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Finding Treatment: The Ultimate Guide

Marcel Gemme By Marcel Gemme | Last Updated: 11 July 2024

If you’re looking for help with finding treatment, you’ve come to the right place. The task can be completely overwhelming, especially given the circumstances that you’re likely facing. With so much information and misinformation out there and everyone claiming their way is the best, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. A quick internet search will reveal this.

  • What You'll Learn

Finding good treatment is often a matter of life and death. And chances are, you can’t afford to wait or waste your time doing tons of research and making phone calls. That’s what this guide is for. We’re going to help you sort through the myths and confusion by breaking this down based on what you need.

To get started, go to the “Jump to section” on the upper right-hand side of the page and select the statement that best describes your situation. This will take you to the appropriate portion of the page which answers your questions and suggests the best way to proceed. Finally, we’ll go over some of the main myths that exist about treatment and provide you with the real information you can use to start changing your or someone else’s life.

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I’ve Never Been to Treatment Before and Want to Know More About It

Treatment is most easily described as having two main formats; inpatient and outpatient. Let’s start with inpatient.

Inpatient treatment is also referred to as residential treatment since the person lives at treatment 24/7 while attending. This is more restrictive, but it also results better. The person doesn’t have to battle with detox or early sobriety in the environment where they use drugs. This means that all the triggers and pressures to continue using are removed. There are also fewer stressors like work, phone calls, etc., which could easily amount to caving in and using. With inpatient, you can simply focus on getting better.

Inpatient treatment may not be possible for everyone. Enter outpatient treatment. A person attending outpatient continues to live at home and can continue to go to school or work provided they can regularly attend the outpatient treatment schedule. Such a schedule varies, but generally consists a few hours per day for 3 to 5 days per week. As one progresses, the schedule may lessen. This can go on for several months, and the appointments consist of anything from group to individual sessions with drug testing required.

This form of treatment exists for two main reasons. Either someone cannot attend inpatient due to life circumstances, or they’ve just completed inpatient treatment and are stepping down to a less restrictive form of ongoing support. Outpatient generally isn’t suggested as a first line of attack due to its lax structure. But if you can’t attend inpatient, it’s certainly better than nothing.

There’s also a subcategory of treatment known as detox. This can be confusing because many mistakenly view detox as a treatment. It’s not. In and of itself, detox is simply used to get the person off drugs safely. While you may be thinking, “Well, that’s all I need”, you must understand that detox only handles physical dependence, not addiction. This becomes clear when you see people getting detoxed, then relapsing almost immediately after if no other treatment is sought. Anyone who is physically dependent made many choices to use drugs over a long period of time before this occurs. So, it can’t simply be that they just need to get off the drugs and will be fine. They need treatment.

It’s also important to know that detox isn’t always incorporated into a treatment program. While most inpatient facilities have a detox unit or contract with one as the first step of treatment, most outpatient programs do not have detox and expect that anyone enrolling has already been detoxed. In this case, stand-alone detox centers exist and can be used prior to entering treatment. But always follow up detox with some form of treatment to address the mental aspect of addiction. Otherwise, your chances are little to none.

I’ve Been to Treatment Before, and It Didn’t Work

You may be wondering if treatment really works. There are definitely many people who it’s worked for, and many who it hasn’t. So, it’s clear that it can work. But it’s not a magic wand. It gives one a much better chance than not attempting treatment at all, but it requires work and a continued desire from the individual for a better life.

You’ve probably heard that “relapse is a part of recovery.” Maybe this has struck you as odd. It should be because it isn’t necessarily true. These are the types of beliefs that often lead to relapse and can be used as excuses. Don’t buy into this because you can beat this, and you don’t have to relapse.

The first thing to look at is what kind of treatment you’ve attempted. Perhaps it’s not the right model for you. If you keep going to outpatient and relapsing, look into inpatient. If you’ve been to inpatient but after 28 days, you go home and relapse, look into long-term inpatient and transition to outpatient after discharge.

Also, if you’ve relied on medications like Suboxone or Methadone but don’t stick with them or use other drugs anyway, it’s probably time to bite the bullet. These clearly aren’t working for you and are just continuing your addiction. Believe it or not, there are holistic programs that specialize in getting people off drugs like these and are completely clean. For many, this is the only way they’ve found lasting success.

It Seems Like All Treatment Are Based on the 12 Steps

This comes up a lot. 12-step programs have been the core of substance abuse treatment for years and can be very successful. But many people have trouble accepting and committing to the steps due to personal or religious reasons or simply don’t find success with it. That’s okay. We’re not all the same, so what works for one person may not work for everyone.

