How is Addiction Treated in Asia?

Addiction is a complex disorder with multiple components. Because it is a multifaceted issue, it is widely accepted that a combination of treatment types must be used in order to address the full scope of the disorder. Medical and psychological professionals agree that there are psychological, biological and social aspects of addiction that need to be treated in order for treatment to be successful. In addition to these, there are frequently co-occurring disorders that need to be resolved as well.

To treat this diverse disorder, treatment programmes in Asia typically include some or all of the following components:

Medical treatment

  • This is the detox phase, which addresses the physical/biological withdrawal aspects of recovery and frequently takes place in a hospital
  • This component is not necessary in less severe addictions, or in process addictions

Psychological therapies

  • These therapies are the core of addiction treatment, and address the psychological, emotional, and social aspects of it
  • Examples include:
    • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to address unhelpful thought patterns, perceptions, and belief systems, ultimately altering the way patients respond to their environments
    • 12 Step programs to offer support groups run by peers, giving patients structure and an opportunity to identify with other people recovering from addiction
    • Meditation and relaxation techniques, which improve the brain’s ability to focus, and repair healthy baseline brain chemistry

Co-occurring disorder interventions

  • These treatments address psychological conditions that are related to the onset or maintenance of addiction (eg anxiety or depression)


Treatment programs fall into one of two categories: outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation.

Outpatient Rehab:

Outpatient treatment is generally done on a part-time basis, and typically involves scheduling treatment appointments around other commitments. This means that the treatment itself is less restrictive, and patients can still go to work or school, and live at home, while being treated. Outpatient programs generally require about 10-12 hours per week in local treatment centre visits, and can last anywhere from about three months to over a year, depending on the patient.

Because patients are still embedded in their old routines and surrounded by their existing triggers, outpatient treatment is widely regarded as more challenging for patients, and is less likely to effectively treat serious addictions. Outpatient treatment is recommended for people who function well in their day-to-day lives despite their addiction, or for people who have completed inpatient treatment and require additional support once they have returned home.

Inpatient Rehab:

Inpatient recovery programs are intensive programs that remove patients from the environment that gave rise to their addiction, and dramatically reduce their exposure to triggers in the process. Because of this, they are highly effective. Inpatient programs are the ‘gold standard’ of treatment, and are designed to treat serious addictions that necessitate round-the-clock care.

Inpatient facilities offer constant emotional and medical support, which can make the difference between relapse and recovery in many cases. In addictions with a physical withdrawal component (ie severe substance abuse, such as alcohol or drug addiction), the initial medical care offered by inpatient facilities is crucial to recovery.

Inpatient treatment programmes typically last from around 28 days to six months, and commonly involve the following stages:

Detox and stabilization (inpatient medical supervision)

Not all addictions and substances require a medical detoxifi­cation, but prolonged use of opiates, alcohol or benzodiazepines will typically require medical assistance to safely taper off. Duration of this stage depends on the client and drug used, but normally takes about one week.

Primary treatment (intensive psychotherapy in a residential setting)

In this phase, participants must identify their addiction, de­fine their abstinence and learn recovery tools and resources. This stage can last from one to three months.

Second and third stage treatment (AKA step down)

During this stage, participants step down into a less structured environment, typically called a ‘sober house’. Here they can get used to the outside world again whilst still being monitored to a lesser degree. The programme is fairly intense for two to three months (second stage) before reducing to allow for greater self-management (third stage).

Aftercare (monitoring)

After leaving the care of a structured programme, participants should engage in aftercare, where they are accountable to an outpatient programme managed by an outpatient therapist. This stage typically lasts about six months.

Bottom line: there are a wide range of options for addiction treatment in Asia, and it is important to find a rehabilitation centre that thoroughly addresses all aspects of the addiction in question. Which treatment therapies are appropriate, and whether an inpatient or outpatient programme is best, depends on the circumstances and preferences of each individual patient. For more information about our treatment programmes, contact us today.