Rehab in Australia
A Guide to Drug & Alcohol Treatment Options

Whether you have decided to check yourself into rehab or are researching rehab centres in Australia for someone you care about, you have probably noticed that there is a lot of information out there. Looking into rehab options can already be overwhelming enough without the added burden of going through a plethora of data. This comprehensive guide on drug and alcohol rehab in Australia will make it easier to focus on the most important details.
In this article, we’ll talk about:

Finding Quality Addiction Care in Australia

There are numerous rehab centres in Australia for those who are looking to address their alcohol and/or drug abuse. Customised care during rehabilitation is an integral part of breaking free from addictions, and a good rehab centre can come up with a treatment plan that is suitable for each individual’s unique needs and budget.
Chances of successful addiction recovery are more likely when willpower and the proper resources come together. With that said, there is no secret formula that will work for everyone so be cautious of any rehab centres that say their approach is suitable for anyone.
Presently, Australia provides comprehensive addiction treatment services across a range of treatment settings, types of programmes, and locations. In this section, we take a closer look at the most common types of rehabilitation settings available to help you understand your needs.

Residential rehabilitation

Residential rehab centres in Australia provide a more long-term method of treatment with the goal of fostering a drug or alcohol-free lifestyle. Residential programmes offer accommodations for patients to live in, along with a care plan and schedule. Residential rehabilitation is the most expensive form of treatment and with greatest needs.
Note that not all residential rehab centres provide detox or are able to offer medical care. It is advisable to check with the rehab of choice to see what your options are. The duration for this type of programme can be anywhere between several weeks to months, and even years in some cases.
Residential rehab not only requires living in the facility throughout the duration but also developing interpersonal relationships with people they do not know while not having the support of their family and friends. With that said, residential rehab can be good for those who:¹
Counseling and psychotherapy. Psychologist consulting husband and wife in trouble.
  • Do not have a stable home environment
  • Need a break from their environment
  • Have tried less intensive treatments
  • Have specialised needs, such as dual or complex diagnosis
  • Have severe substance abuse problems

Outpatient rehabilitation

For those who are not prepared for the level of intensity that comes with residential rehab, non-residential care may be a good option. Outpatient rehabilitation refers to rehab services that do not require an overnight stay. Counselling is the most common outpatient treatment, and typically involves individual or group talking therapy sessions. Most counselling sessions are one hour long and take place at least once a week anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. Outpatient treatment may also include:

  • Case management – Assistance with accessing services such as medical, mental health or housing services
  • Pharmacotherapy – Prescribed medicine (e.g. methadone for opiate dependence)
Outpatient rehab centres in Australia can be a good option for those who:
  • Do not require or want intensive treatment
  • Have work or other daytime commitments
  • Have completed residential rehab

Intensive Outpatient Programmes (IOP)

Intensive Outpatient Programmes (IOP) make it possible for addicted people to keep working, care for their children and maintain other commitments outside of outpatient rehab while working towards a better life. IOPs typically last three to four months with a commitment of 9 hours a week at a minimum. Clients are required to commit more time at the start of the programme in order to meet certain goals. Once these goals are met, the time commitment decreases. While the set of support and therapies offered varies, IOPs usually offer:²
  • Individual counselling
  • Various types of group therapy, such as skills-development and process groups
  • Pharmacotherapy and medication management

Even though it is less intensive than residential treatment, IOP can still benefit those with quite complex and severe problems, particularly if they have good support.

Types of rehab programmes

Now that you have an understanding of the types of settings available for drug and alcohol rehab in Australia, it is time to look at the types of rehab options and their respective costs.

Detoxification (withdrawal management)

If a person needs drugs or alcohol to feel normal, then they probably need help coming off of it. In some cases, withdrawal can be life-threatening. Even under less serious circumstances, withdrawal can still be very challenging. Professional medical detox is recommended for drugs with problematic withdrawal symptoms such as:
  • Alcohol
  • Opioids
  • Sedatives
  • Stimulants
A detox programme, or withdrawal management, offers support to guide the addicted person through the withdrawal. Medicine is often used to help ease symptoms and care for mental health and medical conditions. Symptoms may last up to a week or more, typically hitting their peak within one to three days.

