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

Finding treatment for a drug or alcohol problem is not a quick or easy process, and can be overwhelming. This comprehensive, step-by-step guide will help you identify effective addiction treatment options and answers the questions you may have along this journey. 

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

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 has created a step-by-step guide 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.

Do You Need Treatment?

For those concerned that they or a loved one have a drug or alcohol problem, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis by a qualified health care provider.

What Kind of Treatment Do You Need?

If you need addiction treatment, a professional assessment will determine which treatment is right for you. 

Detoxification

Sometimes when people stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol they experience withdrawal symptoms—including distress, strong cravings or feeling sick. Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and often cause people to relapse. Withdrawal from alcohol and prescription sedatives can be life-threatening. A doctor – sometimes in combination with other health care professionals – should provide medical supervision of withdrawal, also called detoxification. Although not a treatment itself, detoxification is an important first step in recovery.

Medication

People who are addicted to opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers like OxyContin®, alcohol, and nicotine should be also assessed by a doctor to see if they may benefit from addiction medication (like methadone, buprenorphine or Vivitrol), particularly if they have struggled with addiction for a long time. Medications can also be helpful for other substance use and mental health disorders.

Therapy

Therapy (also called counseling) is the most common form of addiction treatment. Effective therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, community reinforcement approach, contingency management, behavioral couples/family therapy, 12-step facilitation and family therapy for adolescents.

Treatment Setting

Treatment can be offered in many places – including a private office, a community clinic, a residential facility, or a hospital. The treatment setting that is right for you depends on your needs. Many people will do well in outpatient treatment – others require a higher level of care. An assessment will tell you which setting is best for you.

How to Find Quality Care

When choosing a treatment program, look for the following:

  • Program and individual providers are licensed/accredited
  • Provider offers a range of effective treatments, including medication
  • A doctor is on staff or available for consultation
  • Provider offers treatment for other mental and physical disorders
  • Continuing care (therapy, medication, family or peer support services, general medical care and relapse monitoring) is available

Although some people recover from addiction after one treatment, many need several treatments, just like people with other chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, or hypertension. Relapse is a normal part of the recovery process, but it is important to get help immediately if that occurs. Recovery from addiction often requires a life-long commitment to your health. Above all, never lose hope – many people with addiction are able to manage it and lead healthy and productive lives.

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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