How Does Rehab Work?

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Data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) indicate that less than 10% of the 40 million adults in the United States diagnosed with substance use disorders in 2020 engaged with professional treatment.

Today’s guide will help further your understanding of how rehab works, enabling you to connect confidently with the care you need. While addictions are incurable, most substance use disorders respond well to evidence-based treatment. Learn more about this below.

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How Does Drug Rehab Work?

Rehab helps drug addicts by providing structured and evidence-based treatment for those addicted to: 

  • Prescription drugs
  • Illicit drugs
  • Alcohol

Drug rehab can be broadly categorized as follows: 

  • Inpatient drug rehab: Inpatient rehab, otherwise known as residential rehab, gives you the opportunity to engage with intensive residential treatment for drug addiction. You will remain at the drug rehab for 30 to 90 days.
  • Outpatient drug rehab: Outpatient drug rehab is delivered at various levels of intensity. The most popular outpatient programs are IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). Outpatient drug rehab connects you with the same therapies as inpatient drug rehab. Therapy sessions are scheduled on weekdays. Between sessions, you will return home. Outpatient rehab for drug addiction can be effective in a standalone capacity or as a step down from residential rehab.

Levels of Care

According to ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine), there are five separate levels of addiction treatment as follows: 

  1. Prevention and early intervention.
  2. Outpatient rehab.
  3. Intensive outpatient programs and partial hospitalization programs.
  4. Residential rehab (inpatient rehab).
  5. Intensive inpatient rehab.

Most drug rehabs will offer treatment at these levels of care: 

  • Inpatient rehab
  • PHP / IOP

Inpatient rehab

Inpatient rehab is usually advisable in the following scenarios: 

  • Moderate and severe substance use disorders or alcohol use disorders
  • Dual diagnosis (addictions with co-occurring mental health disorders)
  • Individuals with unstable, unsupportive home environments

Drug addiction treatment centers offer inpatient programs of 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. Find a list of items you should bring with you to rehab here.

Most residential rehab programs will begin with a supervised medical detox. Detoxing from drugs in a non-clinical setting can be dangerous and possibly life-threatening. A clinical detox allows you to benefit from medications to streamline the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. You will also have medical and emotional care on hand around the clock. 

After a week or so, you will have detox from drugs and addressed the issue of physical dependence. You can then transition into an inpatient program that utilizes these interventions: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapies
  • Counseling
  • Holistic therapies


Studies show that many mild drug addictions respond equally favorably to intensive outpatient treatment as to inpatient rehab. 

Most reputable drug rehabs offer these outpatient programs: 

  • PHPs: partial hospitalization programs delivering up to 35 hours of weekly therapy sessions
  • IOPs: intensive outpatient programs delivering up to 15 hours of weekly therapy sessions

Outpatient therapy provides you with the most affordable and flexible pathway to recovery from drug addiction. 

The main difference between PHPs and IOPs is the time commitment required. PHPs typically involve 5 or 6 hours of therapy scheduled on five weekdays. IOPs typically involve 3 or 4 hours of therapy scheduled on three to five weekdays. 

IOPs are often recommended for individuals with mild or moderate drug addictions who do require residential treatment. PHPs are usually more suitable for those with more severe addictions, or for those transitioning from inpatient rehab to a less intensive level of care.

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Common Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatment

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is a form of pharmacological intervention that involves administering FDA-approved drugs to streamline drug withdrawal. MAT can alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms associated with drug withdrawal, while at the same time reducing the intensity of drug cravings. 

MAT is proven effective for treating opioid use disorders. These recommendations are FDA-approved: 

  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine

The treatment team may also administer the following medications if required: 

  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Sleep aids
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Blood pressure medications

MAT is optimized if delivered in combination with behavioral therapies like counseling and psychotherapy. 


Psychotherapy is informally known as talk therapy. These are the most commonly applied types of psychotherapy for treating addictions: 

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): A therapist will guide you to isolate your personal triggers for substance abuse – typically people, places, or things. You will then learn how to use healthy coping techniques to deal with everyday stress.
  • DBT (dialectical behavior therapy): First applied to treat BPD (borderline personality disorder), DBT is now more widely used to treat various addictions and mental health conditions. You will build more robust coping skills and improve your ability to tolerate emotional distress.
  • REBT (rational emotive behavior therapy): This form of psychotherapy gives you the opportunity to discover how to replace self-defeating thoughts with healthy and more rational thoughts to reduce negative behaviors like substance abuse.

Dual Diagnosis

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) reports that 17 million U.S. adults had dual diagnosis in 2020. 

Dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorder, involves the simultaneous presentation of an addiction and a mental health disorder. 

Addictions commonly implicated in dual diagnosis include: 

  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Meth
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Prescription opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Fentanyl

Mental health conditions commonly implicated in dual diagnosis include: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Schizophrenia

Coordinated and integrated dual diagnosis treatment is more effective than treating the conditions in isolation.

view from california detox 30 day inpatient rehab

Drug Rehab at California Detox

Whether you need inpatient or outpatient drug rehab, you will benefit from our supervised medical detox program here at California Detox in Laguna Beach. Your treatment team can administer FDA-approved medications to streamline withdrawal. Additionally, you will have access to continuous emotional and clinical care, helping you to tackle physical drug dependence and prepare yourself for one of the following treatment programs at California Detox: 

  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient program)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • Remote rehab programs
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs

Whatever level of treatment intensity is most appropriate for your substance use disorder and circumstances, connect with these evidence-based treatments at California Detox: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

While there is no cure for drug addiction, almost all substance use disorders respond positively to the proven pharmacological and behavioral interventions we use at California Detox. Kickstart your recovery by calling admissions at 949.390.5377. Do you have a loved one currently going through rehab? Find a list of questions you can ask them here to support their recovery.


The average length of inpatient rehab is 30 days. You can also find 60-day inpatient rehab programs and 90-day inpatient rehab programs. PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) involve up to 35 hours of weekly therapy over three to four weeks. IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) involve up to 15 hours of weekly therapy over about three months.
Research shows that relapse rates can be as high as 70% in the 90 days following drug addiction treatment. Reputable rehabs will provide you with a comprehensive aftercare plan to maximize the likelihood of sustained recovery. This might include:


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