Luckily, there are many different types of treatment out there and it’s about finding something you agree with and feel you can apply in your life once you leave treatment. Things like exercise, nutrition, and individual counseling may be more up your alley. Holistic programs are built around these elements and may be a good fit for you. Other programs focus on newer methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and SMART recovery are gaining popularity as well. Explore some of these before resigning to something that isn’t working for you.

I’m Looking Into Treatment for Someone Else and Am Worried They Won’t Want to Go

This can be very difficult. But don’t worry, there are answers.

You never know how the person may react, and they may surprise you. But it’s also realistic to assume they may not want to get help. Maybe you’ve already had this discussion with them, and they are adamant about not wanting to go to rehab. If you haven’t had this discussion with them yet, go ahead and feel it out before launching an all-out intervention. Don’t push too hard yet; see where they’re at with the idea.

If they’re willing, you can start the process and get them into treatment. But act fast, as their willingness may change, and you never know how much time you have when it comes to addiction. It’s deadly, and just because they’ve survived for however many years doesn’t mean they’re not in danger. Especially if they know they’re going into treatment soon. They may be more prone to overdoing it and getting that one last high.

If they aren’t willing, you now know what you’re dealing with. This doesn’t mean you quit. But now you need a plan. The first step is to find the right treatment center. Given the circumstances, you’ll want to choose an inpatient program since they are more restrictive and intensive. The further away, the better, as distance is a major factor, which we’ll discuss more later. Next, you need to plan an intervention. Using a professional interventionist is suggested, as they’re experts at handling such situations and aren’t emotionally embroiled in it. Ideally, when successful intervention occurs, it’s imperative that they leave immediately for treatment before any ground gain is jeopardized.

You’re probably wondering if they’ll just leave once they get there. This is a valid concern. Keep in mind that there are no “lockdown” treatment centers for adults, short of psychiatric wards, which we’re not talking about here. But if you’ve chosen a good inpatient facility that’s not nearby, the distance itself prevents a barrier from them just leaving. The staff at treatment centers work hard to discourage people from just leaving, as they understand what’s at stake. Also, the likelihood of the person having a moment of clarity and sound thinking increases as they get sober and clear-headed. They often realize this is something they really need to see through.

I Work or Am in School and Don’t Know How to Make Treatment Work

Again, this is a great example of when outpatient treatment can help. It may take a little schedule juggling, but you should be able to find an outpatient program you can attend while maintaining your school or work schedule. If your schedule is too hectic to make this work, it may be time to speak with your employer or school about what’s happening so they can work with you.

Nearly all employers and schools have policies that protect people who are struggling with substance abuse. There is also the Family Medical Leave Act, which is a federal policy that provides qualified employees with protected leave for up to 12 weeks, so in most cases, they can’t simply fire you. If you operate heavy machinery or do something where it’s unsafe for you to be intoxicated, they may suspend that privilege or place you on an administrative function until you’ve successfully completed treatment. But you’ll likely be surprised by their willingness to work with you to get help.

This is a good time to mention that not everyone qualifies for inpatient treatment, nor is it always necessary. If you’re still maintaining work or school, it’s possible your addiction isn’t in a severe enough state to warrant a higher level of care. But, if you’re just holding it all together somehow and do need inpatient, it’s a good time to honestly look at your priorities. Your life is more important than any job or school. So, if you need to take some time off to handle this before it’s too late, you should. Realistically, you’ll probably lose the job or fail in school anyway if your addiction is left untreated.

Common Myths About Finding Substance Abuse Treatment

I Need to Be Really Bad Off, “Rock Bottom”, in Order to Seek Treatment

This is an old one. “Rock bottom” is supposed to be the lowest of lows. The myth is that if you don’t hit rock bottom, you won’t be ready or motivated enough to get better. Flat-out is untrue. Many people recognize they’re heading down a bad path relatively early in their addiction and get help, ending the cycle. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. In fact, rock bottom for many is death, and there’s no coming back from that. Don’t wait or buy into the idea that your loved one needs to suffer dire consequences in order to change.

Maintenance Drugs Like Suboxone and Methadone Can Fully Handle My Addiction

While, unfortunately, they’re often marketed as such, this is another misleading claim. The idea that the answer to drug addiction lies within another drug is extremely illogical. That’s a quick fix “solution,” and if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

Suboxone and Methadone do have a role in some treatment programs when used for the purpose of aiding someone in getting through the withdrawal of opiates. They make the grueling experience more comfortable, allowing a person to essentially step down. But they should be discontinued at low doses and while a person is still in treatment, allowing them to fully adjust to being drug-free and gain new tools with a clear mind that they can use once discharged.

