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Narcotics Treatment and Rehab

Written by Thomas Christiansen

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Andrew Proulx, MD

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Last Updated - 08/16/2022

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Updated 08/16/2022

Narcotics abuse can ruin health and life, but recovery is achievable with the right help. This article reviews how treatment and rehab work and the options to choose from.

The rehab process is the biggest part of an addiction treatment program. Rehab is where the underlying causes of addiction are identified and addressed. For most people, their addiction is no longer about getting high. Instead, it became a repetitive, daily process of avoiding withdrawal symptoms and escaping from reality. Narcotics rehab is the process where the deep issues around addiction are carefully healed.

Without treatment, remaining abstinent from narcotic use becomes a matter of pure willpower, and experience has shown that willpower alone is not an effective deterrent to drug abuse. Treatment allows individuals to counteract the powerful effects of addiction on the brain.

Specialized addiction treatment programs give the best opportunity for a successful recovery and a return to good health and function. Rehab enables participants to put together a plan for long-term recovery and relapse prevention to optimize their ongoing growth in recovery.

Narcotics Treatment and Therapy Program Options

There are different options for the treatment of narcotics addiction, based on the level of care provided. The choice of the type of program should be primarily based on what will afford the individual the best opportunity for success in recovery. All other considerations — even very important aspects like job, family, and responsibilities — should be secondary.

The pathological psychology that characterizes addiction includes a fierce need for control, a tendency to rationalize bad decisions and a lack of objective self-insight. This is a bad combination, as it propels many people to overestimate their ability to stop using drugs on their own. As such, they may be reluctant to see and admit that they require a higher level of care, such as inpatient or residential rehab. So, in making the decision between treatment program types it may be wise to seek advice from others.

Many people with narcotics addiction require residential treatment to break the cycle of drug use and to begin the healing process. This factor is especially so if there are complicated elements such as:

Outpatient Rehab for Narcotics Treatment

Outpatient rehab involves living at home or in a sober-living house and attending treatment activities during the day. Most people with serious addiction will likely have better outcomes with a residential or inpatient program. However, outpatient rehab may be appropriate if: The person’s physician is aware of the drug use and agrees with the outpatient treatment The individual is already detoxed from the drug and is free of withdrawal effects The drug use was mild or of short duration The person has a safe, drug-free place to stay away from dealers and others who use substances The person is strongly motivated to stop using There is no co-occurring substance use or mental health disorder There is a good support system in place The person does not live alone The cost of inpatient or residential rehab is prohibitive.

Group Therapy Rehabilitation

Group therapy is a part of most rehab programs. This is where evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are applied in a group setting. The group is led by a therapist and the open group environment gives individuals the ability to share and identify with others with similar experiences in a non-judgemental setting.

Paired Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Dual diagnosis — when a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder co-occur — is present in more than half of people with substance addiction. Many of these people are not even aware of it or have never been diagnosed and treated. Substance addiction and mental health disorders are closely tied together, with similar genetics and risk factors. One can cause or worsen the other. This aspect makes dual diagnosis rehab, in a program equipped to deal with both issues, important.

Aftercare and Sober Living

People do not leave rehab “cured” of addiction for life. Rather, long-term recovery requires ongoing attention to prevent relapse. Rehab provides the tools for doing that, including putting together a plan for aftercare. Drug rehab, aftercare programs may involve a number of activities, such as: Healthcare, maintenance of medications Continued individual or group counseling Support groups Intensive outpatient programs Sober living homes Follow-up for any co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders Relapse prevention training Sober-living houses may be an especially attractive approach to aftercare for some people in the immediate period following discharge from rehab. 

Related Topic: Halfway Houses vs. Sober Homes

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Medications Used for Narcotics Addiction Treatment

There are a variety of ways that medications can help treat narcotics addiction. Certain medications may be useful for helping with acute or protracted withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia or high blood pressure.

