What is aftercare for drug addiction treatment?

Aftercare for drug addiction treatment fills the gap between residential rehab and long term abstinence from drugs or alcohol. Aftercare includes residential programs, daycare, addiction counseling, support group attendance, and halfway house referrals. More on addiction aftercare services here.

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Article Summary: Aftercare is a crucial part of any addiction treatment. It prevents relapse, and helps people with substance use disorders to enter normal life more easier after finishing addiction treatment program. More details on types of aftercare program here.


  • What Is Aftercare?
  • What Is The Goal of the Aftercare?
  • Types Of Aftercare
  • Aftercare Support Groups
  • Why Is Aftercare Important?
  • Who Needs Treatment?
  • Your Questions

What Is Aftercare?

Aftercare is an important step in the treatment process for addiction (or any mental health issue, for that matter). It is the stepping stone between primary treatments such as residential drug addiction treatment and maintenance treatments. There are several different forms of aftercare and it is important to understand each one to be better to plan a successful recovery.

While most of these types of aftercare for drug addiction treatment are structured, there are some things that you can do on your own, too.  It is important to create a strategy to prevent relapse and keep it with you at all times, for example.  And carry a list of contact numbers for emergencies.  Keeping a journal and a gratitude list  can help, as well.

What Is The Goal of the Aftercare?

The primary goal of every aftercare program is to prevent relapse among treated addicted patients. The point of any type of aftercare is to help people gradually ease back into their everyday lives without feeling out of control or falling back into destructive habits. It also gives people a chance to do any extra work on themselves or their recovery that was left unfinished by primary treatment.

Anyone looking at aftercare should make sure they know which type of care they need and what they want to get out of this. Often times these decisions can be made with the help of a primary care facility and a doctor. By choosing the appropriate treatment path, drug addicts can start their recovery from a point of strength and avoid the fear and doubt that may lead to backsliding or relapse.

Types Of Aftercare

Formal aftercare for drug addiction treatment includes:

1. Step-down residential care

The first kind of aftercare is residential aftercare. This type of treatment is often beneficial for people with very heavy drug use little support and a social circle built around drugs. With this form of aftercare, addicts are able to have more freedom within a rehab center, which means that they may be able to go to work, have more social visits and retain control of their schedule. The benefits of this type of care stem from the high level of support available 24/7.  However, step down care is a bridge to more responsibilities and, while structured, includes more privileges than residential treatments for addiction.

2. Daycare (outpatient addiction treatment)

Another form of aftercare is daycare. This allows people to access resources such as addiction counselors, therapy groups and doctors during the day while spending their nights and evenings with family. This type of treatment is great for people who have a good support network but still feel they will benefit from more intensive treatment. The up side of outpatient drug addiction aftercare is that it gives people the maximum amount of flexibility with their schedule while still providing the most of the benefits of a residential care facility.

3. Halfway houses

Residential stays of 6 months to a year can also benefit a recovering addict. This type of drug addiction aftercare treatment takes place in an independent and privately owned residence. Halfway houses are best managed when rules and guidelines include curfew, regular drug testing, and house rules. Living in a halfway house helps recovering drug addicts make new friends, get support, and stay in a drug-free environment before living on their own again.

4. Psychotherapy and support groups

The final form of aftercare is made up of regular visits to counselors and use of support groups. This type of care is usually detailed in a treatment plan and is part of a weekly treatment regime. This type of aftercare is good for people who are ready to manage most of their recovery but still need some help and guidance on a regular basis.

Aftercare Support Groups

Support groups provide strong network of people where individuals bond with each other because they have one striving goal – to sustain sober. These groups can only bring benefit not only in the aftercare program, but also in the whole recovery process. Most of the support groups are based on the 12-step program that still remains a commonly recommended aftercare treatment approach for various addictions. In fact, the 2013 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services reported that 12-Step models are used, at least occasionally, by approximately 74% of all treatment facilities. A 12-step program helps people rebuild self-esteem and improve self-perception.

Some aftercare support groups include:

Alcoholics Anonymous

The pioneer in its service, AA relies on turning control over to higher power. During the years, this support gropu has grown into an international organization with over 2 million members worldwide whose aim is to support people with drinking problems remain sober.

Governed by its success and self-support, many support groups with specific drug of choice have appeared including:

SMART Recovery

This support group relies on self-empowerment and self-improvement rather than embracing higher spirits. Its 4 point program proved tools to help you:

  • Increase motivation.
  • Control urges.
  • Managing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Living a balanced life.


Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.) has secular approach where you focus on self-reliance and personal responsibility.

Women for Sobriety (WFS) is designed to help women with substance use disorders to boost their self-value and self-empowerment.

LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSR) owns three fundamental principles:

  • Sobriety.
  • Secularity.
  • Self-help.

Its methods are based on human efforts rather than on divine intervention.

Why Is Aftercare Important?

Aftercare is important part of any addiction treatment since it helps maintain sobriety. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the addiction relapse rates are between 40% to 60%, which are similar to relapse rates for other chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.

Aftercare program can reduce this rates or lessen the relapse. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found out that continuing care can be effective in sustaining the positive effects of the main purpose of the addiction treatment: to help patients live a drug-free life.

Who Needs Treatment?

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, over 22 million people aged 12 or older had substance abuse disorder. The numbers break down into substance category:

  • 7.4 million people aged 12 or older had an illicit drug use disorder (latter divided into drug of choice)
  • 15.1 million people aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder.

Furthermore, the same report found out that 1 in 13 people aged 12 or older need addiction treatment. In fact, 21 million people aged 12 or older need substance abuse treatment. The numbers are divided in age category like this:

  • 1.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 need addiction treatment .
  • 5.3 million young adults aged 18 to 25 need addiction treatment.
  • 14.5 million adults aged 26 or older needed addiction treatment.

Do You Have Any Question?

Still have questions about drug addiction treatment aftercare? Please leave your questions here. We’ll do our best to respond to your personally and promptly.

Referent Souses: NIH: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide
NIH: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
NIDA: What helps people stay in treatment? 
NCBI: Aftercare in drug abuse treatment
About the author
Brad Girtz is a blogger working at Life Works Community, a residential treatment centre. He writes content about mental health, addiction and many other conditions treated at Life Works. Brad enjoys sharing news and information about the latest innovations and ideas in the field of addiction and mental health.
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