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Which Drug Rehab Or Alcohol Treatment Level Of Care Is Best?

Bill Urell

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Before we look for a drug rehab or alcohol treatment program, we have to look at the level of care needed and assess the severity of the problem. Just as there are various levels of use of mood altering drugs, there are various levels of treatment available. Within each clarification there are variances of cost, and length of treatment. Here are some levels of care and examples of what may be appropriate for a situation.

Brief Therapy/Intervention - This is usually a very short duration program, but can be very effective. Perhaps a person who really is not involved with alcohol over does it one time on a birthday or New Years and is caught on their first DUI. They may be mandated to attend alcohol classes where education is provided for a few weeks.

Detoxification - The idea that detox is drug treatment is a common misconception. The purpose of a ‘Detox’ is to safely monitor and de-escalate an incident of intoxification. Generally, as soon as you are medically stable (which is not recovery treatment) you are dismissed from the hospital or facility. Supervised detox is recommended for long term alcohol or benzodiazepine (Xanax, Ambien etc) users as the risk of seizures exists. This may be a required first step before entering treatment.

Outpatient Program - This is non-residential treatment usually consisting of attending a therapy group and/or individual counseling once or twice/week. This may be appropriate for a person whose use is starting to cause problems, but is not yet dependent

Intensive Outpatient Program - This is non residential but generally consists of 16-20 hours of group and individual therapy per week. Insurance is more likely to cover this form of treatment rather than inpatient treatment. This is less costly than residential, but is appropriate for a person with full dependency. Outpatient programs may be used as a ‘step down’ after completing residential treatment

Inpatient Treatment - This is your classic ‘drug rehab’. It is residential and the programs generally consist of a full day of activities and may last from 4 weeks to a year. It is the most intense form of treatment and these facilities are usually equipped to handle additional global problems associated with addiction such as mental health, physical, emotional and spiritual areas.

I am definitely biased. That being said, I would recommend inpatient treatment for anyone with addiction or chemical dependency. The primary advantage is that the evidence is clear that a longer exposure to treatment increases the probability of a good outcome. One disadvantage is that inpatient treatment can be costly and insurance generally does not cover it.

The important thing is to get a proper professional assessment so you can be matched with an appropriate level of care.

Tell your story! Pick up addiction recovery tips and tricks to enhance your life free of addictions. Join our growing community. The author, Bill Urell MA. CAAP-II, is an addictions therapist at a leading residential treatment center . He teaches healthy life styles and life skills. Visit


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