How to Choose an Addiction Treatment Center

There are thousands of treatment centers in the United States. Which one is right for you?

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Updated on September 21, 2023.

If drugs and alcohol were easy to stop using, there would be no need for 12-step programs, rehab facilities, methadone, and a host of other treatment options. But addiction treatment is a steadily growing industry in the United States, because people need help quitting these substances.

Drug overdose deaths more than doubled between 2015 and 2021 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from about 52,000 to almost 108,000. Yet the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has found that only around 13 percent of people with substance use disorders get the treatment they need.

A treatment facility may be one way to help end substance use for good. But it’s not always as simple as walking into the nearest one, especially if you live in an area with shortages of treatment centers or few available spots. If you or a loved one are considering entering a treatment center, research can help you find a good fit.

The medical model of addiction

In years past, being addicted to drugs or alcohol was often viewed as a moral failure. Now, the scientific community more widely recognizes addiction as a disease. The National Institutes of Health calls it a “brain disorder,” while the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines it as “a chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.”

This is called the medical model of addiction, and it’s good news for those in recovery. Shame and stigma can lead people with substance use disorders to avoid or stop treatment. But a center that follows the medical model recognizes addiction as a health condition, and as a result, focuses on boosting self-image and the ability to persevere.

Considering a treatment center

There are thousands of treatment centers in the U.S., so how do you know which one is right for you? Here are some things to consider when you’re trying to choose a facility for yourself or a loved one.

How long will you stay? Treatment centers are usually either long-term or short-term residential programs, meaning you live at the center for a prescribed amount of time. 

Medical detoxification—during which healthcare providers (HCPs) help you manage the effects of withdrawal—typically takes at least seven days, and this is often the first stage of a stay in a residential program. From there, long-term stays can last from 6 to 24 months, while short-term stays are usually less than 30 days and always less than 3 months. 

There are also outpatient programs, where you do not stay overnight. These offer a wide range of services in many different settings. Some offer weekend and evening sessions so that you can fit treatment around your other responsibilities.

Is the center licensed? Each state has different licensing requirements for substance use disorder treatment centers. They usually include needing an operating plan, insurance, credentialed staff, a medical director, and various building certificates like Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and fire code compliance.

What are the staff members’ backgrounds? Substance use disorder professionals in the U.S. include social workers, mental health counselors, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses. Detox programs that administer medication should have a medical doctor on-hand, but not all detox programs use medicine or work with a doctor.

How much does it cost? The costs may feel intimidating: inpatient treatments range from $5,000 to $80,000. Outpatient treatments average about $5,000 for a 90-day program. And the amount you’ll pay out of pocket depends on your health insurance coverage and whether the treatment center is in network.

But there is good news. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, substance use treatment is considered an “essential health benefit.” All insurance plans are required to pay for it, though you’ll need to check with your provider to see exactly which facilities and programs are covered. 

If you’re uninsured or would find it very difficult to pay for treatment, most states offer free or low-cost addiction services. To access these treatment centers, start by looking through SAMHSA’s Directory of Single State Agencies for Substance Abuse Services.

What are the success rates? It’s important to note that between 40 and 60 percent of people who successfully treat their substance use disorder will have a relapse at some point. But that also means that between 40 and 60 percent will stop using forever. Talk to staff and former residents and try to find out how many people who went through the center go back to using.

The bottom line

Addiction is a growing problem in the U.S. If you’re facing a substance use disorder and want to start or re-start treatment, know that you’re not alone. Making the decision to seek help is a courageous one. There are many treatment centers throughout the country that have the resources and expertise to help you on your path to recovery, and some are available at relatively little or no cost.

Article sources open article sources

American Addiction Centers. Trends in American Addiction Treatment: State Data. Page last updated May 10, 2023.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. NVSS: Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts. Accessed September 21, 2023.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug Overdose: Drug Overdose Deaths. Last reviewed August 22, 2023.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Making Addiction Treatment More Realistic and Pragmatic: The Perfect Should Not Be the Enemy of the Good. January 4, 2022.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases. Accessed September 20, 2023.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is Drug Addiction? July 2020.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. Definition of Addiction. Page last updated September 15, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Words Matter: Terms to Use and Avoid When Talking About Addiction. November 29, 2021.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Reducing the Stigma of Addiction. Accessed on July 26, 2023.
American Addiction Centers. How Long is Rehab? Drug and Alcohol Rehab Lengths. Page last updated June 29, 2023.
American Addiction Centers. Outpatient Drug & Alcohol Rehab: Find Outpatient Addiction Treatment. Page last updated June 24, 2023.
The Academy for Addiction Professionals. The Many and Varied Types of Substance Abuse Counselors. July 10, 2019.
American Addiction Centers. The Cost of Going to Rehab: How Much Does Rehab Cost? Page last updated April 19, 2023.
National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. Average Cost of Drug Rehab. Accessed on July 26, 2023.
Office of National Drug Control Policy (Archives). Substance Abuse and the Affordable Care Act. Accessed on July 26, 2023.
HealthCare.gov. Mental health & substance abuse coverage. Accessed on July 26, 2023.
American Addiction Centers. Free Drug & Alcohol Rehab Centers. Page last updated April 27, 2023.
American Addiction Centers. Alcohol and Drug Rehab Directories. Page last updated April 19, 2023.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Directory of Single State Agencies (SSA) for Substance Abuse Services. December 16, 2016.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Can addiction be treated successfully? July 2020.

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