If you’re looking for help for a drug or alcohol problem — for yourself or a loved one — it can be daunting to figure out which is the best drug rehab center.
After all, despite addiction and alcoholism being recognized as legitimate diseases by both science and medicine, they’re far different illnesses than physical maladies. After all, if you break your arm, you go to the emergency room — but if you (or a loved one) decide that today is the day you want to get help for a drug or alcohol problem is out of control, what do you do?
Like most folks, you probably turn to Google. Perhaps you literally search for, “which is the best drug rehab center?” And the results come flooding across your phone or computer screen, one after the other, until you’re overwhelmed with decisions and decide that choosing one that can help you with your problem is impossible.
Hold up. Take a deep breath. Let us help you understand something: “the best drug rehab center” is a relative term, because every facility that offers addiction or alcoholism treatment is going to believe that what they do is the best. In other words, there is no “best” — but there is one that best meets your needs. It’s just a matter of finding it.
Which is the best drug rehab center? Define ‘rehab’
Before you can begin to determine which is the best drug rehab center to meet your needs, it’s important to figure out what, exactly, your needs are, and then match those needs to the facility that can best accommodate them.
Which facilities are those? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Treatment approaches and individual programs continue to evolve and diversify, and many programs today do not fit neatly into traditional drug addiction treatment classifications. Most, however, start with detoxification and medically managed withdrawal, often considered the first stage of treatment.” In other words, the first stage of any successful drug and alcohol treatment program is to get the drugs and alcohol out of your system.
It’s important to note, however, that simply stopping the use of alcohol and drugs is not the goal of any effective drug rehab program, nor will medical detox be the only step in that process. As the NIDA points out, “detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery. Detoxification should thus be followed by a formal assessment and referral to drug addiction treatment.”
Those types of treatment, the NIDA continues, often include:
- Short-term residential treatment programs, which “provide intensive but relatively brief treatment based on a modified 12-step approach.”
- Long-term residential treatment, which “provides care 24 hours a day, generally in non-hospital settings. The best-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC), with planned lengths of stay” that can last anywhere from a couple of months to a year.
- Outpatient treatment programs, which permits participants to attend for several hours a day, several days a week, while living at home or in a sober living community. “Such treatment costs less than residential or inpatient treatment and often is more suitable for people with jobs or extensive social supports.”
- There are, of course, individual counselors who specialize in addiction, as well as 12 Step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that are free — and are invaluable tools recommended by many addiction treatment facilities.
For individuals with chronic, long-term drug and alcohol issues, however, those programs often work better as auxiliary support for those who have completed drug rehab and attend them as a sobriety safety net afterward.
Which is the best drug rehab center? Define ‘best’
For many people, selecting an addiction treatment facility is a decision that carries with it grave emotional, physically, financial and health-related consequences. And for good reason, as Dr. Constance Scharff, an addiction specialist writing for the recovery-related website The Fix, points out: “The most important aspect of an addiction treatment facility to consider is its treatment protocol. Inexpensive or high-end, the best treatment facilities offer evidence-based treatment protocols.”
What does that mean? According to Scharff, “evidence-based treatment means that research has been done into the various therapies the treatment center uses. The research has usually been done at universities and published in peer-reviewed journals. These therapies are then used by treatment centers. These are therapies that are proven by outside sources to be effective at helping people maintain their sobriety.”
These therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing trauma therapy and much, much more. A quality drug and alcohol treatment center, in fact, specializes in what’s known as a “whole person” approach to addiction — meaning that while such therapies are ideal for treating emotional issues, they also provide methods to heal the body (in the form of Activity Therapy or Fitness Therapy) and the mind (through psychiatric services to address co-occurring mental health issues).
Starting with a regimen of evidence-based treatment protocols, however, is a good sign that the facility you’re thinking about might be the “best” for you, Scharff adds: “The most effective type of treatment is evidence-based. Evidence-based treatment centers are the most likely to track and share their long-term success rates … evidence-based treatment does not adhere to a specific philosophy about what works. Rather, its goal is to consistently improve outcomes.”
It's important to note, Scharff continues, that “all rehabs are not created equally. They have different guiding philosophies and different treatment protocols. They also vary with regard to expected length of stay and price.”
So how you choose the ‘best?’
Three years ago, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report put together six tips for finding a good drug and alcohol treatment center. Granted, the question of which is the best drug rehab center wasn’t part of the search parameters, but if you apply some of these suggestions to your own search, you’ll come a great deal closer to deciding which one is best for you:
- “Get an assessment by a physician or other substance use disorder professional.” The only thing you know for certain is that you have a drug and alcohol problem — but if you’ve never sought help for it, then how will you know which is the best treatment track for you? A drug and alcohol treatment center can help you with that, and can then recommend which program might best meet your needs.
- “Research whether the facilities you’re considering provide the resources you need.” Is there a trained nurse on duty around the clock to help you with management of other chronic illnesses, like diabetes? Do they make allowances for dietary restrictions or needs? Will you get dual diagnosis treatment for ADHD, anxiety or other mental health issues? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions.
- “Check whether the treatment center uses medication.” Medication-Assisted Treatment has a role to play in effective addiction treatment, but how does the facility you’re considering use it?
- “Look for a facility with longevity.” How long has a drug rehab been around? Is it established, or an operation that only opened a year ago?
- “Don’t necessarily equate luxury with quality.” Spa treatments and equine therapy are great, and certainly have a role to play, but just because a facility doesn’t have those things doesn’t mean it can’t help you with your alcohol and drug problem.
- “Stay away from rehabs that guarantee success.” No rehab is foolproof, and any facility that offers you a guarantee of permanent sobriety is a scam.
As Scharff points out, “Willingness … plays a role. Is the addict willing to do what is asked of him/her? Getting sober means facing the pain that holds a person back from being his/her best self. Even reluctantly, the addict must be willing to address those issues in order for treatment to work.”
In other words, asking which is the best drug rehab center is well and good — and hopefully this information will help you make that determination. But “best” is a relative term, unless you’re committed to putting in the work it takes to get better. And if you are, then the facility that best meets your needs can work miracles — and turn you into one as well.