Different Types of Substance Use Treatment



The process of finding treatment for substance use can be overwhelming, if not downright confusing. It can be challenging for those with no experience with drug and alcohol rehabilitation to understand all of it while dealing with a crisis. Thankfully, knowing even the basics of addiction treatment can significantly impact the speed and success of one’s search.

Finding the right program can make all the difference, so we created the following guide to help you find a starting point on your search for substance abuse treatment.

You can also reach out to someone in our certified call center for more information about substance use treatment options. These addiction professionals can answer any additional question you may have and help you locate the best treatment options for you or your loved one. 

Private vs. Public Treatment

Drug and alcohol treatment facilities are either private or public, depending on their funding. Privately funded treatment centers generally operate without the benefit of grants or public subsidization, so they are often the more expensive option. While some private treatment programs may offer scholarships or reduced rates based on income or hardship, they usually exist entirely due to private funding, so they are not free. 

A publicly-funded substance abuse treatment facility does not depend on payment from clients to remain in business. These programs exist mainly through state and federal funding and are usually free or covered by Medicaid. This allows people who otherwise couldn’t pay for treatment services to have an opportunity for help. 

These two types of treatment have their benefits and drawbacks.

Private programs


  • Thorough aftercare
  • Better staff/patient ratio
  • Different modality options
  • Personalized care
  • Comfortable amenities


  • More expensive
  • Insurance may not be accepted
  • History of “Patient Brokering” practices

Public programs


  • Free or low cost
  • Accepts majority of insurances
  • Work closely with local health organizations
  • Can provide shelter and a safe environment for recovery


  • Waiting lists
  • Low staff to patient ratio
  • Fewer amenities
  • Shorter programs
  • Fewer treatment modalities

Levels of Care

Substance abuse treatment is classified by different levels of care. Once the decision is made to attend rehabilitation, the next step is to figure out the appropriate level of care needed. For example, someone addicted to heroin may require a higher level of care than someone who misuses cannabis.  An interview process with the prospective treatment facility, known as s screening assessment, determines the level of care needed. However, it helps to know what these levels are and who they are best for.


Detox is a type of inpatient treatment. It exists to help people overcome the toxic effects of substances that prevent them from benefiting from treatment. Addictive drugs cause severe effects on the mind and body, making it hard for people to ever get into treatment, let alone benefit from it. 

What it does:

  • Detox prepares patients for treatment by helping them overcome any withdrawal symptoms.
  • Detox involves medical support and monitoring.
  • The patient may be given medications to make the process safer and more tolerable.
  • Patients receive access to emotional support from staff. 
  • The goal is to get them through any withdrawal symptoms and help them become medically stable to enter treatment. 

Who should attend:

  • Anyone using drugs for an extended period.
  • Alcohol or Benzodiazepine users because withdrawal from these substances can be fatal.
  • Opiate users because there are excruciating withdrawal symptoms.
  • Individuals whose drug use history is unknown.

No one should ever attend detox as a substitute for a complete rehab program. Patients who complete detox should transfer immediately from detox to inpatient treatment, ideally, without returning home in-between. Many programs have on-site detox facilities. This makes the transition from detox to treatment seamless without transferring to a different facility. 

Inpatient Treatment

Patients struggling with active addiction should view inpatient treatment as the starting point to recovery. Inpatient treatment is a higher level of care than outpatient, with the patient living and staying at the facility for the duration of their treatment program. This means that patients basically “move in” to the facility and are residents until their discharge. You may also hear inpatient treatment referred to as “residential care.”

What it provides:

  • Housing and amenities for its patients
  • A safe environment to rehabilitate without any outside stressors
  • Group and/or One-on-One counseling
  • Treatment to help with the behavioral aspect of addiction
  • Life skills to help individuals cope without drugs

Who should attend:

  • Everyone with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

Our opinion is that inpatient treatment, specifically long-term, is the best option to treat substance use. When possible, we suggest attending a program at least 8 – 12 weeks long. This extra time away from troubling environments can make all the difference in long-term sobriety.

Outpatient Treatment

In outpatient treatment, the patient does not live at the facility. They commute from home to the facility for multiple sessions per week and regular drug tests. They continue to work, attend school, and operate in the same environment that led them to addiction.

What it provides:

  • Group meetings
  • Individual counseling
  • Aftercare for individuals who completed inpatient treatment
  • Drug-testing 

Who should attend:

  • Individuals who have completed inpatient treatment 
  • Someone who had shown poor judgment with substance use but has yet to form a habit
  • Persons who can not leave work to attend the traditional treatment model

Outpatient treatment often sounds more appealing to the patient because it allows them to remain comfortable in their habits and day-to-day routines. But it is rarely the right choice for anything other than additional support after inpatient treatment because outpatient treatment doesn’t offer the support and restrictions needed to help people overcome active addiction. So, outpatient treatment is best reserved for those who have completed inpatient treatment and are working towards complete independence in recovery.

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Contributors to this Article

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.

Michael Leach

Medical Reviewer

Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.

Who Answers?

Calls to the website’s main number are answered by best treatment center LLC and Intervention, a call center that specializes in helping individuals and families find resources for substance use disorders.