Hospital-based treatment

Hospital-based detox and rehabilitation treatment offers clients 24/7 access to physician specialists and hospital-grade diagnostic and medical support services. By combining rehab services and hospital-based care, clients can benefit from an integrated approach to healing with the bonus of receiving treatment in a safe setting.
Depending on the type of substances abused and your unique condition, the need for admission to a hospital may be less warranted. Generally, a specialist detox unit is necessary only under the following circumstances:³
  • Severe and/or multiple addictions to different substances
  • Serious medical and/or psychiatric complications
  • Unstable home environment
  • Failed attempts at ambulatory detoxification
Along with detoxification, some cases call for what is known as substitution treatment. Drug users in substitution treatment are given a substance that is either identical or similar to the one they are addicted to. This type of treatment is commonly used for heroin and other opioid drug treatments due to the health concerns associated with withdrawing from these substances. Withdrawal management services are available through public and non-government providers.

Therapeutic Community Programmes

Therapeutic Community (TC) programmes are long-term treatment programmes in a peer-based community that adheres to the concept of “right living” and “community as method”. The programmes are characterised by confrontational group therapy, treatment phases, routines chores, and a hierarchical model.4 Therapeutic communities offer a safe and supportive environment for residents to work through their emotions and develop a greater understanding of substance-related issues. Currently, there are over 70 residential services in Therapeutic Communities and Residential Rehabilitation Services across Australia and New Zealand.5

Self-help programmes

Self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are abstinence-based groups that offer recovering addicts support in their path to remain drug and alcohol-free. Available across the states and also online, AA and NA are hour-long meetings that are typically facilitated by other addicts in the fellowship. Meetings are often held several times a week (depending on the location) and participants can attend as often as needed. While recommended attendance depends on many factors, those who are new to recovery can often benefit from daily meetings to start. Once they have more control over their addiction, they may find five to six times a week or alternative days to be enough.

Australia’s public vs private rehab centres

There are many differences between rehabilitation programmes, but one of the key differences is whether the facility is private or public. Since public rehab centres are funded by the government, they are much more affordable and typically cost much less or, in some cases, nothing.

Public rehab centres

In 2018, over 137,000 Australians received publicly funded treatment with outpatient counselling being the most common type of treatment.6 Drug and alcohol addiction treatment in Australia’s public sector is chronically underfunded and needs support. Consequently, publicly funded residential treatment often comes with:7
  • Long waiting lists (21-105 days for assessment)
  • Shortage of beds (12 weeks waiting period)
  • Limited access to residential detox
  • Unmet demand for ongoing pharmacotherapy maintenance
Whilst outpatient rehabilitation services are counselling-based, and typically targeted towards specific communities and groups. In many cases, there is a relatively short period of time in which a person can get help for addiction before it is too late. That means waiting might not be an option and private services may be the only solution, especially when you consider you might have to wait up to six months or longer
A Medicare and Centrelink office sign is seen at Bondi Junction on March 21, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Federal public sector workers are expected to strike around Australia over a long-running pay dispute.
With that said, perhaps the best thing about public rehab facilities is that they serve addicted people who otherwise would not be able to afford or access treatment through government contracts, Centrelink benefits, and housing assistance. Australia as we know it would be a lot different if that was not the case, with crime and addiction at their highest.

Private rehab centres

Unlike public rehab, private treatment facilities can charge more for their services since they are not state-funded. Private rehabs in Australia vary in cost, programmes and more, making it difficult to discuss them as a whole. However, the majority of them provide residential care that typically lasts 21-28 days, and usually with outpatient follow-up. Some key differences include:

  • Guest experience – More care towards the guest and their families
  • Nutrition – Meals are carefully prepared and menus are well thought out
  • Accommodations – Living quarters, facilities and grounds are often more updated and well-kept
  • Customised programmes – Unlike generic public programmes, private rehabs usually offer a more personalised programme
  • Holistic options – Yoga, art therapy and other holistic options are often offered at high-end treatment centres
  • Continuity of care – Clients receive support to navigate their way around the recovery process
  • Staffing – Staffed by an interdisciplinary team of trained professionals
Whether you choose the public or private route, the most important thing at the end of the day is that you get help for your addiction in whichever way you can.

