detox services be provided?
Is the program 12 Step-based?
What does the program involve (e.g., group therapy, weekly psychiatric visits)?
What is the cost?


Almost everyone who has suffered from drug addiction or alcoholism  was under the belief that they would be able to either control or stop using drugs and alcohol on their own. They truly embraced the belief that things would never get out of control. Most attempts to stop or slow down result in a return to their drug of choice. Professionals associated with addiction medicine acknowledge that long term drug and alcohol use result in significant changes in brain chemistry. These changes may persist long after drug or alcohol use is discontinued. These changes in brain function may have behavioral consequences, including the compulsion to use drugs or alcohol despite adverse consequences. This is the defining characteristic of addiction. When you couple the aspects of craving and withdrawal sysmtoms with this concept, it is easy to understand why so many people find it difficult to recover without treatment.

Addiction and alcoholism are viewed as a disease and are progressive and chronic.  If left untreated they can even be fatal. The good news is this disease can be placed into remission with complete abstinence. The bad news is that it will reappear the moment a drink or a drug enters the system. You know a person is an addict or alcoholic when a person experiences cravings, is preoccupied with the next drink or drug and continues use in spite of adverse consequences.


The length of time a person needs to spend in drug rehab or alcoholism treatment varies from person to person.

Factors that need to be taken into consideration are:

Length of time someone has been using drugs or alcohol.
Their method of use.
The severity of use.
Their social support network.
Their level of motivation and willingness.
Severity of medical or psychiatric issues.
Their living environment.
Number of times in treatment before.

What we do know, is the longer a person spends in a supportive recovering environment, the better the chances are that they will maintain long term recovery. Secondly, the longer a person spends in addiction treatment, the greater the likelihood they will receive all the benefits treatment has to offer and lastly, leave this decision up to the treatment team. They are not easily manipulated and will base their recommendation on what the patient needs, rather than what the patient wants.


We are told in early recovery that drug addicts and alcoholics are not bad people learning how to be good, but sick people learning how to get well.

Pretty much any program of recovery, including the 12 step program of AA or NA, include a heavy dose of self-introspection and “housekeeping.” In other words, instead of simply abstaining from drugs and alcohol, the goal for long term recovery is to progress spiritually, and that means examining and attempting to correct our immoral behaviors.

Consider also that some of the 12 steps specifically address our behavior and how it has affected others. Some of the steps are designed to alleviate us of the feelings of shame and guilt that might drive us to relapse. Other steps are designed so that we are living our life in a way that won’t produce these ill feelings (a guide for proper living).

I’ve almost never met a “bad person” in recovery. When you get to know others in recovery, you start to see that addicts and alcoholics really are good people. Some of us still struggle with our addiction, and the behaviors that ensue are inexcusable. That means that addiction or alcoholism is not an excuse for bad behavior.  We are still responsible for our actions, regardless of whether we are sober or not. But when you sober up the meanest, angriest, most miserable drunk, eventually you will start to see the good in them. We have experienced this with every single angry drunk that we have watched get clean and sober. Some of these individuals have truly shocked us in their willingness to help others after they sober up.

This of course does not mean that everyone who sobers up is going to make it over the long haul. It simply points to a common and subtle error in thinking: that people who act badly while under the influence are bad people. They’re not. They truly are sick, and you can see an amazing change for the better if they sober up and start working a recovery program.