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Treatment for Chemical Dependence/Addiction

Treatment of addiction helps people to eliminate their use of euphoria producing or so-called “brain rewarding” drugs. The goal of treatment for addiction is long-term abstinence – no use of these euphoria producing drugs at all.



Detoxification, or “detox,” is the first level of treatment. Detox involves a short, one to seven day inpatient or outpatient stay during which patients are detoxified from one or more substances. People need to detox if they cannot stop using or “get sober or straight” at all on their own.


Inpatient Treatment (Rehabilitation)

Rehabilitation or “rehab” involves an inpatient stay on a residential unit for seven days to six weeks. Most rehab programs will take people with insurance who have finished the worst of their withdrawal. Some programs do accept people without insurance. While at rehab, people spend their time being educated about addiction, recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous. This is done in group therapy, individual counseling, family counseling sessions, and doing reading and writing homework assignments.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs

  Inpatient Treatment Outpatient Treatment
Advantages Intensive education

Intensive therapy

New alcohol or drug-free friends and associates

Protected environment


Can continue with work

Experience realities of life with Support

Disadvantages Cost

Separation from realities of life

May not be covered by insurance
Limited spaces available

Less structured environment

Greater chance of relapse

Click here for information on choosing a treatment program.


Outpatient Treatment (Rehabilitation)

Because of costs and the limited insurance money available to pay for treatment, more and more programs are offering outpatient treatment. People go to these programs for “day treatment” or “evening treatment,” but continue to live at home. People in outpatient treatment programs also have counseling and learn about addiction and recovery.


Self-Help Programs (AA, NA, CA, etc.)

The self-help programs, like AA or Alcoholics Anonymous, were developed in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and were the first successful approaches to recovery from chemical dependence., AA works as a group of people, all of whom have alcoholism or drug dependence, and all of whom meet regularly to act as support for each others efforts to live without drinking or drugging. Daily meetings, which take place in all communities, are free and are open to all people in need. AA is spiritual, but not religious, and mainly concentrates on how to live sober.

What happens during AA meetings?

    Most AA Meetings follow this general outline:


Advantages Disadvantages
Cost (free) Prejudices
Convenient May not be enough for everyone
Open to everyone  
History of success  


Special Considerations for Women

Women in early recovery should try to attend at least some “women only closed” meetings. A “Women Only” meeting should be the person’s “home group.” It is important that women in early treatment use a person from the home group for a “sponsor.” Men and women tend to socialize in treatment and self-help programs, and it is clearly not in the best interests of a woman’s recovery to develop a relationship while in treatment. In fact, people who are having unstable romantic relationships are so much more likely to relapse (start using drugs or alcohol again), that it is recommended not to begin any new relationships for the first 12-18 months of sobriety. Click here for more information about women and addiction and recovery.


Family Treatment Resources

There are several resources available to help family and friends educate themselves about chemical dependence in the bibliography. There are self-help organizations also available for family members of people with chemical dependence problems, including ALANON, ALATEEN, Tough Love, and Families Anonymous. In addition, family members can benefit from individual counseling or family therapy when dealing with a loved one who has addiction problems.


Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about treating chemical addiction. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


For more information:

Go to the Addiction and Substance Abuse health topic.