Drug Rehab Programs & The Importance of Peer Support

peer support is a vital part of drug rehab programs

Drug rehab programs are divided into different parts: first detox treatment, then inpatient treatment, followed by outpatient and sober living. Most addicts in treatment programs have no problem staying sober during the first part of drug rehab (detox and inpatient). They are strictly supervised and their movement is restricted, so they couldn’t relapse even if they wanted to. It is usually during the second phase of drug rehab programs (outpatient and sober living/halfway house) that addicts relapse.

Drug Rehab Programs & The Importance of Peer Support

What are the primary differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment programs? Structure and setting. Outpatient exists to transition addicts from intensive, 24/7 drug rehab programs to ones that are less intense and frequent. In halfway houses, they have more freedom (which means more opportunity to relapse).

The Role of Peer Support

Another primary difference between inpatient and outpatient drug rehab programs is the level of support that each provides. In a residential setting, addicts have access to doctors and addiction treatment specialists around the clock. This is not the case for aftercare. It is up to the addicts themselves to form their own support network. If and when they fail to do this, they isolate. They start to feel sad and lonely, making it only a matter of time before they relapse.

Peer support helps to fill the void in treatment after inpatient drug rehab programs. At outpatient and sober living facilities, addicts are thrown together with other addicts — their peers. These fellow addicts are valuable not only because they can be a shoulder to cry on, but also because they are going through similar trials. One addict will perfectly understand what another addict is going through, and will not judge. They are there to listen and to be a helping hand.

What Peer Support Is & Isn’t

Addicts in drug rehab programs may get confused as to what exactly qualifies as “peer support.” So, these are the things it is and the things it isn’t.

What Peer Support Isn’t

  • Therapists: Therapists certainly have a role to play in drug rehab programs. However, they cannot be peers. Their job is to help you, not to be compassionate with you. They will approach your situation from a medical/psychological point of view, not from the perspective of a shared experience.
  • Sponsors: Sponsors can be friends, but your peer support network cannot be limited to your sponsor. A sponsor’s job is to take you through the 12 steps, and this often creates a different dynamic than one between peers. A sponsor-sponsee relationship is more like one between a teacher and a student.
  • The Opposite Sex: It is extremely important to recognize how important this is. For almost all addicts and alcoholics, it is impossible to have pure intentions with the opposite sex while you are in early recovery. It’s best not to rely on men or women for support.

What Peer Support Is

Peer support is a helping hand, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. They are people who are there for you when you need them, who never judge you and always accept you. Most importantly, they are people who are just like you — they’ve done the same things, thought the same thoughts and felt the same feelings. Maybe they’ve even gone to the same drug rehab programs. The value of friendship and compassion cannot be denied in recovery. Without it, recovery is doomed. With it, you cannot fail!

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