Addiction is a common issue that currently affects an estimated 23 million people. The decision to get treatment is a courageous one, but finding treatment can be a daunting experience. The lack of standardization in the addiction treatment field can be confusing, as there is often a lack of clear and objective recommendations about where to go. Many options are available, but you may not know what kind of treatment will work best. While there is no one treatment that universally works for everyone, here are some factors to think about and questions to ask as you consider options for addiction treatment:
Level of Care in Treating Addiction
The first thing to consider when seeking treatment for addiction is the appropriate level of care. People tend to think addiction treatment is equivalent to spending a month in rehab, but this is not necessarily the case. Many people benefit from a lower level of care, such as an outpatient program that allows them to attend intensive treatment for a few days per week, while residing at home or in a sober living facility. This option can be more cost-effective and may allow for more flexibility than traditional inpatient or residential treatment. Most programs will give you the opportunity to speak with a trained clinician about your particular circumstances, so you can ensure you get the most appropriate level of care.
You might also ask whether a facility offers treatment or detoxification. If you are physically dependent on a substance, treatment will likely start with a detox process when you stop using that substance. In some cases, detox can be dangerous and may require medical monitoring, so it is useful to ask facilities whether they provide medical detox. While detox is an important first step, it may not be enough to provide long-term recovery. A facility that also offers therapy and other treatment interventions may be more helpful for understanding and processing addictive behaviors.
Addiction Treatment Philosophy
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Alternative options such as SMART Recovery and mindfulness-based approaches are also available for addiction treatment. Ask programs about their approach to treatment; if it sounds at odds with your own beliefs, then you may want to keep looking.
Another important aspect of treatment philosophy is the use of medications in the treatment of addiction. While some programs are open to the use of buprenorphine and other medications that can reduce cravings and potentially help someone maintain sobriety, others are not (or they only use medications in a limited capacity). If you want to have the option for medication-assisted treatment, make sure your chosen facility is open to providing it.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Many people who have addiction issues also experience other mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. This is a condition known as dual diagnosis. For some, substance use is a way to manage symptoms of an underlying condition, making it necessary for treatment to address not just the substance use but also any mental health issues that may exacerbate the addiction. If you have been diagnosed with another mental health issue, or have experienced symptoms of one, look for a program that offers adequate dual diagnosis treatment.
Facility Offerings for Addiction Treatment
One study found a significant discrepancy in what people considered important before and after completing addiction treatment, especially regarding facility offerings. Some programs advertise luxurious amenities, while others emphasize holistic treatment options, high level staff, or a desirable setting. Here are a couple of aspects of facility offerings to consider:
- Amenities—Is it important for you to be in a private bedroom, or do you need to have access to a pool or fitness center? Do you have any dietary restrictions that the treatment center needs to accommodate? While a facility’s amenities do not necessarily make their treatment better than another’s, you want to make sure your individual needs are going to be met. Feeling comfortable with your chosen facility can help you get the most benefit from a treatment experience.
- Types of therapy—Most facilities primarily offer group therapy. If you have difficulty feeling comfortable opening up in front of others, you may want to ask whether individual therapy sessions are part of the program. You can also ask about the typical size of groups (smaller groups mean you may get more individual attention), which specific types of therapy they provide, whether family therapy is offered, and how treatment is individualized to your specific needs. The right treatment takes your individual needs and preferences into account.
- Length of stay—Some programs require you to remain in treatment for a set amount of time. If you do not feel ready to commit to that length of time, or if you have other commitments that make it difficult, you may want to ask about the facility’s standard length of stay. Is it fixed or flexible? Is there any financial penalty for leaving early?
- Level of staff training—While most facilities likely have staff who are experienced and certified in treating addiction, the levels of training for addiction treatment professionals may vary. Some providers may have a certification in addiction treatment, while others may have an advanced degree. While having a higher level of education does not necessarily mean one provider is better than another, it can be useful to consider how much training and experience the treatment staff has, especially if you are seeking dual diagnosis treatment.
Continuing Care for Addiction
While addiction can be treated, there is no known cure that works for everyone. A good treatment program should be honest, transparent, and willing to explain or back up any claims.Research has shown that what happens after treatment is a key component of a successful experience. For many people, recovery might feel manageable within a structured treatment environment, but becomes more challenging once they are back in the “real world.” For this reason, continuing care is an important component of any treatment experience.
When researching treatment options, ask about a program’s approach to discharge planning and continuing care. Will the staff help you find ongoing support? Will they be available to you after you leave treatment in case you need additional help or resources? The treatment program you choose should help you develop a plan for sobriety that continues after you leave their structured environment.
Addiction Treatment Success Rate
Some treatment programs tout a high success rate, but the success rate can be misleading and difficult to assess. How does the program define success? Does the program rely on an individual’s reported length of sobriety, or do they consider other factors such as level of overall happiness? Does success mean an individual has completed the treatment program, or does it assess whether they have been able to maintain recovery after leaving the structured treatment environment? What a program defines as success may not match up with your ideas about what constitutes a successful experience.
Additionally, it can be hard to accurately measure the success rate of a program. It is often difficult to keep track of people once they have completed treatment. If they have relapsed, they are especially unlikely to follow up to report on their progress. It can also be difficult to rely on a person’s self-report as an accurate measure of their success. For these reasons, a reported success rate may not be as useful as it initially seems.
If a facility advertises a success rate, you might ask them how they obtained that figure. Be wary of programs that claim to “cure” addiction or make promises that seem too good to be true. While addiction can be treated, there is no known cure that works for everyone. A good treatment program should be honest, transparent, and willing to explain or back up any claims.
- Drugs, brains, and behavior. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
- McKay, J. R. (2009). Continuing care research: What we’ve learned and where we’re going. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36(2), p. 131-145. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2008.10.004
- Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition). (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
- Utley, T. (2016). What comprises a good addiction treatment experience? Study shows patients may not know. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/toriutley/2016/06/28/what-comprises-a-good-addiction-treatment-experience-study-shows-patients-may-not-know/#3988784d5977
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