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Are Addiction Recovery Facilities Like Jail?

There’s a great deal of misinformation about the best ways to treat drug addiction. Media depictions of mental health issues can often make recovery centers seem like dismal, prison-like places. In addition, since drug use is heavily criminalized, many people worry that seeking treatment will result in criminal charges. All of this combined can lead people to ask: Are addiction recovery facilities like jail?

The short answer: No.

The longer answer: An addiction recovery facility is a place that addresses the mental health issues addicts struggle with. It’s not a prison, and it’s not intended to punish the addict. The goal of a recovery facility is to help an addict overcome their addiction while preserving their autonomy. In the majority of cases, addicts can check out whenever they wish. (The exceptions are cases in which completion of the program is court-mandated.)

How Addiction Recovery Facilities Address Addiction

Jail and prison are consequences people face after being convicted for criminal behavior. It’s common for drug addicts to worry that rehab will be a similar environment, especially when their drug use was illegal. But studies conclusively show that punishing an addict for their addiction doesn’t help that addiction. Instead, addiction treatment needs to focus on healing. Rehab facilities are built around principles of healing and hope.

The exact circumstances and policies of your program will vary depending on where you receive treatment, what you’re receiving treatment for, and whether you’ve had relapses in the past. For the most part, though, you’ll retain your freedom and autonomy.

What Restrictions You Can Expect in an Addiction Recovery Facility

A rehab facility is not at all like jail. That said, you can expect there to be some basic rules and restrictions regarding your program. These are put in place to ensure the safety and health of both you and the other patients.

Before you check in, you’ll be given a list of things to pack. You most likely won’t be allowed to bring things that aren’t on the approved list. Some items, like books, might be banned so that you can focus all of your energy on the therapeutic programs. Other items, like shoelaces and belts, might be banned to reduce risk of harm to patients.

When you have visitors, they might need to have their belongings checked to make sure they aren’t bringing any banned substances or items onto the campus. Visitor policies will also vary from place to place. You generally won’t be allowed to have visitors stay the night, but you can often share mealtimes with them. Residential patients might receive day passes to go out with visitors, overnight passes to stay the night with visitors and return in the morning, or extended visiting times.

In the first part of recovery, during the detox process, you’ll generally be supervised by medical professionals 24/7. This is to make sure you don’t experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms. The supervision also allows the staff to make real-time decisions that mitigate withdrawal pain. Detox programs are separate from rehab programs, and generally last 1 to 2 weeks. Many detox centers are also rehabilitation facilities. You can move from your detox program directly into an inpatient rehab program.

The supervision levels in a rehabilitation facility will vary, but you can expect to have 24/7 access to nursing professionals. You may need to let the staff enter your room and look through your belongings unprompted. Depending on the program, you might also have a roommate.

You can expect a rehab facility to have strictly scheduled days with a great deal of activity. You’ll be expected to participate in as much of this activity as possible. You won’t be forced into participation, but failing to participate may have consequences for your ability to continue or complete the program.

Activities at an Addiction Recovery Facility

Activities are generally centered around mental health treatment. You can expect to get more comprehensive mental health treatment at a rehab facility than you’ll find anywhere else, except possibly a psychiatric hospital. Your treatment will likely include the following things:

  • Individual counseling about addiction
  • Trauma and behavioral counseling
  • Classes and groups to teach healthy coping mechanisms
  • Classes about the nature of addiction
  • Group therapy and other support groups
  • A psychiatric consultation regarding any other comorbid mental health disorders
  • Consultation with physicians for managing physical health
  • Creative therapies like journaling, music therapy, and art therapy
  • Walks, hikes, and other ways of getting in touch with nature
  • Family counseling to mend broken relationships and help stabilize the post-rehab home environment
  • Discussion of environmental triggers and how to mitigate them
  • Discussion of what to do in case of a relapse

That’s a pretty long list. You’ll have so much to do each day that it’ll be difficult to think about your addiction. This is another difference from jail, as jail tends to involve a great deal of down time and solitary introspection.

What to Ask When Choosing an Addiction Recovery Facility

If you’re worried about the quality of treatment you’ll get at a facility, it’s helpful to call and speak with a treatment counselor. These are some questions you can ask about the treatment programs:

  • What certifications do your employees and programs have?
  • Do you do research on the success of your programs? What are your success rates?
  • Do you lock your doors?
  • What is your policy if a patient wishes to leave a program early?
  • What types of therapy are typically provided?
  • Do patients receive individualized treatment plans?
  • How heavily supervised are patients? How much privacy does a patient have?
  • What are your visitation policies?
  • Is it possible to tour the facility before making a final decision?

All of these questions can help you get a sense of what to expect. If you want to speak with a counselor now, we’re available 24/7 at 866-754-9113.