Understanding Drug Rehab

Young black man getting help

While there are challenges and problems in America, few strike home as savagely as addiction. The threat of drug addiction hangs over every teen as they leave their home—just ask their parents if this danger is on their minds. A young adult who parties with friends runs this risk every time the pills, bottles or baggies come out.

While some of life’s challenges may seem insurmountable, addiction can be addressed. It must be addressed one-on-one, with those who become addicted getting the help they need. The only real option facing someone who is addicted is to find a drug rehab facility. However, finding the right facility can sometimes seem overwhelming, both for the addict and their loved ones.

First, you are not alone, 40 million Americans are struggling with some type of drug or alcohol addiction.1 This social and health problem breaks down like this:

  • 28.3 million have an alcohol use disorder
  • 18.4 million have an illicit drug use disorder
  • 6.5 million people have both alcohol and drug disorder

Our young adults struggle the most often. The age breakdown for those engaged in this struggle follows:

  • 16% of those ages 18 to 24
  • 10% of those 25 or older
  • 3% of those ages 12 to 17

With numbers like these, understanding what a drug rehab provides and what to expect before, during and after treatment is critical to finding help for yourself or a loved one.

Drug Rehab Availability — Don’t Give Up Hope!

Every year, nearly two million people are admitted to drug rehab programs.2 There are roughly 19,000 programs offering this help. These programs vary greatly and are often founded on the idea that drug addiction should be treated in the least restrictive setting possible. While this approach may be correct for a procedure such as amputation or chemotherapy for cancer, addiction is a set of behavioral issues which is best treated in the most intensive setting possible.

Narconon Supervisor with two students

There are some who can recover without checking into residential drug rehab. But for a person who has lost everything, including their self-respect and hope, it often takes a more thorough program. These individuals need a drug rehab program that provides more intensive supervision, guidance, counseling and education.

The reality is of the 19,000 programs available only a small portion of them provide comprehensive drug rehabilitation services. It’s not uncommon for a person to have tried and failed at multiple short-term or outpatient programs before finding a long-term solution. Learning about the process before choosing a program can often prevent these failed attempts.

Levels of Care for Drug Rehab Programs

It may be necessary for a person starting out on a path to recovery to enlist the care of a detox program before starting rehab. A detox program provides medical support and treatment while a person’s body breaks down the drugs they were using. For a person addicted to alcohol, benzodiazepines and some other drugs that can cause seizures and high fevers as they are detoxed, medical detox is an essential start to recovery. But it is not a drug rehab program. A detox ends when the person is free from the drugs. This type of treatment is considered the highest level of care because it requires constant medical monitoring.

Once through a medical detox, a person can choose from outpatient or inpatient drug rehab programs, also called residential programs. Outpatient programs rely on a schedule of counseling and group meetings that are often held every day of the week. These programs can be intensive, requiring several hours of attendance each day. Outpatient programs work best as a step down from a more intensive level of care, such as a residential drug rehab program.

It’s likely that if an addiction has grown to the point that someone requires treatment and cannot stop using on their own, even for a short while, a residential drug rehab program will be required. These programs generally offer more counseling and life skills training than any other type of drug rehab. This is the highest level of drug rehab, considering that detox is not actually a rehabilitative service.

With the right help, even someone who seems to be lost forever can come back to life.

How Long Should Drug Rehab Last?

Many drug treatment facilities offer a 28-day rehab program. Programs run by community and support groups are often open-ended and can last for years. A stay in a medical detox facility normally lasts days or a few weeks. Occasionally a longer stay is needed. So what is the best length of time for a rehabilitation program?

The only correct answer is that it varies with the individual. Alcohol, heroin, marijuana, and prescription drugs are substances that become part of their lives and have colored every part of their lives. They have made their decisions based on having the drugs they needed for the day. They have planned their activities around being able to use their chosen drugs. Becoming sober is a huge change for them.

Individuals in this situation may have already lost their health, their families and their careers. But if they can be gotten into a quality drug rehabilitation program, they don’t have to lose their lives. For many people in this situation, it could take three or more months to begin seeing life in a new light.

Why Is it Critical to Get Help Now?

Paramedics loading ambulance

There has never been a more dangerous time to be addicted to any drug. The arrival of illicitly-manufactured fentanyl has changed the landscape of drug abuse completely. Fentanyl can be found in counterfeit pills mimicking oxycodone, Adderall or Xanax, and it is certainly found in heroin supplies. However, it has also been found in cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

The fentanyl being found in these illicit drugs is not a single drug but any one of a family of devastatingly destructive drugs. Some of them were originally medical drugs, and others have never existed anywhere but the illicit market. Drugs like acetyl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl, and carfentanil are referred to as fentanyl analogs, meaning that they are chemically similar to fentanyl. Some are ten to 50 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanil is 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanil has been found in thousands of samples of illicit drugs seized in the U.S. since 2016.3

Of course, alcohol is also addictive, can kill a person slowly or quickly, and has addicted nearly 30 million Americans. Millions more harm themselves by drinking heavily or binge drinking.

Admissions to Drug Rehab

An analysis of the number of individuals being admitted to recovery programs provides us with a look at which drugs are trapping the most Americans. Here is a sampling of a report on American treatment admissions.2

  • Heroin: 445,677
  • Alcohol only: 325,933
  • Alcohol with a secondary drug: 256,485
  • Amphetamines: 228,047
  • Marijuana: 212,914
  • Other opioids (prescription opioids, fentanyl, opium): 129,593

While addiction is a desperate condition, recovery from all these types of addiction is possible and occurs every day.

The Urgency of Effective Recovery Programs

With so many people at risk, people who are losing their self-respect and burdening themselves with pain every day, it is urgent that effective drug rehab programs be made available to as many people as possible. In most cases, it is the family that reaches out to the addicted person and convinces them to leave drugs or alcohol behind. It’s the family that searches for the best drug rehab program for their loved one.

In the 21 years between 2001 and 2020, America has lost more than a million of its citizens to drug overdoses.4,5 The arrival of fentanyl has accelerated our losses horrifically. This is a tragedy that you may not read about in the headlines. But while we cope with this national problem, we must still remember that addiction is resolved one-on-one, with sufficient support, protection and education, while a new sober life gradually replaces the one that was destroyed by drugs. We must never forget those being lost in this quiet conflict.


  1. SAMHSA. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health, 2021. SAMHSA Publication ↩︎

  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “United States TEDS admissions aged 12 years and older.” SAMHSA, 2020. SAMHSA Article ↩︎ ↩︎

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Rising Numbers of Deaths Involving Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogs, Including Carfentanil, and Increased Usage and Mixing with Non-opioids.” CDC, 2018. CDC Article ↩︎

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Data Brief 356. Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2018.” CDC, 2019. CDC Publication ↩︎

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts.” CDC, 2022. CDC Article ↩︎