Why Drug Rehab Aftercare is a Requirement for Long-Term Sobriety

What Is the Purpose of Aftercare?

Drug rehab aftercare is a blanket term for services that are offered after a person completes a drug rehab program that helps keep a person sober and prevent relapse. Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease that typically requires long-term treatment to help a person stay sober. A common analogy is that drug use is a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. When a person has conditions such as these, they may take medicines and make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible. They still see a doctor regularly to check in on their health and ensure they are doing the best things for themselves.

Addiction aftercare is the same principle – it is continued check-ups to help a person navigate the unintended challenges that can come with sobriety. While drug rehab can often help a person break the physical addiction to drugs and alcohol, the mental connection to drugs and alcohol and the way they make a person feel takes time to overcome. Through addiction aftercare programs, a person can continue the sobriety process that began in rehab.

What Are Some Types of Aftercare Programs?

Some rehabilitation experts may also call addiction aftercare programs “relapse prevention programs.” Both describe the same goal of keeping a person sober through participation in supportive programs. Examples of some aftercare programs include:

Medication Management Programs: A person may take medications designed to either deter them from using drugs or alcohol again or to reduce cravings for a particular drug. Examples include taking methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone). These medications block pain receptors so a person experiences pain-relieving effects, but does not experience the same euphoric effects as when a person takes opioids. Another example is the drug naltrexone, which can help to reduce the cravings for alcohol in those who struggle with alcohol abuse. The drug disulfiram (Antabuse) is another drug that acts as a deterrent to alcohol use because it will make a person feel very ill if they drink while they take the medicine.

Behavioral Treatments: A person may wish to continue counseling or therapies, such as family therapy, following a drug rehab stay. There are a variety of therapeutic approaches a person may opt for. Examples can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing or motivational incentives.

While cognitive-behavioral therapy is typically the most-used approach, each person differs in what is most effective for them. A person may start with more frequent sessions initially – such as weekly or every other week – then taper these sessions as they become more acclimated to the outside world as a sober individual.

Residential Treatments: Residential treatments give a person a home to go to when they are looking to make a fresh start. Examples include therapeutic communities or recovery/halfway housing.

12-Step Programs: Some people may opt to participate in 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Cocaine Anonymous, following drug rehab. These programs have been used for decades to provide mentoring, accountability and support to those following drug rehabilitation.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term follow-up is vital to preventing relapse when a person has struggled with drug addiction. Participation in rehab aftercare programs can help a person meet these goals.

How Can I Prepare for My Discharge?

Preparing for discharge can feel like a huge step when a person completes drug rehab, as they entered with a completely different lifestyle from when they exited. Through discharge, they must plan on how they will continue all they have learned in their treatment program. Some of the goals for discharge planning include:

  • Providing a person with the next steps and resources based on their unique needs and medical history.
  • Reducing the likelihood of relapse post-treatment.
  • Helping a person re-enter their community as a contributing and thriving person.

A person’s discharge planning team may include:

  • Case manager
  • Housing professional
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Counselor

Examples of ways a person can prepare for discharge is to plan where they will return. They may choose to live with family for some time or to continue their sobriety journey in a therapeutic community. They may also work with counselors at their treatment facility to determine what service types they may want when they go home. Examples could include if they would like to continue behavioral counseling or family therapy. If a person has a co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety or depression, they may also need professional counseling after.

A person may also need help in locating a 12-step or other program location. A discharge planning expert can help a person plan for these items. Another consideration is that any necessary prescriptions for medication maintenance post-rehab.

There should be an understanding of the purpose of each prescription. They should also have information on crisis management, in case they find they need extra help to avoid relapse. The most important elements of discharge planning are that they should be individualized to the client and reflect their unique needs. A person must understand what their routine will look like after drug rehab. This can reduce anxiety, stress and tension that can come with returning home after drug rehab.

What Does Quality Rehab Aftercare Look Like?

Quality aftercare programs are those that are individualized to the person. They take into consideration a person’s drug abuse history as well as their physical and mental health history. The facility should have certified professionals who can produce evidence of their certifications and experience. Treatment approaches should utilize evidence-based practices and research-based guidelines on what has traditionally helped others struggling with drug and alcohol abuse get sober. In addition to services offered at a drug rehabilitation facility, a person can also receive help from national treatment hotlines, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) by calling 1-800-662-4357.

How Long Can I Accept Aftercare Services?

The duration of how long aftercare services are offered will depend upon individual insurance plans. A drug rehab facility or caseworker should be able to help find out what services are covered under each plan and for how long. A person’s insurance company should also be able to provide them with details about what services are available and what portion of the services an insurance company will pay for. If a person has an individual question, they should contact their insurance company before pursuing the service to ensure that it or the provider is in-network and the reimbursement will be covered. If possible, they may wish to ask the insurance company for a statement or pre-approval for the service as further confirmation.

 

What Are Options for Residence After Treatment?

One of the major considerations for discharge from drug rehab is where a person will go afterward. Some people may not have a safe place to go home to. Others may find their home reminds them too much of the times when they used to use drugs or alcohol and they feel at greater risk for relapse if they return there. At times, a court may require attendance in a halfway home or therapeutic community as part of their continued rehabilitation.

Continuing Care at Home

Whatever the reason, there are living options for a person who may wish to continue their rehabilitation as an extension of where they live. A variety of residential treatment programs exist. For example, there are therapeutic communities or sober living houses are where a person lives in a house or apartment with other individuals who are also committed to a sober lifestyle. Sometimes, there will be programs offered at the home, such as 12-step programs or counseling.

Some of the programs may require mandatory drug testing for their residents. All who live there must commit to a sober lifestyle and may even have curfews and chores or responsibilities within the home. Sober living houses are slightly different from halfway houses, which are typically court-mandated living arrangements as a person continues their rehabilitation.

Halfway Houses and Sober Homes

Halfway houses often have some type of formal treatment services and may also offer services designed to re-integrate a person into society, such as job counseling, financial services and more. A person may also be required to provide regular drug samples. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, a person’s living environment is very important to a person’s recovery. A destructive or dangerous living environment can be a major step back for a person in recovery. Ideally, if a person chooses to pursue a sober residence after drug rehab, they can receive support and encouragement from those who are also in recovery.