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Finding the right treatment program can be tough. Make the right choice and you’ve got an excellent chance at long term recovery. Pick the wrong one and you’re far more likely to exit before completion and far more likely to relapse back to substance abuse. The stakes are high, but how can you know what’s right for you?

To help with this difficult task, the experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) came up with 5 questions you need to ask and answer about any addiction treatment program under consideration:

Does the program use evidence-based behavioral therapies and, if appropriate, medications?

Does the program employ proven effective behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, motivational incentives and group therapy?

Behavioral therapies help people build and sustain motivation to change and teach the skills needed to maintain recovery, and they are an essential part of the treatment experience.

When appropriate, certain medications can also help those in recovery manage withdrawal symptoms and overcome cravings to use. Medications are most effective when they are combined with behavioral therapies.

Be wary of any treatment program which does not offer behavioral therapies. Some treatment programs may not make use of effective medications on philosophical grounds or due to a lack of staff expertise. Programs which do not or cannot incorporate effective addiction treatment medications into the treatment experience are not likely as effective as programs which make full use of these medications.

Is a personalized treatment plan developed around your individual situation?

You are an individual. Your combination of past experience, culture, health and mental health needs, gender, sexual orientation, motivation and age are unique to you and nobody else.

Because of this, you come into treatment with unique needs and require services adapted to meet your specific needs – there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The best treatment programs will screen for mental illness and will evaluate your individual situation and develop a personalized treatment plan for you alone, and because addiction does not occur as a problem in isolation from the rest of your life, the best treatment programs will also help to coordinate other services you may need, such as child care, medical care, legal services, education, job training and others services.

Will treatment be adapted to your changing needs?

The types of treatment you need at day 1, day 15, day 100 and day 300 aren’t the same, and it can be difficult to predict the progress you’ll make and the services you’ll need in the future.

The best treatment programs adapt to your changing needs by periodically re-evaluating your situation and making changes as necessary.

Addiction is a disease of relapse and remission. Relapse does not mean that treatment has been ineffective but rather that treatment of a greater intensity is once again required. Because of this, effective treatment programs may try to monitor for drug use so that they can intervene quickly should relapse occur.

Is the treatment long enough?

Treatment should step-down in intensity over time but it should not be overly brief.

Research indicates that 3 months is about the minimum duration you should consider and ideally the program is set up to accommodate periodic stints of higher intensity treatment after slips or relapses.

Although treatment needs to be of sufficient duration treatment does not need to be residential for the entire stretch.

Are you introduced to the 12-Steps or a similar community based support group program?

People who continue to participate in community support groups and/or group therapy such as that offered in AA, NA and other group meeting programs have better recovery rates than people who do not continue to participate in group meetings after the end of a formal period of addiction treatment. Because of this, there is value to an introduction to such programs while still in an addiction treatment program.1

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Page last updated 28/09/2015

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