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Addiction Treatment in Alexandria, Virginia

Alexandria, Virginia is a city in Northern Virginia with a rich history dating back to the 17th century. It’s known for its unique Old Town area, filled with shops and restaurants nestled in historic buildings. With its proximity to Washington, D.C., Alexandria has experienced its challenges with drug abuse and trafficking.

If you live in Alexandria, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

About Alexandria, Virginia

Alexandria, Virginia, is comprised of several neighborhoods, including Old Town, Eisenhower Valley, Rosemont, Del Ray, Parker-Gray, and Potomac Yard. The city’s median income is $89,134, which is higher than both Washington, D.C. ($75,628) and the Commonwealth of Virginia ($66,262). Alexandria’s poverty rate is 8.34%, which is also lower than both Washington D.C. (17.3%) and Virginia (11.2%). Alexandria’s residents are 66.1% white, 23.1% Black or African American, 6.8% Asian, and 16.8% Hispanic or Latino. 

Drug Use in Alexandria

As in many areas of the country, Alexandria is struggling with the opioid epidemic. From 2012 to 2016, 44 Alexandria residents died from an opioid overdose. 105 people were treated for an opioid overdose in 2016. This is in line with the increase in opioid deaths in Virginia and in the Washington D.C. area. In Virginia, drug overdose is the number one cause of unnatural death, and 1.420 people died in drug-related deaths in 2016. Most of these were opioid related. In Washington D.C., there was a 138% increase in the number of opioid-related deaths from 2014 to 2016.

In total, Alexandria had 530 drug-related incidents that required police involvement in 2016. Marijuana accounted for the majority of these incidents, at 80%. Given the danger of opioids, though, they are an area of focus for government officials. The city of Alexandria has formed an opioid workgroup to respond to the crisis. The workgroup includes law enforcement officials, health department officials, and healthcare representatives. In an effort to coordinate efforts in the Washington D.C. metro area, of which Alexandria is a part, The National Capital Region Compact to Combat Opioid Addiction was signed by the mayor of Washington, D.C. along with the governors of Maryland and Virginia.

Alexandria is also participating in a statewide initiative called REVIVE! REVIVE! teaches lay people about how to recognize and treat opioid overdoses. Participants learn how to administer Narcan. Narcan is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Risk Factors for Drug and Alcohol Abuse

If you or a loved one is experiencing drug or alcohol abuse, you might be wondering why. There is no clear-cut reason why one person becomes addicted and another doesn’t, but there are some risk factors that can make someone more vulnerable to drug and alcohol addiction. These risk factors include:

  • Genetics. Genetics account for 50-75% of the risk of addiction.
  • Psychological factors. If you have an existing mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, you can be more vulnerable to addiction.
  • Environmental factors. If you’ve experienced significant trauma, such as abuse, or have been around those using drugs or have easy access to drugs or alcohol, you may be more vulnerable to addiction.
  • Experimenting with drugs or alcohol at an early age. If you start experimenting with drugs or alcohol in childhood or your early teens, you can also be more vulnerable to addiction.
  • Peer pressure. If the people you’re around are encouraging to use drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to resist, particularly if you’re young.
  • Lack of parental involvement. If there isn’t a parental figure supervising you, it can make it easier for you to use drugs or alcohol.

Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

If you’re concerned that a loved one may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, there are some warning signs. Some of the signs common across all types of addiction include:

  • Trouble at school or work. This may include no going to school or work, becoming disinterested in school or work, or having difficulties completing work.
  • Physical changes. These may include sudden weight changes, red eyes, or fatigue.
  • Not caring about appearance. This may include not grooming regularly and not caring about how they look.
  • Sudden money problems. They may suddenly need more money, or money may be disappearing from the household without an explanation.
  • Sudden behavior changes. They may be more angry or agitated than normal. They may suddenly be more secretive about what they’re doing and with whom they’re spending time.

Different types of drugs have their own signs as well. For example:

  • Marijuana: Signs may include red eyes, a dry mouth, lack of coordination, and anxiety.
  • Meth, cocaine, and other stimulants: Signs may include increased energy, dilated pupils, irritability, paranoia, and insomnia.
  • Opioids: Signs may include drowsiness, slurred speech, constricted pupils, confusion, lack of coordination, and depression.

If you’re concerned you might be addicted to drugs or alcohol, some of the signs include:

  • Needing to use drugs or alcohol daily, or even several times per day.
  • Thinking of drugs or alcohol to the extent that it takes over your thoughts.
  • Needing to use more drugs or alcohol to get the same effect.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using drugs or alcohol.
  • Not meeting work or home responsibilities.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Having difficulty quitting drug or alcohol use.

If you or a loved one is concerned about drug and alcohol abuse, there is help available. Even if the symptoms listed don’t describe your situation, if you’re concerned, there are people available to listen and help.