How much does rehab cost in Australia?

The cost of rehab in Australia varies based on factors such as the type of centre, treatments offered, the setting and the programme you choose.

Government-funded programmes

Government-funded treatments have an estimated cost of around AU$117 per day.8 Community-based and residential rehab centres that are funded by the Australian government may ask for co-payment, which is when patients contribute to their day-to-day living costs through their government benefits or other income. Typically, 80% of a patient’s Centrelink benefits are accepted for payment. These contributions average AU$200 to AU$300 per week. Likewise, Therapeutic Community programmes can cost around AU$3,000 to AU$4,000 a month.

Private treatment programmes

Private inpatient rehab in Australia, on the other hand, can be relatively expensive, with costs of anywhere from AU$7,000 to AU$30,000 for basic facilities and upwards of AU$40,000 for luxury facilities. Likewise, private hospital-based treatment can cost around AU$800 to AU$900 a day. The cost of outpatient detox alone is estimated at AU$2,000 per week. Note that charges may be higher when the substance in question has hazardous withdrawal symptoms as this calls for constant monitoring.
Similarly, intensive outpatient rehab can cost anywhere from AU$2,000 to AU$6,000 per month. Outpatient treatment costs are determined by the duration of treatment and frequency of visits.
While Medicare, Australia’s public health system, helps cover the costs of most drug and alcohol rehab services in Australia, it does not cover everything. Fortunately, the cost of rehab can be significantly reduced by using private health insurance as a supplement to help cover some out-of-pocket expenses.

Why Australians are seeking rehab abroad

Addiction treatment services in Australia generally focus on community-based outpatient care, which can make it much more difficult for patients to get away from the triggers of their usual environment. Additionally, the continuum of care is generally disjointed and less comprehensive.
While it may seem more convenient to seek residential rehab in Australia, convenience comes at a cost. The most common setback we hear that prevents people from getting the help they need are the exorbitant fees. For example, if you are trying to get into a private rehab centre in Melbourne, you can expect to pay an average of AU$30,000 – unless you have comprehensive health insurance or join a long waiting list of several months for a spot in a public rehab centre.
Besides, insurance-funded addiction treatment often takes place in more clinical, psychiatric settings with patients suffering from mental illness being treated alongside those being treated for addiction, making it challenging to maintain a smooth group dynamic.
Those who choose to go with the more low-cost rehab options typically have to share accommodation in a farmhouse-style community environment and do communal chores to keep costs low. The biggest downside to these more affordable rehabs, however, is the lack of programme comprehensiveness and personalisation. That means you can expect a more one-size-fits-all approach, which is typically ineffective.
These are just some of the many reasons why more and more Australians are looking to other countries to get the rehab experience that they deserve.
Women traveling by an airplane. Women sitting by aircraft window and looking outside.

Alternatives to Australia’s drug and alcohol rehab

The cost of drug and alcohol rehab is a deciding factor for most Australians that are seeking treatment. While patients would ideally like to access a luxury rehab facility for inpatient care, the cost can prevent them from being able to. The good news is that there are many private rehab facilities overseas that offer residential treatment at much lower prices than what is available in Australia. In fact, the price difference can be so significant that even those on a modest salary can afford treatment at a luxury facility.

Thailand and Bali are two of the most popular rehab destinations in Asia amongst Australians. Both countries are home to some of the leading rehab programmes in the region.

Rehabs in Thailand

Known for its high-quality healthcare, reasonable prices, and exceptional hospitality, it is no surprise that Thailand is one of the world’s leading rehab destinations. Rehab centres in Thailand are typically situated in beautiful and peaceful areas, making them a favourite amongst clients from across the globe. All rehabs in Thailand offer alcohol and drug addiction treatment, though price, location, accommodation, and treatment of underlying mental health issues can vary significantly.

