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Going to Rehab

By Susan Bernstein
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

If you can’t stop using alcohol or drugs, even when your use harms your health, job, or family, you may need to go to rehab.

That’s the common name for a drug rehabilitation center. It can be part of a hospital, or it can be a single facility, that offers intense care for addiction. Doctors, nurses, and therapists will try to help you stop using, recover, and get you on track to stay sober. You may stay in the center for a week, or longer than a month.

Steps to Recovery

While each program is unique, you can expect some things in common:

  • Assessment. Doctors and therapists learn the details of your addiction and any related problems, like depression.
  • Detox. Once you stop using drugs or drinking, you may go into withdrawal. During this time, you might feel distress, pain, or nausea as your body craves the chemical high it’s no longer getting. You may need prescription drugs to help your body manage the physical effects of withdrawal, plus food and fluids to avoid dehydration and to feel stronger.
  • Stabilization. After detox, your doctors will make sure you have a long-term plan for your recovery, including medicines and mental-health therapy.
  • Individual, group, or family therapy. Talking about your problem may help you better manage cravings for drugs or alcohol.

Individual Approach

“Rehab shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Treatment should be tailored to the person and take into account his or her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs,” says David Sack, MD. He's the CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of facilities that includes Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles.

“The recovering addict needs help learning how to manage day-to-day life and its stresses, and to avoid triggers that may lead to relapse.”

Who Needs Rehab?

There are many warning signs that someone needs rehab, Sack says. They include:

  • Higher tolerance -- needing more drugs or drinks to feel the effects
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit
  • You try to stop using but can't
  • You keep drinking or using drugs although you may lose your job or marriage, or go to jail

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