Seeking Assistance

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it’s vital to seek help. There is assistance available, and people are ready and willing to help. There are numerous treatment options available, so you can choose one that meets your needs, finances, and lifestyle.


The first step in seeking assistance with drug or alcohol addiction is contacting a treatment program or center. That initial contact is called pre-intake. During pre-intake, the person you speak with will collect information about you and your situation. You’re also welcome to ask any initial questions you have. If the treatment program or center seems like a good fit, you’ll make an appointment to begin the next step in the process of beginning treatment: intake.  


Intake is the formal process of beginning treatment. During intake, you get to know members of your treatment team, and they get to know you. This gives them the opportunity to determine the treatment plan that’s best going to meet your individual needs.

Typically, there are multiple people involved in your treatment. There may be a social worker, substance abuse counselor, or another mental health professional. There will typically be a nurse, doctor, or other medical professional. There will also be a case manager, who oversees your treatment and helps coordinate everything.

Intake is also your opportunity to get to know more about your treatment program or center. If you’re participating in an inpatient program, you’ll learn about your housing situation, rules for visitors, and what you are allowed to bring with you into treatment. If you’re doing an outpatient program, you’ll learn about the program schedule and expectations.

Another important part of intake is making financial arrangements. Your treatment program will help you sort out your financial options, so you can then focus on your treatment.  


One of the most important things that happen during your intake is assessment. Each member of the treatment team assesses, or gets to know, you. This helps them decide on a treatment plan that’s going to be effective for you and your specific needs.

Getting to know your medical history is particularly important, and this will be done by a doctor or nurse. They may have you fill out a standardized questionnaire with questions about your health history. Your health history includes any health issues you’ve had in the past or are experiencing presently, whether you’ve had surgery, what prescriptions you’re taking, and whether you’ve been diagnosed with any ongoing health conditions. They will also review your health history with you as well as do a physical. Typically, they will also get blood and urine samples. All of this is to determine whether there are any underlying health issues that need attention while you’re being treated.

Your mental health and wellbeing is also a vital part of your treatment. To determine your needs, you’ll meet with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They will also have you fill out questionnaires. You’ll also talk with them and may even complete an initial counseling session as part of your intake. This helps them determine whether you have any mental health issues that need to be addressed as part of your treatment.

With all your assessments, it’s important to be honest. Although it’s tempting to hide or minimize your challenges and struggles, your treatment team is there to help you. They are also required to keep your information confidential, so you can feel free to disclose any past history or trauma that may be influencing your addiction.

Once you’ve completed the intake process, including your assessments, you’ll enter the next phase of your treatment. For most, this next phase is detox.


Before you can begin treatment, you need to eliminate the drugs or alcohol you’re addicted to from your system. This process is called detoxification, or detox. Although you can detox at home, due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and side effects, it’s best to go through withdrawal with medical supervision. With a medically supervised detox, you have staff available at all times to assist you, and they can utilize prescription drugs to ease your withdrawal symptoms.


Withdrawal is the term used to describe the symptoms you experience when you stop taking drugs or using alcohol. The symptoms vary depending on the type of addiction and can be challenging. With support and treatment, you can get through detox and withdrawal. 

Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the substance being abused. They are also influenced by genetics, any medical or mental health issues, how the drug was being taken, and how much of the drug or alcohol was being used. If you’re withdrawing from heroin, for example, you’ll begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within about 12 hours from your last dose. Symptoms may include muscle aches, yawning, agitation, insomnia, and anxiety.

Cocaine withdrawal looks a bit different. The initial withdrawal may include symptoms such as sleepiness, depression, and an increase in appetite. This is followed by an acute phase, which is marked by drug cravings, irritability, and fatigue. The third phase of cocaine withdrawal is called the extinction period, and is marked by depression.

Alcohol withdrawal has its own symptoms as well. These may include mood swings, an elevated heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches, and fatigue. In some rare instances, there may be more severe symptoms such as seizures or delirium.

To help alleviate your withdrawal symptoms, your detox team may use medications.

Medications Used During Detox

The medications your detox team may prescribe depend on the type of substance you’re withdrawing from, your overall health, and your specific needs. The medications may include:

  • Methadone: Methadone helps to ease opiate withdrawal symptoms.
  • Suboxone: Suboxone is also used to alleviate opiate withdrawal symptoms.
  • Benzodiazepines: These include prescriptions like lorazepam and chlordiazepoxide. They help to lessen alcohol withdrawal side effects.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants may be prescribed to help alleviate the mood swings and depression associated with withdrawal.

Once you’ve completed your initial detox, you’ll begin your treatment program. The exact program depends on your needs. There are a number of different types of programs available, including inpatient and outpatient programs.

