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Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders

Treatment Information

What do I look for in a treatment center?

Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each patient's drug use pattern and also their drug-related medical, psychiatric, and social problems.  Some treatment centers offer outpatient treatment programs, which allows you to continue to perform some of your daily responsibilities. However, some people do better in inpatient (residential) treatment. An addiction specialist can advise you about your best options. NIDA has put 30 years of research into finding general principles of drug addiction that are most effective (NIDA's Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment). NIDA has also developed a booklet that outlines 5 questions you can ask when looking for a treatment program.  You might want to have these materials on hand when you talk to treatment centers to help you find the best treatment program for your needs.

Components of Comprehensive Drug Use Treatment This circular figure indicates that the best treatment programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet the needs of the individual patient. The outer ring of the circle lists vocational services, mental health services, medical services, educational services, HIV/AIDS services, legal services, and family services. The inner circle lists assessment, evidence-based treatment, substance use monitoring, clinical and case management, recovery support programs, and continuing care.The best treatment programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet the needs of the individual patient.

Will I be treated by a doctor?

There are different kinds of addiction specialists who will be involved in your care, including doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, and others. In some treatment programs, different specialists work as a team to help you recover from your addiction.

What kind of counseling should I get?

Behavioral treatment (also known as "talk therapy") helps patients engage in the treatment process, change their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, and increase healthy life skills. These treatments can also enhance the effectiveness of medications and help people stay in treatment longer. Treatment for drug use and addiction can be delivered in many different settings using a variety of behavioral approaches. You can read our DrugFacts about the different kinds of counseling and other behavioral treatments.

Will I need medication?

Some people do, and that is a good question to ask your treatment provider. Medications are currently available to treat addictions to alcohol, nicotine, and opioids (heroin and prescription pain relievers), and your treatment team might recommend one of those medicines. There are also medicines to treat mental health conditions (such as depression) that might be contributing to the addiction. In addition, medication is sometimes prescribed to help with the symptoms associated with drug withdrawal. When medication is available, it can be combined with behavioral therapy to ensure success for most patients. Some treatment centers follow the philosophy that they should not treat a drug addiction with other drugs, but research shows that with opioid use disorders, using medication is generally the most effective approach.  

This page was last updated October 2019

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NIDA. (2019, October 18). Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/step-by-step-guides-to-finding-treatment-drug-use-disorders

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