If you or a family member are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, recognizing the need to get help is an important first step, but the steps that come afterwards can seem even more challenging. Selecting a quality treatment program is critical to a person’s chances for success in rehab, especially with many different options springing up in the midst of the opioid epidemic.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a treatment program, including whether the program is inpatient or outpatient (allowing the possibility of continuing to work), county administered or privately run. Here are some questions that can help you find a treatment program that meets your needs and protects you from unscrupulous operators taking advantage of the opioid crisis:
More than 63,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives to drugs in 2016. Most of these deaths (66 percent) are linked to illicit use of opioids like heroin and fentanyl and legally prescribed opioid pain medications including oxycodone and hydrocodone.
In the U.S., fewer than one in five people who need treatment for addiction and substance abuse get the help they need. Rising numbers of overdose deaths make it clear that there is often no opportunity for a second chance.
1. What type of treatment is covered in my benefits package?
In the U.S., more than 14,500 specialized treatment facilities provide counseling, medication, case management and other services related to substance abuse. Treatment is sometimes also available through physicians’ offices and health clinics. Some LIUNA health and welfare funds provide varying amounts and types of treatment coverage. Some plans require the use of in-network treatment providers and/or prior authorization or certification before accessing treatment. Others may allow the use of out-of-network providers but will generally cover significantly less of the cost.
2. Is the treatment program accredited and if not, why not?
Addiction treatment programs and facilities do not have to be accredited to operate and many are not. Accredited treatment programs meet nationally recognized standards of excellence and have been evaluated by a third-party accrediting body like the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, the National Committee for Quality Assurance or The Joint Commission. Accreditation can be a lengthy process requiring time and money. Some small scale programs may not have the resources to devote to obtaining accreditation. This does not necessarily mean they aren’t quality programs. Ask what types of services they provide.
3. What types of treatment does the program use?
Effective drug and alcohol abuse treatment is a whole-patient approach. There are many options that have been successful in treating addiction, including:
- Behavioral counseling
- Medical devices and applications used to treat withdrawal symptoms or deliver skills training
- Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is often effective for treating opioid addiction. MAT combines medications such as naltrexone and buprenorphine, which treat withdrawal symptoms and addiction, with behavioral therapies.
Taking medication alone is not enough, as it does not cure opioid dependence. It’s critical to also attend counseling sessions, group meetings, education programs and any other treatments recommended by the treatment provider. The goal is to help patients learn to build the skills they need to recognize, cope with and avoid situations where they are likely to use drugs again.
Research shows MAT is successful in helping many patients manage their opioid addiction.
A range of care with a tailored treatment program and follow-up options can be crucial to success. Treatment should include both medical and mental health services as needed. Follow-up care may include community or family-based recovery support systems and is often critical to maintaining sobriety and resuming daily responsibilities, relationships and life in general.
4. Does the program adapt treatment to the specific patient?
The most effective treatment programs provide a variety of support. For example, a patient may need family therapy, parental support or help with job training. Providing these and other services can be the difference in completing treatment for addiction and can reduce the risk of relapse.
5. How long does the treatment program last?
Length of time varies depending on a patient’s needs and what their benefits cover. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people need at least three months in treatment to reduce or stop their drug use and longer treatment leads to better outcomes. However, regardless of duration, upon completing formal treatment, most treatment programs encourage patients to get involved with an aftercare program, which can include self-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.
Addiction cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Finding the right treatment program can make it possible to return to an active and productive life.
Where Else to Get Information
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains a search tool on its website to locate nearby treatment centers based on a person’s address and other requirements. SAMHSA’s free, confidential national helpline for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-662-HELP and 1-800-487-4889 (TTY).
The LHSFNA has developed a number of materials to help people struggling with addiction. These include the Opioid Abuse & Addiction and Prescription Drug Addiction Health Alerts and the It’s Your Choice When You Know the Facts about Drugs and Alcohol pamphlet. To order these and other health and safety materials, go to www.lhsfna.org and click on Publications. For more information, call the Fund’s Health Promotion Division at 202-628-5465.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]