What Is Rehab?

Most people are familiar with the concept of drug rehab: when someone who is addicted to a substance wants to recover, they receive treatment from professionals. But rehab, in this connotation, can mean many things, and the fact is that there isn’t one accepted definition of “rehab” as a treatment for addiction. So what is drug rehab, really?

Rehabilitation (rehab) refers broadly to the process of recovery from injury or disease. In the context of addiction, rehab usually refers to an inpatient treatment program at a dedicated facility for helping addicts recover from their disease.


Unfortunately, since there is no medical definition for what rehab is (and isn’t), treatment programs can take many different forms and still be called rehab, which can create some confusion in the field. Here are some common aspects included in many (if not all) drug rehab programs:


The first priority of any drug or alcohol addiction program is to provide a safe environment for an addict to stop using the substance that they’re addicted to. For an addict to try to abstain from their addiction not only carries a very low success rate, it can be dangerous as well:


Withdrawal is what occurs when a person who is addicted to a drug or alcohol stops using the substance in question. Because they have built up a physical and mental dependence to the substance, their body thinks they need it to function normally and systems shut down or respond in harmful ways when they stop supplying it. Withdrawal symptoms are different in different substances but can take the following common forms:

  • Fever and uncontrollable shaking
  • Intense cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting

When an addict attempts to detox from their addiction alone, these symptoms make it near impossible to resist, and can result in death in some cases.

In rehab, addicts are given medical supervision to mitigate the risks associated with detox.

Residential Treatment

The term “rehab” almost always refers to an inpatient program where the addict is checked in to a residential facility from which they are not allowed to come and go voluntarily. This is to eliminate outside influence on the recovery process. During inpatient rehab, patients stay in a community with other addicts and undergo therapies and treatments to get and stay sober.

After residential rehab is where the definition of what rehab is and isn’t becomes cloudy.

Outpatient Programming

Many drug rehab facilities offer partial outpatient and full outpatient therapy, which can still fit under the umbrella of rehab in certain cases. Some therapies for addicts that are wholly outpatient, for example some 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, cannot be considered true rehab treatments, since they don’t include an inpatient detox step.

Therapy and Counseling

Most drug rehab facilities include a therapy element to the process of inpatient recovery, most commonly group therapy, during which groups of addicts discuss their circumstances, family therapy, where addicts’ families are included in order to provide support, and one-on-one counseling, during which addicts are given a dedicated therapist to help them discover their own triggers.

What Substances Do People Need to Drug Rehab From?

Technically, the body can become addicted to anything that provides a reward when used, including certain foods, caffeine and sexual behaviors, but for the purposes of discussing dedicated rehab centers in this sense, we are referring only to drug and alcohol addictions. Here is a rundown of different substances that addicts commonly go to rehab for:

  • Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Liquor or a mix
  • Stimulants: MDMA, Ecstacy, Adderall, Ritalin
  • Cocaine: Powder cocaine, Crack cocaine
  • Prescription Pain Meds: Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine
  • Other Opioids: Heroin, Fentanyl
  • Barbiturates: Phenobarbital, etc.
  • Benzodiazapines: Xanax, Valium
  • Hallucinogens: LSD, Psilcybin, PCP
  • Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety: Lexapro, Prozac, Klonopin,
  • Other Depressants: Ambien, Marijuana

You’ll notice that many on this list of highly addictive substances are prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry’s over reliance on prescriptions is credited to be a major cause of addiction in the United States.

Understanding Addiction

You might be wondering why so many people have a need for drug rehab. Addiction was once thought to be due to a weak spirit or lack of moral fiber. It’s now known that similar to heart disease, asthma and diabetes, addiction is a documented disease that can take roots in a person’s chemistry.

How Do People Become Addicted to Substances?

The difference between substance abusers and addicts is this: all addicts abuse substances, but not all substance abusers are addicts. Substance abuse often stems from the way a person lives or the way they were raised. Those with a high risk for addiction due to their brain chemistry often start as substance abusers and progress into addiction.

Generally, what addiction does (and this varies between different addictive substances) is hack the risk/reward centers in your brain. Different substances take hold in different ways, but the general idea behind the science of addiction is that a person becomes dependent on a substance that their body is fooled into thinking it can’t function without.

What Causes Are to Blame For Addiction?

A number of triggers can be blamed for an individual’s propensity to abuse substances. Childhood trauma like forms of abuse may cause destructive actions as an adult, and pressure to use drugs from a peer group can as well. One thing that rehab offers addicts is the ability to reflect on their own choices and identify the causes for their own addiction, their “triggers”. Once these triggers are found, treatment has better odds of being successful because the addict knows what to avoid.

How Long Does Rehab Last?

The lack of a standard definition of rehab makes the duration of rehab less clear and standardized. Most facilities set a 30 day average, but this time period definitely can vary person to person, especially if partial outpatient and full outpatient aftercare is included in the definition of rehab.

It’s important to remember that like heart disease and the other conditions mentioned above, it’s not possible to cure addiction. It takes lifelong treatment to manage. With that said, successful outcomes of sobriety usually correlate positively with the length of treatment. Licensed rehab facilities show better outcomes from longer stays, in which addicts are given a comfortable, supportive environment in which to recover.

At Lumiere Healing Centers, we customize a rehab treatment plan to our individual clients, ensuring that each addict that enters our facility has a plan tailored to their needs. We are a state-of-the-art facility located just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, where addicts of all kinds can get away from the pressures of everyday live and reach sobriety in a positive environment with no distraction. For more information about our services and amenities, call Lumiere today.