Stages of Addiction Treatment


The journey through addiction to recovery is not an easy one, nor a quick one. It’s hard for individuals, families, loved ones, friends, employers — basically everyone associated with someone struggling with addiction.

Throughout the course of treatment, individuals should be surrounded by helpful, caring experts and loved ones. The support network begins at home and extends to the entire community. The various stages of addiction treatment and recovery host a revolving circle of contacts for each stage. Below, we have an overview of the process that individuals commonly go through on the road to recovery.


For many addicts, the first step is detox. The act of detoxing is essentially allowing the body to rid itself of whatever drug an individual was using prior to coming in.

After use and/or abuse of the substance has stopped, withdrawal is often the next stage. Withdrawal can be quite dangerous (not to mention extraordinarily unpleasant) and many individuals choose to remain under doctor supervision for this process.

Sometimes this takes place at a hospital, under the watchful eye of nurses and medical staff. This seems to be an ideal situation to many, with trained medical help just around the corner.

Some individuals also choose to detox directly at a primary treatment facility. We’ve all seen the dramatic scenes from Hollywood movies where an actor is tied to a bed and grits their teeth for hours on end, sweating and screaming. The good news is that it’s not really like that. Selecting a treatment center with a good reputation for caring, emotional support and proven, licensed experts (with detox experience) is essential.

Some individuals choose to detox at home, especially when they’re making the choice to quit using on their own. This is also common with teenagers – – where parents will take control and attempt to manage their recovery without external help.

Detox can come as part of a court-ordered program, such as with those arrested for being under the influence of alcohol and may be a component of a parole agreement.

Primary Treatment

Following detox, addicts enter what is called primary treatment. This is the stage that focuses on the psychological components of addiction. Generally, there will be medical and psychiatric examinations upon intake that help form the treatment protocol for an individual. A wide variety of choices need to be made both by the patient and the family.

Discussions will need to include things such as insurance coverage, co-occurring mental health conditions, and living arrangements.

There are two major types of primary treatment:


Inpatient addiction treatment is characterized by an extended stay in a rehab center, hospital or other clinical environments. The average stay is somewhere around 28 days but can last several months depending on progress.

Costs can range from a few hundred to well over $5,000 per day and insurance may or may not assist, depending on coverage obtained by the individual seeking treatment.

It’s important to note that some inpatient treatment centers have harsh abstinence policies that will terminate treatment for a patient if they relapse.


Outpatient addiction treatment is normally conducted in the form of weekly scheduled meetings with therapists, counselors, and addiction experts.

These programs can last quite a bit longer than the inpatient programs and are often much more affordable. That said, they are often believed to be less effective, especially when the addict has returned to their normal (read: pre-treatment) living environment.

Many experts recommend that outpatient treatment is coupled with living in a halfway / sober living home and/or follow a successful inpatient stay.

Relapse Prevention / Continued Care

Addiction is a disease that lasts a lifetime. Even after successfully completing a strong primary treatment program, addicts can run the risk of relapse.

Most treatment centers will recommend a continuation of care or relapse prevention schedule to follow their program. This is often done in the form of 12 step meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc) or other support groups. Long term support networks are common and widely available to almost all individuals in the United States, free of charge.

While this is the generally accepted process for treatment, it’s not the only one that works. Some stages may not be available to individuals, and therefore they’re forced to make other arrangements. AA alone has proven effective for many addicts without ever attending a primary treatment center. With addiction treatment, there is no real one-size-fits-all approach; every individual is different and requires their own treatment protocol.