The Four Stages of Addiction Rehabilitation

Oftentimes we think of addiction treatment as rehab. However, this is only one stage of most addiction treatment plans. Treatment plans for addiction may include many different personalized steps to give the best help to a patient, but almost always include these four standardized stages. Each stage can be more or less complicated, but always has the patient’s best interest at heart. Heroin rehabilitation can be a daunting thing but this article helps to clear up the process for anyone so it is not so overwhelming.

Stage 1

When entering an addiction treatment and rehabilitation center, you will first go through the intake process. During intake, you and your treatment team will discuss medical and drug use history, including that of your family. In addition to this information, your team may perform a variety of tests that could include a medical exam and psychological assessment. All of this information is compiled and used in creating your personalized treatment plan.

Stage 2

Stage two of the addiction treatment process is detox. Detox is the removal of addictive substances from your body, such as heroin. Symptoms that a person addicted to heroin can experience during detox include, but are not limited to, nausea, abdominal pain, sweating, shaking, nervousness, agitation, depression, muscle spasms, and cravings for heroin. The severity of these symptoms and duration of withdrawal depends on how long heroin was used, how it was abused, and how much was taken. In an addiction treatment center, medical providers will oftentimes use medications and therapy to ease symptoms, increasing the probability that a person will come out of withdrawal safely.

Stage 3

After detox, rehab is performed in a variety of different ways. Inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalizations are recommended to some patients. Inpatient hospitalization places people in a treatment facility with 24/7 care from staff. If a patient has work or family obligations, outpatient treatment is an option for those who have had short-lived addictions. Partial hospitalization involves the treatment of patients who have had mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms that are not fatal or extreme and don’t require round-the-clock medical attention. Rehab can also be performed through therapy, whether individual, group, or family. Therapy addresses the underlying reasons behind addiction and creates solutions to those reasons in order to prevent further addictions.

Stage 4

The final and fourth stage of heroin addiction treatment involves continued healing for long-term recovery. Support groups, follow-up programs, and continued therapy are used to ensure that a person will continue to recover from an addiction. Many people continue attending therapy after they’ve been discharged from their addiction treatment facility to practice checking in on themselves. Continuing therapy is also a great way for people who may struggle with further addictions in the future to have a support system.

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) use a 12-step recovery method to help those who have struggled with addiction. A 12-step recovery group focuses on 12 different steps that help a person to continue recovering from addiction. Recovery groups not only contribute to helping the direct effects of addiction, such as relapses and future addiction, but also work to help people adapt to their new way of life. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process and with the help of trained medical providers, counselors, and support groups, it is possible to achieve sobriety and a new way of life.

Professional Help Matters!

But why go to a treatment center? Can’t a person detox themselves on their own? It is best to always get the advice of a medical provider when trying to detox. Treatment centers can lessen the symptoms of withdrawal, making it easier for a person to go through detox. If a person has been abusing heroin for an extended period of time, severe symptoms can occur such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, hypertension, rapid heart rate, muscle spasms, impaired respiration, and drug cravings. If severe enough, some of these symptoms have the possibility to become life-threatening.

When in the care of a medical provider, it is easier to ensure the safety and wellbeing of a person going through difficult withdrawal due to supervision. If attempting to detox yourself, it is not always possible to have 24/7 supervision, leading to the possibility of worsened withdrawal symptoms or a medical emergency.

Seeking Help

Jason Shiers who is a Certified Psychotherapist and transformative coach at Wide World Coaching says “Admitting that you need help can be one of the hardest steps in the recovery process.” There is no milestone of having a “bad enough addiction” that a person needs to reach in order to receive addiction treatment. As soon as there is recognition of a problem, a person is more than able to enter treatment. If you or a loved one is currently struggling with addiction, know that there are people out there who want to help you. Reaching out to your healthcare provider, an addiction hotline, or even seeking a friend’s opinion can be the first step to recovery. A list of addiction hotlines in Canada and the United States can be found here.


Ackermann, Kristina. “Heroin Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, Detox and Treatment.” American Addiction Centers, 29 Apr. 2021,

Juergens, Jeffrey. “Questions About Rehab.” Edited by David Hampton, Addiction Center, 29 Mar. 2021

T, Buddy. “12 Step Recovery Programs Guide New, Addiction-Free Lives.” Edited by John C Umhau, Verywell Mind, 12 May 2021

Watkins, Meredith. “What You Need to Know About the Addiction Rehab Process.” Edited by Scot Thomas, American Addiction Centers, 11 Mar. 2021


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