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Substance Abuse Treatment – What to Know

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 21 million people (12 and over) needed drug treatment in 2016. Of the 21 million who needed treatment, about 3.8 million received treatment in 2016. There are several options for those seeking treatment for substance abuse. The type of treatment is dependent on the individual and the circumstances of the addiction.

Diagnosing a Drug Addiction

Before a treatment plan can be established, an addiction problem needs to be diagnosed. Individuals need to go through a series of physical and psychological testing to accurately diagnose the problem. Health care providers use varied methods and based on certain criteria, a diagnosis is made.

Some addiction criteria include:

  • Withdrawal occurs if the user stopped the drug
  • Inability to meet basic work and social obligations or norms
  • Inability to stop using drugs
  • Compulsion to use drugs despite the known negative consequences

The symptom is dependent on the person and the type of drug(s) he or she is using. Health care providers will develop a treatment plan accordingly.

There are various treatment options for drug abuse, and the options will be a part of an overall treatment plan developed by health care providers and patients. Below are some of those options.

Inpatient or Residential Treatment

This option requires patients to live 24-7 in a rehab facility where all their physical and emotional needs are addressed in an effort to treat the addiction. A minority of patients may stay at an inpatient facility on a long-term basis, which could range from six to twelve months. Most patients who enter an inpatient facility are there for the short term. Inpatient facilities are optimal for patients who need a very structured environment in order to detox, address mental health issues, and physical problems.

Outpatient Treatment

Some of the same tools used in inpatient rehab are applied in outpatient therapy; however, patients have the ability to meet outside obligations. This therapy allows patients to still work, tend to family, and other social responsibilities.

Because this level of treatment does not provide the same level of structure as inpatient treatment, there is more responsibility on the patient to avoid relapse. Naturally, there is more access to drugs and more triggers that result in relapse when one is not living in a highly structured environment.

Partial Hospitalization

Although partial hospitalization is a type of outpatient treatment, it is more intensive than traditional outpatient services. These programs are also referred to as day treatment. During the day patients stay at the treatment facility and receive intensive rehabilitation services; however, they do not stay the night at the facility.


There are the options of individual or group counseling. Counseling is led by a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed counselor or therapist. Drug counseling can help provide tools for addicts to cope with drug cravings, analyze the root causes of drug abuse, and develop strategies to avoid relapse. In addition, counseling helps in evaluating personal relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues in an effort to help improve those relationships. Counseling services are provided in inpatient and outpatient settings.


Sometimes medication is an appropriate treatment option. This option is mostly used for opiate addictions to drugs like heroin or prescription painkillers. A common medication that is used for opiate addiction is methadone. Although methadone is an opioid, it reduces withdrawal symptoms and treats associated pain.

Peer Support Groups

There are several peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Peer support groups provide addicts with an opportunity to connect with people who share their same struggles and triumphs resulting in a connection that helps with possibly maintaining or obtaining sobriety. Peer support groups can be a valuable resource in addition to professional treatment options.

12-Step Program

The 12-step program is a well-known process to work through addiction. This program is run in a group setting with a goal to help participants understand and manage their addiction. The steps range from admitting powerlessness over addiction to turning the power over to a higher power and helping others in need to go through the same process.

There are a number of 12-step programs, which include the aforementioned AA and NA. However, there are several programs within communities across the nation.

Careful consideration needs to be given to the type of treatment needed; however, there are several options. Having the proper treatment and support are key in the rehabilitation process.

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