Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorders

Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorders

Here’s where to find the help you need to overcome addiction.

Seeking treatment for a substance use disorder is a difficult step, but can also be one of the most important and best steps to take. Only one in 10 individuals with a substance use disorder actually receives treatment, despite the known poor health consequences. Studies show that receiving treatment early, before the condition can advance, is crucial for effectively managing a substance use problem or disorder. However, receiving treatment at any stage of substance misuse is better than not receiving any type of treatment at all. Treatment services aim to enable individuals to become sober and maintain a healthy lifestyle through methods such as medication, counseling or other supportive services.

Substance use disorders can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, with effective treatment options for each level of severity and type of substance misuse. The most common substances reported for substance use disorders is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, prescription pain relievers and heroin.

Steps of Treatment:

  1. Assessment and Diagnosis
    The first step in treatment of a substance use disorder is recognizing the issue and visiting a professional clinician for proper diagnosis. The clinician will conduct an interview to assess the severity and will then determine if there is a substance use disorder present. This is very important for determining the treatment plan.
  2. Individualized Treatment Planning
    Following diagnosis, the clinician and the patient will set out to develop a personalized plan together. When developing a plan, the clinician and patient should consider all aspects of the individual, which will increase the likelihood of success. During the treatment, the patient and clinician should consistently check in to make any adjustments to the plan. Various factors impact the customization of treatment, including gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, economic status, faith, religion or lack of religion.
  3. Maintaining Treatment Engagement and Retention
    Patients that are open to building a relationship with the clinician show more engagement and retention in treatment programs, and therefore often experience more success with the treatment plan.
  4. Treatment Setting and the Continuum of Care
    Treatment for substance use disorders can be given in hospitals, outpatient settings or in residential facilities, with varying frequencies (daily, weekly, monthly) and types of care provided. Therapy and rehabilitation for individuals suffering from substance use disorders typically occurs in an outpatient setting, but may also take place in a residential setting for more severe cases.

Medically Monitored and Managed Inpatient Care:
This intensive service, typically in a hospital, provides treatment 24 hours a day and is necessary for individuals who need medical care, withdrawal management or have mental or physical health conditions, which are sometimes referred to as co-occuring disorders.

Residential Services:
This 24 hour service provides support outside of a hospital setting and is typically for those who lack an environment that allows for recovery, have relapsed before or have mental or physical health conditions.

Intensive Outpatient Services:
This provides structure for services such as counseling and education and is less restrictive than residential services, typically with options before or after work or on weekends.

Outpatient Services:
Usually the first level of care for mild substance use disorders or the final step of intense treatment, this service provides behavioral support and medication when necessary.

Speak to a clinician today if you feel you may have a substance use disorder and are ready to begin treatment. After you speak with a clinician, look to join a support group. Support groups are an important way to be successful in treatment, no matter what type of treatment being received. Visit the Addiction and Recovery page at to find one that is right for you.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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