It is very difficult to break free from addiction without expert guidance, but the good news is that addictions of all kinds can be successfully treated.
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There are several routes you can take but the best way of tackling serious addiction is through a comprehensive treatment programme delivered in residential drug and alcohol rehab. There are a number of benefits to this type of treatment, but there are drawbacks as well.
The most obvious one is cost. A stay in rehab can be expensive, so you might be wondering if rehab is available through the NHS.
Can I Get Rehab Through the NHS?
It all depends on what you mean by ‘rehab’. Rehabilitation is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “a set of interventions designed to optimize functioning and reduce disability in individuals with health conditions in interaction with their environment”.1
In general terms, the NHS provides rehabilitation programmes all the time for people recovering from serious and debilitating illnesses or accidents. Rehab may involve learning to use a prosthetic after losing a limb, for example, or learning to communicate again following a stroke.
Alcohol and drug rehab programmes are also available for substance misuse issues including addiction through the NHS. They are almost always provided on an outpatient basis, however. When most people think of rehab, they probably mean residential rehab – where you stay at the centre while you complete the treatment programme.
This is generally the most effective way of treating addiction but unfortunately, it is only extremely rarely available via the NHS.
Will the NHS Fund My Treatment?
The NHS is a wonderful institution that does amazing work, but the sad truth is it is underfunded and overstretched in several areas, including drug and alcohol treatment. According to official statistics, there were more than 275,000 people in contact with drug and alcohol services over the course of 2020-21.2
A few reports and studies suggest that addiction and other substance misuse issues have only grown since lockdown, yet funding continues to fall. An analysis published in the medical journal the Lancet found that there had been a fall in the funding of nearly a fifth (17%) in drug and alcohol services for adults between 2015–16 and 2021-22. There had also been an 11% decrease in funding for these services for youth.3
The NHS does not tend to operate rehab centres itself but will occasionally fund placement in a privately operated rehab facility. Given the lack of funding generally available, however, this option is becoming even less common than it previously was.
Some NHS Trusts will not provide any funding for individuals to attend rehab at all and even in those that do, places will be extremely limited. There may be waiting lists of months or even years and even the application can be a lengthy process.
You might be expected to undergo drug and alcohol detox first, as well as less intensive treatment programmes to show that you are committed and would be a good candidate for rehab to succeed.
If funding for a place is offered, the rehab itself may also wish to assess you to make sure you are a good match for their treatment programme. In the end, all or part of the costs may be met by the NHS.
What Is Outpatient Rehab Like?
For most people seeking treatment for drugs and alcohol, the choice is to pay for private rehab or attend an outpatient programme on the NHS. A study looking at the role of residential rehab in an integrated drug and alcohol treatment system noted that only 2% of people accessing treatment attended a residential rehab centre.4
The sort of community-based treatment commonly offered can still be very valuable for some people. However, if you have family or work commitments, you might prefer to remain based at your home while you complete a treatment programme.
The exact shape of the programme can vary but you will typically be assigned a keyworker and will have to attend regular treatment sessions at a clinic or other venue. These sessions may include counselling and other low-intensity therapies.
You may be provided with medication (but only where appropriate) to help reduce cravings and the effects of withdrawal symptoms. The most known is probably methadone, which can be taken instead of heroin and other opioids, but there are other substitutions available. You might also be able to take part in substitution therapy programmes.
Is Private Rehab Or Outpatient Better?
Outpatient rehab on the NHS has the advantage of being free and, for some, the fact that you do not need to take time out from your regular life is also an advantage. For other people, this is one of the key benefits of residential rehab.
The fact that you stay on the premises takes you away from the stresses of everyday life, letting you really focus on your recovery. You will also be away from the people and places associated with your drinking or drug use and away from the usual temptations and triggers.
You will also be able to access a structured and organised programme of therapy and other treatment that can be delivered in a much shorter overall timeframe. You will be surrounded by supportive people – including experienced carers, clinicians, and others on their own recovery journeys. You can undergo a medically supervised detox and most rehabs also provide a year of free aftercare.
There is no single type of addiction treatment that is right for every individual. If you think that residential rehab could be right for you though, get in touch or call on 0151 268 6992 to find out how we can help, including talking about payment plans and options.