Addiction Treatment: How to Get the Help You Need
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Substance use disorders (SUDs) are problematic conditions with potential long-term side effects. However, it is treatable. Unfortunately, many people ignore and avoid treatment because they haven’t hit rock bottom or think they don’t have a problem.
Only 13 percent of people with drug use disorders receive any treatment.1 Meanwhile, in 2021, only 4.6% of adults age 18 and older received any alcohol use treatment.2
In this blog article, we cover the purpose of addiction treatment programs, their different types, and aftercare options that can help you recover.
What Are Addiction Treatment Programs?
Addiction treatment programs involve medical, psychotherapeutic, or holistic techniques to treat dependence on drugs and alcohol. These treatment plans allow people in recovery to map out what they need to do to maintain sobriety.
Besides helping manage withdrawal symptoms from addictive substances, addiction treatment programs also include aftercare programs. Joining these aftercare programs can provide a support network while discouraging relapse into old negative habits.
Who Needs Addiction Treatment?
You may need treatment if you experience the following:2,3,5
- Alcohol or drug cravings: A strong urge to consume or misuse a substance despite its negative side effects
- Chronic disease or mental illness: Conditions that can be caused or aggravated by substance abuse
- High tolerance: Increasing the amount of addictive substances to get the desired effects
- Withdrawal symptoms: Uncomfortable or painful symptoms that occur when you suddenly stop taking alcohol or drugs
- Inability to control habits: Tried to quit drugs or alcohol repeatedly but with no success
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How is Addiction Diagnosed?
A medical professional can perform a formal diagnosis. They use the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which is a reference guide for mental health professionals to determine the presence and severity of SUD.2,3
The DSM-5 uses the following criteria:
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you're meant to
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but failing to
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from substances
- Intense cravings and urges to use the substance
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use
- Continuing to use substances, even when it causes problems in relationships
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger
- Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
- Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance
How to Determine the Severity of a Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
The DSM-5 can help your doctor understand the severity of your SUD depending on how many criteria you meet.
- Mild: Two or three symptoms indicate a mild substance use disorder
- Moderate: Four or five symptoms indicate a moderate substance use disorder
- Severe: Six or more symptoms indicate a severe substance use disorder
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What is the First Step to Addiction Recovery?
People who experience adverse effects due to substance abuse must recognize that they might have an addiction. Acknowledging the problem is the first step of the recovery process. Once you accept that you have a problem, you can seek treatment.
The type of addiction treatment you undergo will depend on your personal needs. People react to treatment differently, and what works for someone else might not work for you.
Some people may even need a combination of treatment options. Because of this, you should consult an addiction specialist to provide recommendations that suit you.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
People who struggle with substance abuse may also struggle with other mental health conditions. This is called a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis.
Dual diagnosis treatment involves treating your SUD and mental illness simultaneously. Common conditions associated with SUD include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Major depression
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis to receive proper treatment for all your possible illnesses. Otherwise, you may not fully recover, especially if you have a co-occurring disorder.
What Are the Types of Treatment Programs?
Every person’s case of addiction is different, so the best treatment options for one person might not always suit another. If you’re having difficulty with sobriety, here are some treatments for alcohol and drug addiction you can try:
Inpatient treatment takes place in residential facilities offering 24-hour care. This is usually for people with severe addiction or those requiring constant supervision.
Inpatient treatment is categorized based on the type of treatment facility:6,7,8
- Therapeutic communities (TC): Treatment that focuses on changing the residents’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding substance abuse; treatment lasts for 6 to 12 months.
- Shorter-term residential treatment: Involves shorter but more intensive treatment focusing on detoxification followed by a modified 12-step program.
- Recovery housing: Involves supervised, short-term housing that helps people adapt to a substance-free, independent life.
Outpatient treatment doesn’t require 24-hour care or living in the facility. It suits people with less severe addictions, jobs, and a supportive home environment.
The two types of outpatient treatments are:6,7,9
- Low- or moderate-intensity outpatient program: Provides up to 9 hours of weekly sessions for adults (up to 6 hours for adolescents).
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP): Provides 9 hours or more of weekly sessions for adults (6 hours or more for adolescents).
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
PHP is a structured mental health program for addiction treatment. You participate in activities during the day and return home at night. It requires 20 hours or more of weekly sessions.
It provides structured and comprehensive care while allowing people to maintain a life outside treatment. However, treatment services still take place at an inpatient or residential facility.6
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves medications that can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, or prevent relapse.
Medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include:6
- Naltrexone: Blocks opioids from binding to opioid receptors in the brain. It can also decrease alcohol cravings and prevent relapse
- Methadone and buprenorphine: They can relieve opioid cravings and suppress withdrawal symptoms
- Bupropion and varenicline: Prevents relapse of nicotine addiction
- Acamprosate: May reduce symptoms of long-lasting alcohol withdrawal
- Disulfiram: Disrupts alcohol metabolism; this can cause nausea and other adverse effects should the person drink alcohol
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Types of Behavioral Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment
Behavioral therapies can be done one-on-one, as a group, or with family, depending on the person’s needs. They’re usually intensive at the start of treatment. Sessions gradually reduce over time as the person’s symptoms improve.
Behavioral therapies used in addiction treatment include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Helps people recognize triggers for substance abuse and helps develop coping skills to enhance a person’s self-control6,8
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Focuses on developing skills in mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness9
- Contingency management (CM): This approach uses rewards (like vouchers or prizes) to encourage positive changes in behavior; it’s also called “motivational incentives”6,8
- Motivational interviewing: Helps people resolve their uncertainty in getting treatment and maximizes their willingness to change their behaviors6,8
- Multidimensional family therapy (MDFT): Designed for adolescents with drug abuse problems and looks at drug-related influences like peers, family members, etc., while improving family functions6,8
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT): Helps people identify negative feelings and thought patterns and replace them with healthier beliefs11
- Holistic therapy: Incorporates non-medicinal recovery methods into the treatment process like yoga, meditation, etc12
Addiction Treatment Aftercare
Some treatment facilities have aftercare programs. Examples include sober living arrangements, follow-up therapy and counseling, and alumni support groups.
Many treatment programs encourage people to participate in support groups during and after treatment. These groups serve as a source of motivation, support, and information.5
Popular support groups include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A 12-step program dedicated to helping people who currently have or had a drinking problem
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA): A 12-step program for active and recovering drug addicts
- SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training): A peer recovery program that offers support for people with addiction
All of these programs offer techniques and resources to help you maintain sobriety. They also provide a community where you can share your experiences with understanding peers.
Does Insurance Cover Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment?
Yes, health insurance is a common payment method for addiction treatment. It can cover all or part of the costs, depending on the plan.
Some facilities can also provide details about your status and whether they’re part of your insurance network. You can also check government-funded plans. Medicare is usually for older people, while Medicaid caters to people with disabilities and adults below a certain income level.13, 14
There’s also the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Health insurance providers with marketplace plans must comply with the ACA. Depending on the selected plan, policies can cover 60 to 90% of the treatment costs. Contact your insurance provider for more information.
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a problematic condition with long-term health consequences. However, it is treatable and reversible through addiction treatment programs.
Substance abuse treatment is for people whose lives are greatly affected by addiction. It’s typically diagnosed by a medical professional using the DSM-5 criteria to determine the severity of SUD.
Various types of treatment options are available and cater to specific needs. Talk to your healthcare provider for the best treatment program recommendations for your condition.
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- Volkow, N. “Making Addiction Treatment More Realistic and Pragmatic: The Perfect Should Not be the Enemy of the Good.” National Institue on Drug Abuse, 2022.
- “Alcohol Treatment in the United States: Age Groups and Demographic Characteristics” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023.
- “Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2023.
- Hasin et al. “DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and Rationale.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, National Library of Medicine, 2013.
- “The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 2021.
- “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 2018.
- “Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Care Clinical Guidelines: A Resource for States Developing SUD Delivery System Reforms.” Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP), 2017.
- “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 2023.
- Kivelitz et al. “Choosing the appropriate treatment setting: which information and decision-making needs do adult inpatients with mental disorders have?” A qualitative interview study. Patient Prefer Adherence, 2018.
- “Dialectical Behavior Therapy.” Psychology Today.
- Turner, M.J. “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Irrational and Rational Beliefs, and the Mental Health of Athletes.” Frontiers in Psychology, National Library of Medicine, 2016.
- Jorgensen, D. “A Holistic Approach to Substance Abuse Treatment and the Mind, Body, Spirit, Connection.” University of Wisconsin-Platteville, 2015.
- “What's Medicare?” Medicare.gov.
- “Who is eligible for Medicaid?” HHS.gov., 2022.