The first stage in any treatment program, short-term or long-term, is for the patient to break free of their drug dependency through a process of detoxification. Significantly, detoxification or ‘detox’ for short does little to prevent or manage long-term drug addiction and is only intended as the first step towards drug rehabilitation. As such, it is meant to aid patients in the safe withdrawal from acute and sometimes painful physical symptoms that occur when they stop taking drugs cold turkey. Defined as the “the period during which the patient receives detoxification medications”, the immediate goals of detoxification are:
- To provide a safe environment for withdrawal from drugs to occur and aid the patient in becoming drug free.
- To provide relief from withdrawal symptoms that is humane and respects the patient’s dignity.
- To prepare the patient to enter a drug rehabilitation program.
For some drug addictions, including opiates like heroin and alcohol, detoxification may be done in a hospital setting under the supervision of medical professionals.
Short Term Treatment
While there are no quick fixes for drug addiction and dependency, patients may opt for a short-term treatment program over a longer, more protracted rehabilitation process. Generally speaking, short-term rehabilitation programs last less than six months and may include everything from residential therapy (living full-time in a drug rehabilitation facility with other substance abusers), medication therapy (includes the use of prescribed drugs to aid in the rehabilitation process) and drug-free outpatient therapy (encompasses a wide variety of different programs that include regular visits to a drug clinic).
Although there is no fixed amount of time at which point an addict can be said to be ‘cured’ of his or her addiction, studies have shown that a threshold is reached at around three months, after which significant improvement can be observed. After the three-month period, further treatment still remains necessary in order to achieve a full and complete recovery.
That being said, the appropriate duration of time spent in a drug rehabilitation facility depends a great deal on the individual’s needs and the severity of the dependency and should not be motivated by a desire to check out of the centre at the earliest date possible.
Treatment in a short-term program typically includes group and individual therapy, as well as a commitment to continue attending Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, a personal therapist or a drug clinic once the patient has been released from the care of the drug rehabilitation centre. Short-term treatment programs are usually reserved for first-time addicts without a long history of drug dependency or involvement in criminal activity.