Learning How to Get Clean the Right Way—What Not to Do

Young woman thinking at home.

In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General at the time, Vivek Murthy, stated: “Most Americans know someone who has been touched by an alcohol or a drug use disorder. Yet 90 percent of people with a substance use disorder are not getting treatment. That has to change.”

Even with thousands of drug and alcohol rehabs of varying types and styles in the U.S., we still manage to have a growing drug addiction problem. Why?

There are lots of factors. But one of them is that those who struggle with addiction are not always able to get the right help at the right center. When it comes to kicking a drug habit, the best approach is always to seek out a long-term recovery program at a residential center. Such programs offer the best chances at a lifetime of sobriety, the best recovery modalities, and treatment services.

Why Long-Term, Residential Addiction Treatment Works

If you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one struggling with an addiction, your first choice should be a residential treatment center, preferably one that offers a long-term program (more than the traditional, 28-day model).

And what is a residential treatment center? The reason why this recovery modality can be difficult to define with just a few words is that treatment centers can be entirely different from each other. Some have very different perspectives on how to address recovery. The key is that each program directs all of their attention towards helping people and to giving recovering addicts the best, most effective recovery experience possible. And on that note, no matter how they are looked at, the long-term, residential addiction treatment programs offer the best and most sensible treatment approach.

The Drawbacks of Other Treatment Alternatives

Upset patient in addiction treatment center.

To start with, any kind of addiction treatment is better than no addiction treatment at all. But not all treatment approaches are created equal. Some treatment methodologies are more effective than others, merely by way of how they are set up.

A residential, long-term recovery program is going to offer the most excellent and useful recovery services as stated above. While other programs’ intentions may be helpful, they are not going to be able to offer as good a program as a residential, long-term recovery program can for various reasons. The other types of programs are:

  • Outpatient Rehab. Outpatient recovery programs provide much of the same services and options as inpatient ones. However, they are not able to offer as much or to go as in-depth as a residential program can. And probably the single most significant detriment to outpatient programs is that because they do not require recovering addicts to stay at the facility, nothing is stopping individuals from using drugs or drinking after hours or at home.
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy. Medication-assisted therapy is a relatively new technique that involves using supplemental medication to help a recovering addict come down off of drugs. The idea is to have the individual stay on such medicines—possibly indefinitely—as a sort of “replacement” therapy. The main problem with this approach is it does not allow the individual to break free in their recovery and expand into a drug-free existence.
  • Group Meetings. Group meetings are helpful as a support group, but not while one is actively getting off of drugs and alcohol. Group meetings are best utilized after recovery has been accomplished when a follow-up activity is desired to help stay on the right track.
  • One-On-One Counseling. Rehabilitative, one-on-one counseling can be quite helpful, depending on how it is utilized and how receptive the individual is to it. But all of the counseling sessions in the world won’t fix the problem of drug addiction by itself. They do nothing for the physical habit and cravings and the physiological impetus to keep using drugs, no matter how much they help the individual’s mental state.
  • Cold Turkey “Rehab.” Cold Turkey is not really a form of rehab at all, but some individuals simply choose not to use any treatment resources at all, and they go at it all alone. This seldom works, as the cravings become too significant. And this route can be also dangerous. Going through drug withdrawals on your own is highly inadvisable from a medical standpoint.
  • Short-term residential treatment. The more time a person is given to work on their issues and struggles, the better chances they will have of truly resolving them. How much good can a short, 3-4 week treatment program do for someone who’s been struggling with drug habits for 3-4 years or more? They need more time in rehab than 3-4 short weeks.

The Importance of Seeking Help Now

If you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one, do not wait to get help. A drug habit is a poisonous, awful thing. It hurts people terribly. It causes untold harm and damage to them and their family members and loved ones.

This is why it is so important to get help as soon as possible and to not wait or procrastinate. This is not college homework or an overdue project at work that we can delay. Lives are at stake here.


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.