Be wary of anyone who suggests that you get on these drugs long-term particularly if they’re suggesting this without an accompanying treatment program. Addiction is more than physical dependence, so taking maintenance drugs without addressing the mental aspects is not treatment. Unchecked, addiction may lead you to abuse other substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines on top of the maintenance drugs in search of that high. That’s a recipe for disaster and is extremely dangerous yet surprisingly common.

Rehab Is Too Expensive

While some rehabs are very expensive, this isn’t the case across the board. There are definitely affordable options out there, including some that may be free. Insurance is a factor as well, and insurance policies are now required to provide benefits for mental health and substance abuse.

If you have health insurance, be it private or Medicaid, a good starting point may be contacting your insurance company and finding out what these benefits are and what programs are considered “in-network”. This will save you from making tons of calls and getting discourage if the program you want to attend doesn’t accept your insurance.

If you don’t have insurance yet and need treatment that isn’t too expensive, you can use a treatment locator tool to find programs that fit your budget. Free programs generally require some work exchange while attending. Some programs receive funding, which allows them to be relatively inexpensive but may still incur some charge. Many of these are willing to work with you and may even accept a payment plan. Before you decide it’s impossible, talk to them and let them know your situation.

I Can Quit on My Own, but It’s Just Not a Good Time Right Now

The reality is there will never be a “good” time. In addition, life has a way of getting more and more hectic. There will always be some reason why you can’t do it now. If you keep it up, there may not be a “later”.

When it comes to quitting on your own, no one should tell you that you can’t do it. But the thing you need to ask yourself is, why haven’t you then? If you’re coming up with a laundry list of excuses, this should show you why there won’t ever be a good time to do it. You have to do it.

By all means, if you can do it yourself, go for it. This is said with caution, though, as drugs like benzodiazepines and alcohol can have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Detoxing from these requires medical expertise and professional oversight. If you’re taking these substances, get into treatment. If not, and you try to quit on your own, there are only two possible scenarios. You’re either successful, in which case you won’t be reading this, or you fail. If you fail, get into treatment as soon as possible.

They Have to Want Treatment, or It Won’t Work

This is similar to the idea of “rock bottom.” Believe it or not, people who go to rehab due to intervention do get clean and stay that way. If their loved ones listened to the above, they would’ve never made it.

Interventionists are professionals skilled in the art of convincing another person to get help. Yes, they cost money. But it’s hard to put a price tag on someone’s life. People in the depths of heavy addiction can literally die any day. Just because they don’t “want it” doesn’t mean you have just to stand back and watch them kill themselves. You can do something.

Even if they go kicking and screaming, never forget that you’re doing the right thing. As the person gets through the cravings and withdrawal, they will start to feel better. A person who’s addicted is motivated by fear. Fear of withdrawal and life without their coping tool: drugs. As they begin to feel better and aren’t clouded by the drugs anymore, they often decide they want it for themselves.

Once an Addict, Always an Addict

Boy, is this one wrong. This is another archaic saying adopted by many, including the addicted person themselves. It’s incredibly self-defeating and often becomes the basis and excuse for relapse. Another version of this is “relapse is a part of recovery”.

The truth is, once you’ve gotten clean, you’re no longer a drug addict. A drug addict could be defined as a person who can’t stop using drugs. So, if someone stops, they just aren’t anymore. It’s as simple as that.

People CAN turn their lives around, quit using, and become trustworthy again. It happens every day. If you don’t think it’s possible, then why are you here? Don’t trap yourself or someone else into the mentality that life will forever be a struggle defined by the past. That’s part of the reason addiction is difficult to overcome: beating these kinds of ideas. Get treatment, then get on with life.

I’m Not Doing Heroin, so It’s Not That Bad

With all the attention heroin has gotten, many people may fall into this trap. Be careful. Prescription opioids are essentially heroin in pill form. Some are actually more potent and harder to get off of. Alcohol is actually more harmful to the body than opiates when it comes to long-term use, and its withdrawal symptoms can be deadly. Benzodiazepines can be deadly as well, and when used with other drugs, is one of the easiest ways to overdose. Getting off benzos may be one of the longest, most excruciating processes out there and can be equally deadly.

The bottom line is if you think you have a problem, you probably do. Don’t waste your life in the mental struggle of debating what to do or living in the shadows. Treatment is real, and it works. If you want something better, the only time to get it is now.

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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.