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Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders

Treatment Information

Can I explore treatment centers even if my friend is not willing to go into treatment?

Yes. If you find centers that might appeal to your friend, either by their location or medical approach, it might encourage them to enter treatment.  

You can call this helpline and get some advice on how to proceed: 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This service is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can also look for a treatment center online, which will allow you to search for a treatment center in your area and also give you information about the kind of addiction or patients it treats.

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.

What should I look for in a treatment center?

Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each patient's drug use patterns and also other medical, psychiatric, and social problems. Some treatment centers offer outpatient treatment programs, which allow patients to continue to perform some daily responsibilities. However, many people do better in inpatient (residential) treatment. An addiction specialist can advise your friend or loved one about the most promising options.  

NIDA's Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment compiles 30 years of research into a set of general principles and frequently asked questions about effective treatment. Using these principles, NIDA has developed a booklet that outlines 5 questions you can ask when looking for a quality treatment program. You might want to have these materials on hand when you talk to treatment centers to help you ask the right questions.

Who will be providing treatment?

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

What is treatment like?

Everyone entering treatment for a substance use disorder is unique. That is why the patient and the treatment staff work together to develop an individualized treatment plan. First, patients are evaluated to see if there are medications available that can help. Treatment will also likely include behavioral therapy ("talk therapy") designed to engage the patient in the treatment process, alter destructive attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, and increase healthy life skills. Behavioral treatment can also enhance the effectiveness of medications that might be available and help patients stay in treatment longer.

Treatment for substance use disorders can be delivered in many different settings using a variety of different approaches. You can read more about the different kinds of behavioral treatment options.

Do most treatment centers offer medication?

Some do, and that is a good question to ask them. Medications are currently available to treat addictions to alcohol, nicotine, and opioids (heroin and prescription pain relievers), and your loved one’s treatment team may recommend one of those medications. 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.

Read more about what treatments are available to treat your friend or loved one's addiction.

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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