Knowing When You Need Help

When you or a loved one is seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol use disorder, finding the right level of care and treatment options for your needs is of paramount importance. 

While the best addiction treatment facilities will help facilitate this process, having an understanding of the fundamentals of treatment and what different services may be required can help you make an educated decision about the addiction treatment process.

There are several elements of effective addiction treatment, and they cater to the unique needs of each patient.

How Addiction Treatment Works
Benefits Of Professional Help

Addiction treatment typically has a single goal — to help people stop abusing drugs or alcohol. While abstinence is the primary goal of addiction treatment, the process of helping people overcome a substance use disorder is much more complex than simply stopping.

The vast majority of people struggling with a substance use disorder have a number of challenges facing them that add to the complications and timelines of recovery. These challenges can include struggles with:

  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Medical conditions
  • Financial difficulties
  • Relationship challenges
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Peer pressure
  • Social isolation
  • Trauma
  • Experiences of prejudice or discrimination

This list is just a small subset of the challenges people face in early recovery, and most people experience several of them at once. These challenges interact directly with a person’s substance use and need to be addressed in order for people to achieve a lasting recovery.

The fact is that people use drugs and alcohol for a purpose. Drug and alcohol use provide some type of relief, serve some sort of function, or help people through difficult times. But as people develop a substance use disorder, the problems of substance use become greater than any purpose they serve.

But in order to prevent relapse, the underlying challenges need to be addressed as well. This plays a large role in how to determine your drug abuse treatment needs — and often dictates the style of treatment and intensity of care you receive.

Types Of Treatment Care in Addiction Recovery
Determining The Best Options

The first step in determining your drug abuse treatment needs is deciding which level of care is required to help you achieve recovery. This is typically done with the support of addiction professionals who have specialized training in analyzing your symptoms and substance use disorder severity to determine which level of care is most appropriate.

Addiction professionals use a guideline known as the ASAM Criteria. ASAM stands for the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and their guidelines for which level of care is appropriate span from physical symptoms, medical conditions, mental health disorders, and even environmental factors. Addiction professionals also take into account your financial situation to help them choose the right level of care and the right recovery facility for your needs. 

The different levels of addiction care are catered to various needs. Some of these levels of care used in the addiction treatment continuum are the most common.

Medically Assisted Detox

A medically assisted detox is a specialized facility designed to help people break through the difficult stage of drug and alcohol withdrawal. Depending on the substance being used, drug withdrawal can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful, disorienting, and potentially life-threatening.

A medical detox facility uses a number of tools to help people through this difficult phase. Targeted medications can alleviate the most severe symptoms of withdrawal for most people. The around-the-clock medical staff ensures that new symptoms are spotted and treated as they arise. 

A safe, secure environment protects people from potential triggers or cravings and helps you stay on the course of recovery.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment is typically the next step in the treatment continuum following a short stay at a medical detox facility. In residential treatment, patients live on-site at an addiction treatment center while receiving intensive therapy and treatment offerings throughout the day.

Unlike detox, where the focus of care is on helping people overcome physical symptoms, residential treatment typically treats both physical and mental health barriers to recovery. 

Patients will participate in several hours of individual and group therapy throughout the week, meet regularly with a physician or psychiatrist, and start building the tools for recovery while in residential treatment.

When not directly receiving therapy or treatment, patients in a residential facility live with other patients who are also receiving addiction treatment. This helps build a foundation of social support for recovery and surrounds each patient with people who have like-minded goals about achieving sobriety.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is a step down in care from residential treatment. Rather than living on-site at an addiction treatment facility, patients in IOP continue living at home or in supportive recovery housing and travel to a treatment center several days a week to receive addiction therapy and treatment.

While it’s common for people to transition from residential to IOP, an IOP may be the first-line approach for people with milder substance use problems. Not everybody seeking recovery needs the more structured, around-the-clock care offered by a residential facility.

Aftercare Services

Aftercare programs are designed to provide continuing support to individuals who have completed a residential or IOP treatment protocol. While each aftercare plan is unique, this could include continuing to meet with an individual therapist, attending addiction support groups, or facilitating a transition into sober living.

Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment
How Mental Healing Helps Physical Addictictions

Just as the different levels of care in addiction treatment cater to various needs, the specific therapies and treatment options used in addiction treatment are designed to help people with the wide array of challenges they face on their journey toward recovery.

Every level of addiction treatment uses some of the therapies outlined below — though often to different degrees. You may receive much more time in therapy during residential treatment than you would in IOP, for instance, but the core elements of therapy remain the same.

Evidence-Based Therapies

Talk therapy has long been used as a way to help people break free from substance use disorders. Different therapeutic modalities — or styles of therapy — have all shown themselves to be evidence-based in helping people maintain abstinence, reduce their level of craving, and achieve a greater sense of holistic mental health.

