Research estimates that the total number of Americans with substance abuse disorders is around 19.7 million people. That’s more people than the combined populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. With such a huge number of people struggling with addiction, it’s clear that we are in dire need of more alcohol and drug abuse programs.

Still, it’s also important to understand the different kinds of addiction treatments and the role they play in the overall recovery process.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, then keep reading for a comprehensive guide to the different levels of care in addiction treatment.


Detox programs are often the first step in rehab. In fact, they are a crucial part of the recovery experience.

Before you can even begin your recovery, you must clear the drugs, alcohol, and other built-up toxins out of your body. You can easily do this in a detox program.

The intensity of detox programs ranges from minimal supervision to around-the-clock monitoring from trained medical professionals. Of course, the type of detox program that’s right for you will depend on several factors, such as:

  • the severity of withdrawal symptoms
  • the substances you use (e.g., alcohol, opioids, etc.)
  • whether or not the detox program is court-ordered
  • the likelihood of dangerous complications without medical intervention

Addictions with more severe withdrawal symptoms require special medical attention. For example, heavy alcohol abuse can cause potentially fatal heart problems, organ dysfunction, and seizures. Symptoms like these require constant medical supervision to ensure the safety of the patient.

Inpatient Rehab

Residential rehab, also called inpatient rehab, is the level of addiction treatment that is most popularly portrayed on television and in movies.

In inpatient rehab, patients have a room at the rehab center. Unless the rehab center is a luxury one, you should expect to share a room with another patient.

Generally speaking, as long as you are enrolled in an inpatient program, you must remain on the rehab center grounds unless escorted off the premises for a scheduled activity. You must also attend all scheduled treatments and meetings unless there is a medical reason that keeps you from doing so.

Some of the more common treatments you may participate in during inpatient rehab include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Depending on the rehab center, you may also have the opportunity to enroll in alternative and holistic therapies. These might include music therapy, biofeedback, exercise therapy, meditation, acupuncture, and Tai Chi.

Intensive Outpatient Rehab

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) bear a strong resemblance to inpatient rehab programs. The main difference is that, unlike inpatient rehab, IOP allows you to continue living at home. In fact, IOP often serves as a bridge between inpatient care and outpatient care for people in recovery.

In IOP, the rehab staff believes that you no longer need the closed system of a residential program to abstain from substance use. Your therapists and counselors trust that you can come to treatment, leave, and come back the next day without relapsing. However, at the same time, you still require ongoing support and continued treatment in order to maintain your recovery.

In an IOP, you typically go to the rehab center for treatment for four to five days every week. Depending on the program, you may spend upwards of 30 hours a week at the rehab center. You’ll also be continuing individual and group therapy on a strict schedule.

It’s also worth noting that IOPs typically do not offer alternative or holistic treatments. So, as an IOP patient transitioning out of inpatient care, you may lose access to some or all of those programs.

Outpatient Rehab

As much as IOP is less demanding than inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy is even more flexible than IOP. In fact, outpatient programs strip the treatments down to core essentials, such as individual and group therapy.

A typical outpatient rehab program might require 10 hours a week of mandatory attendance on your part. Generally speaking, the staff at the rehab center will see that you have a low risk of short-term relapse. This is why most outpatient alcohol and drug abuse programs will allow you to return to a full-time working schedule.

In fact, since many patients in outpatient care are working during the day, these types of programs usually hold their therapy sessions during the evening or over the weekend.

As is the case with IOP, most outpatient rehab programs do not offer any alternative or holistic therapies. So, you will most likely lose access to those types of treatment once you enroll in an outpatient program. Fortunately, many holistic and alternative therapies consist of activities that you can easily do at home for a relatively low cost.

Peer Support Groups

Almost every rehab program integrates peer support groups at some level. Some include 12-step programs as a mandatory part of your treatment. Others use the 12-step facilitation approach.

The 12-step facilitation approach introduces patients to the core concepts involved with a 12-step group, such as:

  • surrender
  • acceptance
  • active involvement

Typically, the rehab center staff will use peer support groups to explain the benefits of 12-step programs and encourage patients to join a 12-step group once they complete inpatient or IOP rehab.

Private Therapy

Private therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist can be extremely beneficial, during or after other alcohol and drug abuse programs. After all, addiction usually has psychological roots that should be addressed during treatment.

If you decide you want this kind of treatment, make sure to look for someone who specializes in addiction treatment and recovery. Professionals who focus on treating those in recovery will likely offer better insight and remain more informed about updates in the field of addiction research and treatment.

The disadvantage of private therapy is the cost. While most medical insurance providers offer some coverage for mental health treatment, it’s usually very little. As a patient in private therapy, you could easily end up paying upwards of $100 out-of-pocket per session.

Questions About Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs?

Nearly 20 million people in the U.S. struggle with substance use disorders. If you are one of them, you are not alone. Understanding the different alcohol and drug abuse programs can help you better navigate the recovery process, and we can help.

Addiction Treatment Services helps those with addiction find and enroll in the programs best suited to their individual recovery needs. If you’re struggling to find the right treatment program for you, contact us today.


Center for Behavioral Health Statistics. (n.d.). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from

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The 200 Largest Cities in the United States by Population 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from