Rehabilitation - 'rehab'

Man in rehab for heroin treatment

Residential treatment to help you move away from your previous lifestyle. Agencies usually require you to have completed a detox first, though some will provide this in house. Time spent in rehab can vary from 4 to 26 weeks, though the usual duration would be 12–16 weeks.

People who have struggled to give up through community-based treatments and have more complex issues such as physical or psychiatric problems, a lack of a supportive family or other addictions such as alcohol. People who would prefer a residential option.




  • Offers a supportive retreat from daily life where you can focus on getting control back.
  • Gives you an intensive treatment experience.
  • Supportive group relationships.


  • Not always possible to leave your current life for such a long time – you may lose your home or job.
  • Unlikely to provide support for people who have ongoing childcare responsibilities.
  • Waiting lists can be long and costs high.
  • Intense group relationships.
  • It can be difficult to find support after rehab.

If you can afford it, you can fund rehab yourself. In this case you can contact the agency yourself. But beware of rehab referral agencies as they may take a fee from you or the rehab centre, or both. Equally, be careful of unscrupulous private providers who may charge excessively high fees for inappropriate treatment. Some agencies will also apply pressure on parents or family members to directly fund rehab places. So even if you are able to fund rehab yourself, it can be helpful to access it via your community drugs service, which can help you find a reputable and appropriate agency.

If you need help funding a rehab place, in most cases you will need to go through an assessment for Community Care funding. This will normally be undertaken by a social worker in your local authority or community drugs service. You have a right to a Community Care Assessment (CCA) under the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. If you are having difficulty accessing one, contact a support organisation for advice and support.

Increasingly, rehabilitation opportunities are offered by agencies who work through supported housing rather than traditional residential services. In this case the agency will use your housing benefit entitlement to fund your place along with some treatment money from the NHS. Often these agencies will help you access move-on accommodation and will have a strong push towards helping you regain your independence.

There are four main types of residential rehab centres although the exact programmes within them will vary.

Therapeutic communities (TCs) – The ability to live with, support and interact with other residents is a key part of treatment in TCs. Although the other tools TCs use may vary, they typically involve group-based psychotherapy and activity sessions. TCs stress core values such as respect, interdependence, relationships, balance and responsibility, to help patients develop and move away from their dependence.

12-Step – These residential centres are associated with the 12-step-based programmes such as Narcotics Anonymous. They focus on spiritual and practical assistance to promote abstinence.

General house programmes – Rehab centres that use a variety of individual- and group-based therapies.

Christian house programmes – Similar to general house programmes but are usually run by Christians and have a faith-based approach to recovery. Some may require you to be a Christian to be accepted onto the programme or at least to be open to Christian ideas.

Tips for success

  • If you are keen to go to rehab, make sure you have access to a good detox first or that the rehab will provide one in house.
  • Plan for your rehab programme – make sure it happens at the right time for you.
  • If you are employed, have a tenancy or own your own home, make sure that you consider the risks of losing these when you choose rehab or make arrangements to keep them secure until you return.
  • If you have childcare responsibilities, make sure you are able to make arrangements for their care and to keep in contact with them while you are in rehab. Visits will be critical to support your continued relationship so you will need to make sure that whoever is caring for your children in your absence is happy to bring them to see you.
  • Plan for your discharge – use your time in rehab to plan for your new life and make sure you have the support you will need when you get home.

Long-term benefits
Rehab certainly helps many people, but some people find it hard to stick with this treatment for long enough for it to be effective. For others, a successful stay at rehab can leave them feeling cut off and on their own when they return back to their own area and this can make them vulnerable to relapse – and even overdose or death. Your tolerance is low when you’ve been abstinent for a while, so be careful, and make sure you build in sufficient aftercare and support. If you need advice about this, contact a support organisation.