What is Residential Drug Treatment?

Residential Treatment

Drug Addiction is Complex

People who have never been addicted to a drug may wonder why it’s so difficult for drug abusers to stop using a drug, especially if they have acknowledged themselves that they want to quit. The truth is that it’s not that easy to just stop using drugs. Drug abuse involves a complex combination of physical, mental, emotional, and environmental factors that keep people tied to drugs, often even after they want to stop using them. A residential drug treatment facility is a good option to consider.

A wide array of treatments are available, ranging from hospital detoxification programs to community 12-step programs and individual counseling from a psychologist. One of the most intensive types of treatment available is a residential drug treatment program.

In this type of treatment, the drug abuser checks into a facility and lives there around the clock for 28 days to a year or more, depending on the program. During this time, the individual participates in a wide range of treatment types to tackle the drug problem from many different angles, all at the same time. Because it is such an intensive program, residential drug treatment is one of the most successful methods of gaining freedom from a history of drug abuse.

Components of a Residential Drug Treatment Program

Given the long duration of a residential program, the staff has plenty of time to thoroughly address a drug abuse problem. Over the course of treatment, individuals get help through several different approaches. As the individual progresses through the program, the goal is to leave treatment ready to reintegrate into daily life without returning to drug use. In general, residential drug treatments include four components, some of which may occur simultaneously during treatment.

1. Detoxification

The first phase of treatment involves the physical process of removing all traces of the drug from the drug abuser’s body. Depending on the type of drug and extent of use, it may take anywhere from a day or two to several weeks to get through the physical symptoms of withdrawal. During this time, individuals are carefully supervised by medical staff who monitor the changes in the body and use medications as needed to combat any dangerous physical effects of withdrawal.

2. Medical Treatment

Some types of addictions can be at least partially treated by medications that reduce the feelings of cravings for the drug. Residential drug treatment programs may include medication for some or all of the time at the facility, including during detoxification. In addition, individuals who have been determined to have mental health conditions that are unrelated to drug use may be prescribed medications to treat these conditions and increase the chance of successfully getting through rehab.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Counseling

The main component of most residential drug treatment programs is a series of therapy or counseling sessions to address the psychological causes and habits behind drug use. Through these sessions with licensed counselors, individuals will learn to identify their triggers for drug use and create new patterns of life that will make it easier to cope without turning to drugs. In addition to individual sessions, many residential drug treatment programs have group counseling to bring similar individuals together to learn from each other.

4. Transition Back to Daily Life

Before finishing the program, individuals will go through a process of specifically preparing for re-entry into daily life back at home. This component of the treatment may include assistance with job skills, finding a place to live, and making plans for activities to participate in at home. In addition, individuals may plan to continue with outpatient treatment after returning home.

Types of Drug Abuse Managed in Residential Treatment

Residential treatment is available for all types of drug abuse. Some programs are designed for people who abuse one specific type of drug, whereas others are more general and have a wide range of people living at the site and treating different addictions. Some of the most common types of drug abuse handled in residential treatment centers include:

Changes Ahead• Alcohol

• Prescription painkillers

• Cocaine

• Heroin

• Morphine

• Opiates

• Methamphetamine


In many cases, drug abusers who end up in residential treatment are struggling with the simultaneous use of several of these drugs, which is one of the factors that has made it difficult to stop drug use without formal treatment. Residential treatment is particularly helpful for people who have been heavy drug users for a long period of time and need intensive intervention to become free from the addiction.

Benefits of Residential Drug Treatment

When choosing a type of drug treatment, individuals need to weigh the pros and cons of each option. Some of the other options include outpatient 12-step programs and medically-supervised detoxification followed by outpatient treatment. These types of treatment may have a shorter time commitment, but they also may not be as effective. Residential treatment programs often offer several major benefits that other types of treatment don’t necessarily provide.

• Many residential treatment programs include medically supervised detoxification at the beginning to ensure that drug users safely get through the potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. If needed, medical staff can prescribe medications and other measures to ensure safe detoxification.

• Living at a residential treatment facility away from home removes many of the cues people associate with drug or alcohol abuse. The controlled environment makes it much easier to maintain a drug-free life during the time of treatment.

• Residential treatment facilities often bring together a wide range of professionals to treat many different aspects of addiction. For example, a doctor can manage medications to reduce cravings while a psychologist leads behavioral therapy and a psychiatrist treats mental health issues.

• Being away from the distractions of home allows drug abusers to completely focus on their health and well-being. Because of this, they may see much faster progress toward overcoming an addiction than they would have experienced when trying to treat a drug problem in an outpatient program.

• While in a residential treatment program, drug users are surrounded by others who are in the same situation. This camaraderie can help make progress toward overcoming the addiction by supporting one another and being encouraged by the successes of others.

The main disadvantage of residential treatment is that it requires a commitment to spend time living away from home. Some people have a hard time with the idea of leaving a job, family, and friends behind to enter a residential treatment. However, the benefits often outweigh this disadvantage.

How to Choose the Best Residential Drug Treatment Program

After making the decision to use a residential drug treatment program, there’s still the task of selecting a specific program. It makes sense to evaluate options both near and far from home, because often getting some physical distance will help with the transition to a new way of living and pave the way for more effective treatment.

Other factors to consider when choosing a program include the types of addictions most commonly treated at that residential facility, the qualifications of the staff, and the types of treatment offered. In addition, look into the length of each program. Although a shorter program is less intrusive, particularly for people who have jobs, a longer program may lead to a better chance of successfully overcoming the drug abuse problem.

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