Some of the different styles of therapy used in substance use treatment include:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Relapse prevention programs
  • Mindfulness-based therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

To be considered an evidence-based therapy, these therapies need to be tested in both academic and clinical settings and have a strong scientific base supporting their ability to help people achieve recovery.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

People entering substance use treatment often have a co-occurring mental health condition. Leaving a mental health disorder untreated while attempting to recover from addiction can drastically reduce your likelihood of achieving lasting sobriety, but seeking dual-diagnosis treatment can help treat both disorders simultaneously.

Dual-diagnosis treatment occurs at every level of care. At a dual-diagnosis treatment program, patients receive specialized mental health care, targeted substance use interventions, and integrated treatment options designed to help people with the challenges of both disorders.

Gender-Responsive Treatment

Men and women often face very different challenges in the recovery process. Gender-responsive treatment provides different spaces for men and women to share their challenges in recovery. This separation helps them feel more open and comfortable in group recovery settings and helps individuals focus on their recovery.

The Stages of Addiction Recovery
Lifelong Process

Addiction recovery is a lifelong process. In a holistic model of recovery, there is no specific end-point. Instead, it is an ongoing journey of self-improvement and growth that can sustain you for a lifetime. People go through several stages and challenges throughout this process, including:

1. Abstinence

The first step in addiction recovery is achieving abstinence. Making this decision can be incredibly difficult as people are unsure what life in sobriety may look like, whether they really have a substance use disorder, or what admitting they have a problem might entail.

Importantly, making this decision is only the first step. Quitting drugs or alcohol is a good start but not what is meant by achieving addiction recovery.

2. Overcoming Withdrawal

After quitting substance use for the first time, many people will experience some type of physical and mental withdrawal. The severity and length of withdrawal will vary depending on how often substances were used, which substances were used, and in what quantity.

Depending on these factors and several more, acute withdrawal can last between one and three weeks. Post-acute withdrawal, which typically includes lower-grade mental health symptoms, can last for months.

3. Learning Healthy Coping Skills

After people have completed the acute withdrawal phase, an addiction treatment program will start teaching them healthy coping skills to help them sustain their recovery. This could include skills to help resist relapse, regulate emotions, or tackle life’s challenges without having to return to active substance use.

4. Building a Life in Recovery

The final stage in the recovery process is building a new, fulfilling life. Breaking free from substance use is often a life-changing experience, but it’s also a new frontier. 

Now that you’re not subject to an addiction, what will you do with your life? What goals will you work toward? Where will you find your sense of purpose and meaning?

This is a deeply individual part of the recovery process, but it’s the phase that solidifies people into lifelong recoveries that they truly enjoy.

Creating a Recovery Goal
3 Questions To Ask

Knowing the challenges people face in achieving recovery, it’s often prudent to make your own recovery goals before entering treatment. If you want to recover from both substance use and mental health challenges, for instance, you’d likely do better at a facility that delivers true dual-diagnosis treatment.

To create a recovery goal, ask yourself:

  • What do I need to get and stay sober?
  • What kind of treatments can help me achieve my needs?
  • How can an addiction treatment center help me achieve my goals?

With answers to these questions in hand, you’re ready to start looking for a treatment center that can help.

Resources to Determine Your Treatment Needs

The best way to determine your needs for treatment is to speak with an addiction professional. While it might be tempting to decide for yourself what your needs in treatment are, personal bias may cloud your judgment. 

You don’t want to enter into a level of care that’s too low for your needs, as this can lead to relapse, frustration, and reduced hope for recovery in the future.

How to Research Pathways to Recovery

It’s natural when searching for a way to find recovery to want to hear first-hand experiences from other people who have recovered from a similar challenge. Some of the best ways to research pathways to recovery include:

  • Addiction recovery forums
  • Patient testimonials from addiction treatment centers
  • “Quit-Lit,” or books where people share their story of recovery

These sources can give you first-hand accounts of the multiple pathways to recovery and help you decide which is best for you.

How to Find a Rehab Facility
Millions affected

The next challenge is finding a rehab. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration keeps a database of addiction treatment centers to aid in this process. 

Consider whether it’s better for you to attend an in-state or out-of-state program. Each has its advantages. An in-state program means you don’t need to travel far away from friends and family, while an out-of-state program can help you get away from the triggers and temptations of everyday life. Ultimately, the choice belongs to you.

What to Look for in Addiction Treatment

With so many addiction treatment facilities to choose from, it can be hard to make the choice about which one is best for you. The key elements to look for include:

  • Evidence-based care
  • The right level of care for your needs
  • Specific services for any co-occurring disorders you may have
  • A compassionate and empathetic care team that has your best interests in mind

Finding the right treatment center for you can be a difficult process, but the rewards of recovery are worth all the effort.

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