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What Are the Different Treatments Available for Substance Abusers?

Substance abuse treatment typically involves detox and counseling.
Group counseling is one treatment option for substance abusers.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
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Substance abusers have a number of treatment options, which may be separated by type of treatment, stage at which treatment occurs, or location of treatment. The separations don’t necessarily mean that a person abusing a substance will only have one type of treatment. Many substance abusers undergo several types of treatment concurrently or at different times, and all people who successfully quit using a substance will progress through several stages of recovery. Types of treatment are generally split into medical and counseling oriented, which are offered in a variety of locations/venues. Stages of treatment refer to detoxing and then recovery after initial physical substance dependence has ended.

Ending substance abuse means going through different stages of treatment. It begins with actually stopping the use of the substance, which may require medical support for withdrawal symptoms. The support needed may involve hospitalization so substance abusers can safely detox. A few people can quit without medical surveillance, but it is a good idea to discuss the best options with a physician before quitting. In most cases, after initial detoxing has occurred, people opt for other ways to treat their condition, which can include different forms of counseling or ongoing medication management.

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The delineation between types of treatment is artificial. Many substance abusers have an ongoing addiction support program that involves use of medications and various forms of counseling. Types of drug treatment could include medications that will make people ill if they continue to use a substance or medications that help reduce craving for drugs of abuse. Counseling types are also varied, and include anything from peer-led support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or structured groups led by a therapist or drug and alcohol counselor. Individual counseling is another option that may be pursued in conjunction with medication treatment and group counseling, or undertaken alone.

The location or venue of treatment is another point of consideration. Some of the options available to substance abusers include hospitalization, partial hospitalization, intensive programs, community-based counseling, and interventional strategies. A hospitalization program begins with detoxing and may last for several months, while a person learns to live without the use of the previously abused substance.

A step down from total hospitalization is partial hospitalization, which can follow total hospitalization or be a first option. Similarly, intensive programs take up several days a week in counseling and behavioral strategies. Community-based counseling includes group or individual counseling targeted toward addressing the ongoing issues of previous substance abuse. Brief intervention is usually only used when people are abusing substances, but are unlikely to have established physical addiction to them.

Given the options for substance abusers, there is much to consider when ending addiction or substance abuse. Getting advice from a doctor or counselor before starting can be helpful. In places like the US, an excellent resource is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), which has more information about the many potential treatment options, stages and venues.

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