Rehabs in Bali

Bali’s stunning natural beauty, vibrant culture and friendly locals are just a few reasons why it remains one of the most beloved tourist destinations in the world. The Indonesian island offers an idyllic setting for patients to seek help for addiction and make the most of their wellness journey. Rehab centres in Bali offer a wide range of treatments for addiction and co-occurring disorders, along with mental health retreats.
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Benefits of rehab in Asia

There are many reasons why Asia is an ideal alternative for those seeking treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab in Australia. Aside from being easier on your wallet, more affordable luxury rehab options in Asia allow for longer stays, which makes them more effective. Our past clients also find it helpful to be far away from the triggers of their daily life and find it easier to focus solely on their recovery. In addition, it gives you total privacy and access to treatment options that are unavailable back home.
Not to mention the exotic locations that provide an ideal healing setting. Luxury rehabs in Asia can be so tranquil that they are often considered a rehab and holiday in one, and who would not want that?
Whether you are looking for rehab in Australia for yourself or for someone you care about, it is advisable to broaden your search to include Asia so you can get all the benefits of a comprehensive rehab programme at an affordable cost. There is no better time than now to start on your path to sobriety. Contact us for a no-cost consultation and to learn more about rehab and addiction treatment options to meet your unique needs.
Author
Cameron Brown
Psychologist
  1. Centre for Alcohol and Other Drugs (2007). Drug and alcohol treatment guidelines for residential settings. Dept. of Health. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/aod/professionals/Publications/drug-a-guidelines.pdf
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.) Chapter 4. Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64094/  
  3. Baker, A., Lee, N.K. & Jenner, L. (Eds) (2004). Models of intervention and care for psychostimulant users, 2nd Edition, National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 51. Canberra. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. 
  4. Dye, M. H., Ducharme, L. J., Johnson, J. A., Knudsen, H. K., & Roman, P. M. (2009). Modified therapeutic communities and adherence to traditional elements. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 41(3), 275–283. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2009.10400538 
  5. Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association. ABOUT ATCA. ATCA. https://atca.com.au/contact-about-atca/. 
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020). Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: 2018–19. Drug treatment series no. 34. Cat. no. HSE 243. Canberra: AIHW.  
  7. Ritter, A., Berends, L., Chalmers, J., Hull, P., Lancaster, K., & Gomez, M. (2014, July). New Horizons: review of alcohol and other drug treatment services. Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/new-horizons-review-of-alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services.  
  8. Shipway, Chris, et al. “The NSW Alcohol and Drug Residential Rehabilitation Costing Study.” The Centre for Drug and Alcohol, NSW Department of Health, https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/not-for-profit/submissions/sub066-attachment2.pdf
    1. Centre for Alcohol and Other Drugs (2007). Drug and alcohol treatment guidelines for residential settings. Dept. of Health. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/aod/professionals/Publications/drug-a-guidelines.pdf
    2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.) Chapter 4. Services in Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64094/  
    3. Baker, A., Lee, N.K. & Jenner, L. (Eds) (2004). Models of intervention and care for psychostimulant users, 2nd Edition, National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 51. Canberra. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. 
    4. Dye, M. H., Ducharme, L. J., Johnson, J. A., Knudsen, H. K., & Roman, P. M. (2009). Modified therapeutic communities and adherence to traditional elements. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 41(3), 275–283. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2009.10400538 
    5. Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association. ABOUT ATCA. ATCA. https://atca.com.au/contact-about-atca/. 
    6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020). Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: 2018–19. Drug treatment series no. 34. Cat. no. HSE 243. Canberra: AIHW.  
    7. Ritter, A., Berends, L., Chalmers, J., Hull, P., Lancaster, K., & Gomez, M. (2014, July). New Horizons: review of alcohol and other drug treatment services. Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/new-horizons-review-of-alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services.  
    8. Shipway, Chris, et al. “The NSW Alcohol and Drug Residential Rehabilitation Costing Study.” The Centre for Drug and Alcohol, NSW Department of Health, https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/not-for-profit/submissions/sub066-attachment2.pdf

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