What to Look for in a Drug Treatment Program

When evaluating the many types of drug addiction treatment programs, remember that everyone’s needs are different. In general, the longer and more intense the drug use, the longer and more intense the drug treatment program you may need.

Regardless of a drug treatment program’s length in weeks or months, support and long-term follow-up are crucial to recovery. A quality drug addiction treatment program not only addresses the drug abuse, it also addresses the emotional pain and other life problems that contribute to your addiction.

The Drug Treatment Program Checklist

When you start looking for drug treatment, you may see advertisements for programs in tranquil settings with gorgeous views. While amenities like that are nice to have, they likely come with a big price tag. Focus on what is truly important: appropriate licensing, quality of care during the drug treatment program, follow-up services, and staff credentials. Things to check include:

  • Drug Treatment Program Accreditation
    CARF Accreditation

    Program accreditation and licensing. Make sure the drug treatment program is accredited by the state it’s in. Also check to ensure that the program is run by licensed, well-trained mental health professionals and drug addiction specialists.

  • The effectiveness of the program’s drug treatment methods. Drug Addiction Treatment centers should have at least some statistics on their success rates, preferably from an objective outside agency.
  • Type of aftercare services to prevent relapse. Is there a well-run aftercare program? Does it provide referrals to other recovery services and support groups in the community? Also make sure that a staff member will collaborate with you to create a discharge plan before you leave the program.

Phases of Drug Treatment Programs

Residential Drug Addiction Treatment – Residential treatment involves living at a drug treatment facility while undergoing intensive drug addiction treatment during the day. Residential drug treatment normally lasts from 30-90 days.

Partial hospitalization – Partial hospitalization is for people who require ongoing medical monitoring but have a stable living situation. These drug treatment programs usually meet at the hospital for 3-5 days a week, 4-6 hours per day.

Intensive outpatient program (IOP) – Not a live-in drug addiction treatment program, but it still requires a major time commitment. Intensive outpatient programs usually meet at least 3 days a week for 2-4 hours a day or more. The major focus is relapse prevention. These outpatient drug programs are often scheduled around work or school.

Counseling (Individual, Group, or Family) – Works best in conjunction with other types of drug addiction treatment or as follow-up support. Therapy can help you identify the root causes of your drug use, repair your relationships, and learn healthier coping skills.

Sober living – Normally follows intensive drug treatment like residential drug treatment. You live with other recovering addicts in a supportive drug-free environment. Sober living facilities are useful if you have nowhere to go or you’re worried that returning home too soon will lead to relapse.

Brief interventionThe Importance of Professional Intervention is for those at risk for drug abuse or drug addiction. Consists of several visits to a healthcare professional to discuss the harmful effects of drug abuse and strategies for cutting back.

The goal of drug addiction treatment is to stop drug use and allow people to lead active lives in the family, workplace, and community. One continual challenge, however, is keeping patients in drug treatment long enough for them to achieve this goal. That is why finding the right drug addiction treatment for a person’s specific needs is critical. Drug addiction treatment is not “one size fits all.”

Family and friends can play important roles in motivating people with drug problems to enter and remain in drug treatment. However, trying to identify the right drug addiction treatment programs for a loved one can be a difficult process.

Questions to Ask

To help, the National Institute on Drug Abuse created this brief guide containing five questions to ask when searching for a drug treatment program:

Q: Does the drug treatment program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?

Effective drug addiction treatments can include behavioral therapy, medications, or, ideally, their combination. Behavioral therapies vary in focus and may involve:

  • Addressing a patient’s motivation to change
  • Providing incentives to stop taking drugs
  • Building skills to resist drug use
  • Replacing drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding activities
  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Building better personal relationships

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.

Motivational Incentives.

Uses positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drug free, for participating in counseling sessions, or for taking treatment medications as prescribed.

Motivational Interviewing.

Uses strategies to encourage rapid and self-driven behavior change to stop drug use and help a patient enter treatment.

Group Therapy.

Helps patients face their drug abuse realistically, come to terms with its harmful consequences, and boost their motivation to stay drug free. Patients learn how to resolve their emotional and personal problems without abusing drugs.

Q: Does the drug program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient?

No single drug addiction treatment is right for everyone. The best drug treatment addresses a person’s various needs, not just his or her drug abuse.

Matching drug rehab settings, programs, and services to a person’s unique problems and level of need is key to his or her ultimate success in returning to a productive life. It is important for the drug treatment approach to be broad in scope, taking into account a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture. The severity of addiction and previous efforts to stop using drugs can also influence a treatment approach.

The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet a patient’s needs. In addition to drug addiction treatment, a patient may require other medical services, family therapy, parenting support, job training, and social and legal services.

Finally, because addictive disorders and other mental disorders often occur together, a person with one of these conditions should be assessed for the other. And when these problems co-occur, treatment should address both (or all conditions), including use of medications, as appropriate.

Q: Does the drug treatment program adapt treatment as the patient’s needs change?

Individual drug addiction treatment and service plans must be assessed and modified as needed to meet changing needs.

A person in drug treatment may require varying combinations of services during its course, including ongoing assessment. For instance, the drug program should build in drug monitoring so the treatment plan can be adjusted if relapse occurs. For most people, a continuing care approach provides the best results, with drug addiction treatment level adapted to a person’s changing needs.

A patient’s needs for support services, such as day care or transportation, should also be met during drug treatment.

Q: Is the duration of drug addiction treatment sufficient?

Remaining in drug treatment for the right period of time is critical.

Appropriate time in drug addiction treatment depends on the type and degree of a person’s problems and needs. Research tells us that most addicted people need at least three months in drug treatment to really reduce or stop their drug use and that longer drug treatment times result in better outcomes. The best drug programs will measure progress and suggest plans for maintaining recovery. Recovery from drug addiction is a long-term process that often requires several episodes of drug addiction treatment and ongoing support from family or community.

Q: How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?

Self-help groups can complement and extend the effects of professional drug treatment.

The most well-known programs are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA), all of which are based on the 12-step model. This group therapy model draws on the social support offered by peer discussion to help promote and sustain drug-free lifestyles.

Most drug addiction treatment programs encourage patients to participate in group therapy during and after formal drug treatment. These groups offer an added layer of community-level social support to help people in recovery with abstinence and other healthy lifestyle goals.

Get Help Today

Every day, people across the United States find themselves in need of drug abuse treatment. There’s a positive trend in the US where drug treatment is becoming more available to more people than ever before, thanks to recent changes that require insurance plans to recognize addiction as a medical issue.

However, there’s one disadvantage to this abundance of choice: the wide variety of drug treatment options leaves many people unsure which one is right for them. Some people find themselves re-entering drug rehab multiple times, because they’re involved in a program that doesn’t meet their individual needs. To find the best drug addiction treatment center, you need to know the options, and the right questions to narrow them down.