Individuals who are addicted lose the ability to choose whether or not to use drugs. This is why getting effective treatment is so important. People with addictions can be helped considerably by participating in treatment that is provided by trained professionals who are experienced and knowledgeable about addictions, and who use methods that are based in scientific research. Treatment might include medication, such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone. These medication must be prescribed by a physician and require careful monitoring. Urine drug screens are also often a part of successful treatment, as they help to monitor use and can indicate if the treatment that the person is receiving is effective.
Treatment may b provided in a variety of settings. These include detoxification (often a residential setting supervised by a physician, with onsite nursing car, where the person is closely monitored; medications may be used); residential treatment (a 24-hour setting where the person is constantly supervised and participates in a variety of group and individual counseling); outpatient treatment (which may vary from several multi-hour groups per week to one-on-one counseling). Typically, a person will need a combination of these experiences along the way to recovery, and he or she may need several experiences with treatment, as this is a chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma, and responds to both professional treatment as well as life style changes that must be sustained over time.
Tips for Choosing Treatment Services for Substance Use Disorders
If you are choosing a program:
- Is the program licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services? If not, why? Are the services that are licensed the ones that you are interested in using? All treatment programs operating in the Commonwealth are required to be licensed. If the program is not licensed, it may not be providing actual treatment services.
- If you have insurance, does your carrier pay for this program/service? Federal and state laws require that most insurance policies cover addiction services, but to avoid surprises, check first.
- Does the program use a research based assessment tool to determine that you or your loved one will benefit from the services of this program? The assessment tool should help identify the type and intensity of treatment needed; this makes a big difference in outcome.
- Does the program offer mental health services as well as addiction treatment? Individuals who suffer from addiction frequently experience mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. If the problems are not treated together, neither problem will get better.
- Does the program use medications to treat addictions? If so, does the program explain how the medication will be used and how it works? Will the program help you find the physician needed to continue care once you complete care at the program?
- If you or your loved one take other medication for mental or physical illnesses, will the program continue these medications?
- How well trained and experienced is the staff? Unless the program is operated by a CSB, staff should all be licensed by the Department of Health Professions professional boards. In any case, staff should also have extensive experience in working with addictions.
- Are males and females treated separately or together? Sexuality and gender issues are frequently connected to addiction, and most experts recommend that men and women be treated separately, especially if the program is more than a few weeks long. In any case, there should be opportunities for men and women to meet separately to explore these issues with a skilled and knowledgeable counselor.
- If your loved one is a minor and you are considering residential treatment, how will education be addressed while the young person is in residence?
- Are staff able to offer treatment services that are age appropriate? The treatment needs of a young adult need to be approached differently than those of a middle-aged person or an older adult. Adolescents should not be treated with older adults.
- You or your loved one are protected by federal laws from having information shared with others unless specific permission is given to share. However, family involvement is critical to successful treatment. What programs and services are available to family members or significant others? Is there an extra charge or are these activities included in the fee?
- If treatment is residential, what is the access to medical and psychiatric care? Individuals in treatment for addiction often experience medical or psychiatric problems and need to have quick access to a knowledgeable physician.
- How many people “quit” the program before staff believes they are ready to leave? What do staff say about those individuals? If staff remark that “the individual wasn’t ready for recovery” then the staff may not be skilled at engaging and counseling individuals.
- Does the program keep information about what happens to individuals when they leave, whether or not they leave before they are “ready”?
- What types of “aftercare” does the program offer or arrange?
- What does the program do if a person continues to use while in treatment? Continued use indicates that the treatment being provided isn’t effective, either because it isn’t intense enough or because it hasn’t adequately engaged the person in treatment.
Visit T Research for more information about choosing services.
In Virginia, publicly-funded treatment is provided by community services boards (CSBs). Every locality in the Commonwealth has a CSB that offers substance abuse treatment; however, types of services vary.
Find the CSB for your community.
For more information about getting treatment for yourself or a loved one.