What Are the Different Types of Drug Addiction Programs?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies drug addiction and abuse treatment programs in a number of different ways. The choice of a treatment program, also known as a treatment modality, depends on the particular needs, goals, and objectives of a person desiring to address drug addiction or abuse. A common way in which drug addiction and abuse treatment programs are classified is based on the length and manner of stay within a recovery program. With that in mind, three different types of drug addiction programs commonly found in the United States and elsewhere are:

  • long-term residential
  • short-term residential
  • outpatient

Long-Term Residential

Long-term residential treatment programs provide a person with around-the-clock care, typically in a non-hospital setting. The length of stay in a long-term residential treatment program can run from between six to 12 months, depending on an individual’s needs and recovery plan. Many long-term residential treatment programs utilized a modality known as the therapeutic community. The therapeutic community modality focuses on what is known as “resocialization.”

The program’s entire community is involved in the overall treatment, recovery, and resocialization process. In a long-term addiction treatment program, addiction typically is considered and addressed in terms of a person’s social and psychological issues. Treatment tends to focus on developing frameworks for personal accountability and responsibility. Therapeutic communities in long-term residential treatment programs can be focused on specific demographics. For example, a long-term residential program might focus on particular cohorts of individuals that might include:

  • women
  • men
  • adolescents
  • professionals in crisis
  • inmates

Short-Term Residential

Short-term residential programs are quite like the long-term derivation in that the provide a 24-hour treatment protocol. With that said, short-term residential addiction treatment programs can be found in both hospital and non-hospital settings. At the outside, a short-term residential program may last as long as about 28 days.

Many programs are shorter, depending on the needs of a particular individual. Because of the shorter duration of this type of treatment and recovery program, reliance is not usually on the therapeutic community modality. These programs typically are based on some sort of modified 12-step approach to treatment and recovery. In some instances, a short-term residential program follows a rational recovery modality.


The nature and extent of services offered via outpatient addiction and abuse treatment can differ significantly from one program to another. An outpatient program is most suitable for a person with less severe issues involving a mind-altering substance. It is also better suited to an individual who has an existing network of healthy support. An outpatient program permits a person to remain at home during treatment. A person typically continues working and meeting typical needs and requirements associated with day-to-day living. Components of an outpatient addiction or abuse treatment program include group counseling. Indeed, group counseling typically is a major component of an outpatient program. In addition, drug education also tends to be a major component of this type of treatment.

After Care and Relapse Prevention

Long-term residential, short-term residential, or outpatient drug addiction treatment is followed by a course of aftercare and relapse prevention programming. Aftercare and relapse prevention programs are designed to assist with the transition back to a healthy life with appropriate routines. Aftercare and relapse prevention ideally is customized to meet the unique goals, needs, and challenges faced by an individual who has been through one of the drug addiction treatment programs discussed previously. Aftercare programming can include individual therapy, group therapy, as well as participation in a self-help group like AA, NA, or CA. During the course of one or another of the primary addiction treatment programs discussed previously, specific, individualized aftercare and relapse prevention program is developed.


In advance of entering into a long-term residential, short-term residential, or outpatient addiction treatment program, an individual may need to undergo detox. A detox may be necessary to ensure the physically, mentally, and emotionally safe withdrawal from a particular mind-altering substance, including alcohol, opioids, meth, or cocaine. If you or a loved one is laboring under substance addiction or abuse, help in the form of an appropriate type of addiction program. The first step to enter such a program is a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation. You can arrange such a consultation at any time at 800-411-8019.