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Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)

Drug Addiction Treatment in the United States

Treatment for drug abuse and addiction is delivered in many different settings, using a variety of behavioral and pharmacological approaches.

Drug addiction is a complex disorder that can involve virtually every aspect of an individual's functioning—in the family, at work and school, and in the community.

Because of addiction's complexity and pervasive consequences, drug addiction treatment typically must involve many components. Some of those components focus directly on the individual's drug use; others, like employment training, focus on restoring the addicted individual to productive membership in the family and society (See diagram "Components of Comprehensive Drug Abuse Treatment"), enabling him or her to experience the rewards associated with abstinence.

Treatment for drug abuse and addiction is delivered in many different settings using a variety of behavioral and pharmacological approaches. In the United States, more than 14,500 specialized drug treatment facilities provide counseling, behavioral therapy, medication, case management, and other types of services to persons with substance use disorders.

Along with specialized drug treatment facilities, drug abuse and addiction are treated in physicians' offices and mental health clinics by a variety of providers, including counselors, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and social workers. Treatment is delivered in outpatient, inpatient, and residential settings. Although specific treatment approaches often are associated with particular treatment settings, a variety of therapeutic interventions or services can be included in any given setting.

Because drug abuse and addiction are major public health problems, a large portion of drug treatment is funded by local, State, and Federal governments. Private and employer-subsidized health plans also may provide coverage for treatment of addiction and its medical consequences. Unfortunately, managed care has resulted in shorter average stays, while a historical lack of or insufficient coverage for substance abuse treatment has curtailed the number of operational programs. The recent passage of parity for insurance coverage of mental health and substance abuse problems will hopefully improve this state of affairs. Health Care Reform (i.e., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, "ACA") also stands to increase the demand for drug abuse treatment services and presents an opportunity to study how innovations in service delivery, organization, and financing can improve access to and use of them.

This page was last updated December 2012