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Alternatives to Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Alternatives to Drug and Alcohol Rehab

What are some alternatives to drug and alcohol rehab? While certain types of addictions fare better with formal treatment, for less-severe addictions, you might explore the following options:

  • Community addiction treatment, which is more commonly known as 12-step groups or other therapeutic groups.
  • Some people still adhere to the concept of quitting “cold turkey”. While it isn’t always the safest or most effective method, it remains an alternative to traditional addiction treatment.
  • Rapid detox is a controversial form of detox that purports to get you off a substance in one day. However, there is little evidence of its efficacy, it is expensive, and does not include ongoing counseling.
  • Other alternative options include regular exercise and a very healthy diet, as well as exploring the use of certain medications or even alternative drugs (the efficacy of which remains to be determined).

Regardless of which option you choose, it is always wise to consult with your physician to ensure you are safe and healthy throughout your rehab process.

If you have a substance abuse problem, you might be considering ways to get help becoming drug-free. There are drug and alcohol addiction recovery programs available all over the country, but some people choose to stop using drugs on their own.

If you are considering quitting on your own, it is worthwhile to look at all of the options available to you before you make a decision.  Keep in mind that although rehab is usually the best course for long-term successful recovery, each person is different and some people can stop using drugs without attending rehab.

Community Addiction Treatment

Therapist with group behind herAlcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs often come to mind first when considering alcohol addiction treatment. The benefits of AA include mentoring from others in recovery and participating in group therapy, which can help you make positive changes in your life.

The 12-step method isn’t for everyone. Groups like AA are maintained by people who themselves are in recovery not treatment professionals. By design, self-help programs are not facilitated by a trained counselor or therapist. If this is something you are looking for, a traditional addiction rehab may be your best choice.

To maximize the benefits of self-help groups, consider attending them while also seeking professional addiction counseling and medical care. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12-step programs can be very effective when combined with more comprehensive treatment. In addition to AA, there are a range of mutual aid groups that are available to help people work through your addiction. These include:

Each group offers a unique experience that involves empowerment, support, and a sense of community. You can browse through the websites of these different groups to learn more about their mission and approach to recovery before attending.

If you are interested in seeing what a group has to offer, you can also attend a session and meet members of the group. Connecting with people who know what you are going through can be a powerful aspect of recovery. You want to make sure that you feel safe and accepted in whatever group you may choose to be a part of.

Quitting Drugs and Alcohol “Cold Turkey”

Many people wonder if they can quit on their own. Quitting at home involves dealing with both physical withdrawal symptoms and mental cravings, perhaps without anyone’s help.

Before you attempt to quit “cold turkey,” it might be a good idea to learn about possible side effects so you can be prepared and safe. Every drug has its own unique set of withdrawal symptoms. Some common drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Flu-like symptoms.

  • Sweating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.

It may be difficult to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs without medical supervision. However, a large number of people detox on their own. Depending on the person and their situation, detoxing at home can sometimes be successful.

Unfortunately for many people, quitting “cold turkey” is associated with a high rate of relapse. The term “relapse” refers to a person stopping the use of drugs or alcohol for a period of time and then starting to use again.

Withdrawal symptoms can be intensely uncomfortable, as is the case with opiate drugs like heroin and opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. In some situations, the withdrawal process can be dangerous. Detoxing from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other sedative drugs may be life threatening, so it is important to do so under medical supervision.

Rapid Detox

Young man with therapistRapid detox was developed by doctors who wanted to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Although it sounds like a miracle cure, there is no evidence that rapid detox is as fast and painless as it claims to be.

The cost of rapid detox ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. This procedure lasts a day or two and clears the person’s body of all opiates or similar drugs.

If you are considering rapid detox, talk to your doctor about the risks associated with the procedure. Some studies have found that rapid detox can result in potentially serious side effects.

Rapid detox does not include addiction counseling, which many addiction specialists consider the most important part of treatment.

Other Alternatives for Addiction Treatment

Due to stigma, fear, and cost related to drug and alcohol rehab, researchers are studying new ways to treat addiction. Alternatives currently being researched to help treat drug addiction include:

  • Psychedelic drugs. Although these drugs are not currently approved for managing substance use disorders, research is being conducted to determine if certain psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, ketamine, ibogaine, and ayahuasca may help with drug dependence.
  • Exercise. Studies have found that exercise may be a useful tool in treating drug addiction as well as preventing relapse.

As researchers continue to find alternatives to traditional drug addiction treatment, the more options a person who is seeking to become drug-free may have.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Outpatient addiction treatment may be a good option if you don’t want to commit to 24/7 rehab. Classes, medical appointments and counseling sessions are planned to fit in with a normal work or school schedule, and weekend classes are often available. Outpatient addiction treatment allows you to continue with normal life while attending rehab.

Benefits of Drug and Alcohol Rehab

A number of alternative options exist for drug and alcohol rehab, but professional treatment is often the recommended course of addiction treatment for the best chance of sustained recovery. Medically supervised detox can help with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and trained doctors and counselors can be a valuable benefit to learning new behaviors and ways to become and stay drug-free for life.

If you would like help finding a rehab program or exploring alternatives to traditional drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? today to speak to a rehab placement specialist who can help you get started on the road to recovery.


  1. Bogenschutz, M.P., Forcehimes, A.A., Pommy, J.A., Wilcox, C.E., Barbosa, P.C.R., & Strassman, R.J. (2015). “Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: A proof-of-concept study.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29(3), 289-299.
  2. Collins, E.D., Kleber, H.D., Whittington, R.A., & Heitler, N.E. (2005). “Anesthesia-assisted vs. buprenorphine- or clonidine-assisted heroin detoxification and naltrexone induction: a randomized trial.” Jama, 294(8), 903-913.
  3. Lynch, W.J., Peterson, A.B., Sanchez, V., Abel, J., & Smith, M.A. (2013). “Exercise as a novel treatment for drug addiction: a neurobiological and stage-dependent hypothesis.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews37(8), 1622-1644.
  4. McLellan, A.T., Lewis, D.C., O’Brien, C.P., & Kleber, H.D. (2000). “Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation.” Jama284(13), 1689-1695.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Study Finds Withdrawal No Easier With Ultrarapid Opiate Detox.
  6. Sessa, B. & Johnson, M.W. (2015). “Can psychedelic compounds play a part in drug dependence therapy?” The British Journal of Psychiatry206(1), 1-3.
  7. Winkelman, M. (2014). “Psychedelics as medicines for substance abuse rehabilitation: evaluating treatments with LSD, peyote, ibogaine and ayahuasca.” Current Drug Abuse Reviews7(2), 101-116.


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