For people with a dual diagnosis, using medications to treat the co-occurring mental health disorder is crucial not only for the success of recovery from narcotic use but also for good health and function.

People with narcotics addiction also may have the option of medication-assisted treatment to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and help reduce cravings. These options may include opioid replacement therapy or naltrexone.

With opioid replacement therapy, a long-acting opioid medication is used to keep drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms to a minimum. Then, once treatment has been completed and the individual has recovery underway, the dose of these drugs is tapered in a slow and controlled manner until the recipient is opioid-free.

Buprenorphine generally has a more favorable side-effect profile than does methadone. The buprenorphine product Suboxone is commonly used for narcotics medication-assisted treatment. Besides buprenorphine, Suboxone also contains naloxone to prevent any attempts at abuse.

Extended-release naltrexone is a non-opioid medication, but it reduces cravings by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. If the recipient relapses and uses narcotics the naltrexone will block the physical effects of the drug. Unfortunately, the recipient must already be detoxed from narcotics before starting this medication. This medication regimen is often started after the individual tapered off opioid replacement therapy.

Narcotics Treatment and Rehab Center

Deciding on which facility and program to choose can be a difficult process. Each person has a specific life situation, needs and personality. As such, finding and choosing a rehab program is an individualized process. Sometimes people in active addiction do not have a clear mind and may lack objectivity, so involving family, friends and health care providers in the decision may be wise.

Although the tendency is to look for a program close to home, many people find it advantageous to be away from home for treatment, so that they are completely removed from distractions and are better able to focus their entire attention on healing.

Duration of Narcotics Treatment and Rehabilitation

The biggest factor in determining the length of the treatment program is the type of program, such as inpatient versus outpatient, but even those program lengths may differ between various facilities. On average:

  • Detox is usually around seven days
  • Residential programs average 21 to 90 days
  • Long-term residential care programs are usually 3 to 12 months
  • Outpatient programs depend on the intensity of the program, but they usually range from a few weeks to three months

According to data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the average length of stay in drug rehab is:

  • 90 days for outpatient medication-assisted opioid therapy
  • 78 days for non-intensive outpatient treatment
  • 42 days for intensive outpatient treatment
  • 39 days for long-term residential treatment
  • 5 days for medication-assisted narcotic detoxification

Paying for Narcotics Addiction Rehabilitation

Leaving a substance addiction untreated can be costly; many people eventually lose their job, home, family, savings and their health or their life. However, paying for drug rehab is nonetheless a significant factor for most people, and so affordability and coverage must be right for them.

Does Insurance Pay for Narcotics Treatment and Rehab?

Many insurance plans cover substance use treatment completely. Speaking with an insurance provider or a representative is a good place to start when looking into insurance coverage.

The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health’s online insurance verification tool can help to work out viable options.

The Affordable Care Act requires that all marketplace insurance plans provide coverage for mental health and substance use treatment. Providers cannot deny coverage for mental health or substance use disorders, even if they are a pre-existing condition.

Alternative Narcotics Rehab Payment Options

People who are without insurance may still be eligible for partial coverage or payment plans. There are various alternative options for paying for treatment, such as:

  • Coverage from private health insurance
  • Payment plans
  • Crowdfunding or fundraising
  • Treatment scholarships, grants or loans
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • State and local government programs
  • SAMHSA grants

People may contact their local Department of Health and Human Services to find out more about coverage for addiction treatment from various programs, such as:

  • The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • State, regional or city program

If you or a loved one are ready to begin addiction treatment, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional treatment can help.

View Sources

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National practice guideline for the use of medications in the treatment of addiction involving opioid use.” June 1, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2019. “Mental health & substance abuse coverage.” Accessed July 26, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Comorbidity: Addiction and other mental illnesses.” Research Report Series, September 2010. Accessed July 26, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How effective is drug addiction treatment?” January 17, 2018. Accessed July 26, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Treatment episode data set (TEDS) 2017.” April 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Treatment locator.”. Accessed July 26, 2019.