Alexandria, Virginia Rehab - Inpatient Treatment Centers

Inpatient treatment centers are places where you live full-time while you’re going through recovery. The advantage of inpatient treatment is that you have support around you all the time. You’re away from the stresses and challenges of your everyday life and you can focus exclusively on your treatment. The downside of inpatient treatment is that you’re away from family, friends, and work. This may be necessary for you to make a fresh start, though.

Residential Treatment Programs

Residential treatment programs are places where you stay full-time during your recovery. The length of stay varies depending on your needs and the program in which you’re participating, but is typically up to 30 days.

Residential treatment programs vary widely in terms of amenities. Some are luxurious, and include hotel-like housing, spa treatments, and golf. Others keep things a bit simpler and you may share a room with another participant. Some treatment centers focus on a specific clientele, such as executives or women.

A typical day in a residential treatment program will include meals, educational programming, individual therapy, and group therapy. You may also be able to participate in other types of therapeutic activities, including art or music therapy or equine therapy.

Each treatment center has its own rules. You may have restrictions on when you can have visitors and who can visit. There may be items you’re not allowed to bring with you into treatment. Smoking may be restricted to certain areas in the facility.

Overall, residential treatment centers provide intensive, focused treatment for your drug or alcohol addiction. You can focus completely on your recovery without outside distractions.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

If living away from home isn’t feasible, you can still receive intensive treatment through a partial hospitalization program. You spend your days at the treatment center, but you’re able to return home at night. The main advantage of a partial hospitalization program is that you come home at night. You can care for your children or other family members and maintain some of your normal routines. If your home life isn’t stable and supportive, though, a partial hospitalization program may be challenging for you.

During a partial hospitalization program, you spend your day participating in individual and group therapy as well as educational programming. At least one meal is typically provided as well. You attend treatment programming up to five days per week for six to eight hours per day. It’s intensive and focused, but still leaves you time to attend to other obligations.

Alexandria, Virginia Rehab - Outpatient Treatment Centers

If you have work or family obligations to attend to, or simply don’t like the idea of living away from home, an outpatient treatment center may be a good fit. In outpatient treatment, you live at home and come to the treatment center for therapy and educational program. Many programs are flexible, and you may even be able to continue to work while attending your treatment program.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

An intensive outpatient program provides the treatment you need on a flexible schedule. You may go during the day or attend programming in the evening to allow more flexibility for work or family. You’ll typically participate in individual therapy, group therapy, and educational programming. Schedules vary depending on your needs and the program. Normally, you would attend programming for about 10-12 hours per week, which may be reduced as you progress through your recovery.


As you complete your initial treatment, whether it’s in an inpatient program or an outpatient program, you’ll need to make some decisions regarding your aftercare. Aftercare refers to the support you need as you transition from a treatment program back into your everyday life. Your treatment program can help you develop a plan for aftercare.

Your aftercare plan should include holistic support for you. It should address maintaining your physical health, including continued check-ups with a medical provider and continuing any medications you were prescribed during treatment.

If you were staying in an inpatient treatment center, or if your housing situation isn’t stable, your aftercare plan should also include a plan for housing. You may want to consider sober living, which provides housing as well as continued support. Another housing option could be staying with supportive family or friends.

Aftercare should also take into account your needs for purpose and community. As an addict, a good deal of time was spent in maintaining your addiction. Aftercare should help you develop new ways of finding purpose in your life. This may include returning to school, employment, or volunteering. To find community, there are support groups available to help you continue your recovery.

Sober Living

If your living situation going into treatment was unstable, or if you simply need more support and structure as you resume your day-to-day life, sober living is an excellent option. Sober living homes provide, first and foremost, a clean and sober living environment. You live with others in recovery and provide each other with support. Some homes have regular group meetings to discuss household needs as well as challenges you’re experiencing in recovery.

In order to stay in a sober living house, you need to abide by the house rules. These rules typically include staying sober, contributing to the household by doing chores, and being employed, pursuing employment, or going to school or training. There may also be a curfew. The length of time for a stay in sober living varies. Most allow you to stay 90 days or more.

Support Groups

Whether you’re staying at home, with family or friends, or in sober living, support groups can provide invaluable assistance as you finish your initial treatment. The best-known support groups for addiction recovery are 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Meetings are typically held in churches or community centers, but 12-step groups are independent and not affiliated with any specific religious group.

12-step groups are unique in that they’re “led” by other recovering addicts rather than a counselor or other professional. During a meeting, you may read program literature and share your experiences. You may also find someone to mentor you as you recover and work the program steps. This person is called a sponsor.

There may be other recovery support groups in your community, which you can find through local non-profit organizations and churches. Your treatment center may also be able to help you connect with an ongoing support group that meets your needs.