Patient Guide | The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Patient Guide

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Patient Guide

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Get Help for addiction: How to find quality addiction treatment.

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How to Find Quality Addiction Treatment

It can be overwhelming to know where to start if you need to find treatment for addiction. It is not a quick or easy process. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s step-by-step guide was created to help you navigate the vast amount of information—and misinformation—about finding addiction treatment and the questions that may arise along your journey. First and foremost, you will want to get an accurate diagnosis and locate a team of highly trained health care professionals who can provide you with effective treatments.

Here is a preview of what you will find in the guide. Download the full guide for complete information.

Step 1: The diagnosis

The first step for anyone concerned that they have, or someone they care about has, addiction is to get an accurate diagnosis. Ask your regular doctor if he or she knows how to diagnose addiction, because not all physicians are trained in addiction treatment. If your regular doctor cannot conduct the diagnosis, you can ask him or her to refer you to a qualified health care provider, who can perform the diagnosis.

Step 2: The comprehensive assessment

The second step after you are diagnosed with addiction is the comprehensive assessment, which will identify your history of substance use, the severity of your condition and any other health problems and personal circumstances that may affect your treatment. This should be conducted by your doctor or another highly trained health care professional. The assessment, along with your diagnosis, will provide the information needed to determine your treatment needs.

Step 3: Medically-Managed Withdrawal

People who are severely intoxicated or have symptoms of withdrawal may need medically-managed withdrawal, also called detoxification. Detoxification will keep you safe and more comfortable while you stop using substances. A doctor—sometimes in combination with other health care professionals—should provide medical supervision of withdrawal. Detoxification is an important step in the recovery process, but it is not treatment for the disease.

Step 4: Finding the Right Treatment Provider

Finding an addiction treatment provider can be hard because not all providers offer quality care. Choosing an addiction treatment provider who offers the right type of treatment for your needs is critical. If you receive the wrong kind of treatment, it could make your addiction worse. Not all services offered as treatment are effective. Look for a highly trained addiction care team whose members are able to provide effective treatments for addiction—both medications and therapies—that you may need based on the comprehensive assessment. More information is contained in the guide on what these effective treatments are.

Step 5: Getting the Most from Your Treatment

Now that you have selected a provider that is likely to offer you quality care, you can focus on your specific treatment. First, you will develop a treatment plan with your addiction treatment provider. Then you will begin your treatment, which may include medications as well as therapies. Your plan should include the specific therapies and medications you will receive. Toward the end of your treatment, you will make a plan for continuing care.

Step 6: Stay Healthy by Managing Your Disease

After your initial treatment, it is important that your doctor continue to help you manage your disease, in cooperation with others, if appropriate, and that you play an active role in order to maintain the progress you have made. 

Patient Guide Infographic

Only 11% of people who need treatment for addiction involving alcohol or drugs other than nicotine receive any form of treatment.

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