Joining an addiction treatment center is the most effective method of addiction treatment, mainly because it gives a person with addiction a concentrated period of time away from triggers, environmental cues, and situations that might lead to drug or alcohol use. The time in addiction treatment center allows psychiatrists to do full assessments and identify any risk factors for relapse. An addiction treatment center allows therapists and support staff to help the addicted person develop a new understanding of their addiction, the risk factors for relapse, and build an arsenal of weapons to prevent relapse.

Addiction treatment centers have evolved over the last 50 years. In the past, it might have meant detox in a depressing psychiatric wing of a hospital, then a few days of counseling and instructions to attend AA meetings. Later, dedicated addiction treatment centers were developed, but many of these were cold, clinical settings with shame-based philosophies. There may have been a feeling of “discipline” and even anger coming from staff because they believed that being tough, mean, and relentless were the only ways to reach an addict.

The experience began to show those in the addiction treatment field that a shaming, punishing attitude toward those with alcohol or drug addiction did not really move treatment forward. Most addicts already feel terrible shame and self-hatred because they have ravaged their lives and hurt people they love. They are often very isolated and feel like they have nothing left to lose. The goal of treatment then should be to rebuild hope that they can indeed have a fulfilling life, but only if they are willing to live by certain principles and maintain a lifestyle conducive to sobriety.

In the late 20th century, more and more addiction treatment centers were developed that dealt with dual diagnosis. This was based on years of treating those with addiction and recognizing that many of these people were self-medicating underlying psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and issues related to traumatic experiences. These addiction treatment centers knew that if you did not treat depression or anxiety, relapse was pretty much inevitable. By focusing on the issues someone might be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, these addiction treatment centers and programs could address specific risk factors for relapse and improve the addict’s chance of staying abstinent.

Many of these addiction treatment centers developed comprehensive specialties and programs within the main addiction treatment program such as trauma treatment, eating disorder treatment, mood disorder treatment, et cetera. This allowed the drug rehab population to be segregated based on specific needs so that therapy could be designed to address specific issues.

These addiction treatment centers also began to go beyond process groups (although groups are still considered one of the most effective modalities in addiction rehab treatment) and develop comprehensive treatment plans that included things like equine-assisted psychotherapy, acupuncture, EEG biofeedback, yoga, nutritional counseling, and meditation. Finally, addiction was being treated like a real disease with a real etiology and a real path to abstinence.