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When a person is concerned about having an addiction, or knows someone who may be dealing with a substance use disorder or addiction, it can be hard to know where to turn for information. There are many questions surrounding substance abuse, addiction, and treatment that the person may have, but finding the answers can be a challenge.

The following are some of the most common questions asked about addiction and treatment, along with answers that provide direction on what to do next.

What is the definition of addiction?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a disease that affects brain structure and function, resulting in a person’s inability to stop using a substance without physical and psychological consequences.

Addiction is a mental health disorder that also results in a diminished ability to control behaviors and to recognize the consequences of continued substance use. It is a chronic condition that, without treatment, can lead to disability or even death. However, like other chronic illnesses, addiction can be managed through specialized treatment.

How are mental illnesses diagnosed?

A manual called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the standard used by professionals to diagnose mental illness. The current edition of this manual, known as DSM-5, contains listings of mental illnesses, their observed symptoms, and other attributes that doctors and psychiatrists can use to reach a diagnosis.

Using the information from this manual, questionnaires and interviews with the person who is being diagnosed, and experienced observations of the person’s behavior, attitudes, and demeanor, the professional can then make an informed diagnosis of mental illness if it is present.


When is it time to have an intervention?

An intervention is required when a person’s substance abuse has begun to disrupt the ability to function normally on a daily basis. According to the criteria in DSM-5, signs that it may be time to seek treatment include:

  • Inability to keep up with daily work, school, and other responsibilities due to substance use
  • Diminished interest in activities that used to be enjoyed
  • Extensive time and resources spent seeking the substance
  • Relationship damage due to substance use
  • Inability to stop using the substance even in light of negative consequences
  • Strong cravings for the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms that occur if substance use is stopped

These and other negative effects on the person’s behavior and ability to thrive indicate that a substance use disorder may be present, and it’s time to seek professional help to diagnose and treat the issue.

Will admissions provide a list of payment options?

The admissions professionals at substance abuse treatment centers are specialists in helping people find a manageable pathway to getting care. They are familiar with the different options that can help people afford appropriate treatment. Some of these options include:

  • Insurance plans
  • Grants or subsidies
  • Loans
  • Scaled payment plans
  • Installment plans

Fear of financial challenges should not be a barrier to treatment. Continued substance abuse can become a greater financial issue than treatment, and there are ways to get treatment even on a limited income. Working with the professionals at a treatment program can help potential clients to overcome these challenges.

Why is medical detox recommended?

Medical detox involves providing medicines and other professional support to manage withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. Medical detox can keep clients safe and control the level of discomfort experienced during withdrawal, which might otherwise be extreme. In addition, some symptoms of withdrawal, particularly symptoms associated with withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines (benzos), can be dangerous or even deadly, as described by an article in Psychology Today. Medical detox can prevent or manage some of these more severe symptoms.

Medical detox is also beneficial because cravings during withdrawal can be so intense that it causes the person to relapse and return to using the substance. With the support and supervision provided with medical detox, relapse is virtually impossible. For this reason, medical detox provides a stronger chance of reaching and maintaining recovery from substance abuse.

What accreditation should I look for in a residential facility?

There are a number of organizations that, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, provide accreditation for addiction services. However, one organization provides accreditation for residential treatment centers specifically. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, or CARF, specializes in ensuring that residential facilities provide quality treatment with positive outcomes.

In addition, the Joint Commission is an accreditation body in the US that certifies more than 19,000 healthcare treatment programs and organizations.

How many therapy sessions per week are provided in inpatient care?

Inpatient care provides a number of different types of therapy and counseling, ranging from education to group work to family and individual behavioral therapy. Typically, a client can expect to have several different types of sessions every day. These may include the following sessions:

  • Behavioral therapy groups
  • Relapse prevention workshops
  • Experiential therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Individual counseling

It is important that the program provides a personalized plan for each individual, based on the specific needs of that person. Depending on the individual treatment plan, the specific sessions an individual receives on a daily basis will vary.

What is meant by the word intensive in an outpatient program?

Intensive outpatient programs are also sometimes referred to as partial hospitalization programs. While the person is not living at the treatment center, treatment still involves a large amount of time – specifically more than nine hours per week.

Intensive outpatient treatment is particularly helpful after residential treatment as a way to help people who may be at higher risk of relapse to integrate back into their daily lives.

Where do alumni programs usually meet?

Alumni programs are ways for people who have completed inpatient treatment to get together, find support and motivation to stay in recovery, and maintain the important social network that can be provided by others who understand what it feels like to manage a substance use disorder. These groups often meet at the treatment center or in designated locations on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis.

Alumni programs provide the opportunity to reconnect with fellow clients and with treatment personnel. They are an important part of the continuum of addiction treatment care because they offer connection, feedback, and solidarity in continued long-term recovery from substance abuse or addiction.

How are addiction treatment sober living homes structured?

Sober living homes are residences where people who are leaving inpatient treatment can live in a sober, supportive environment. Oftentimes, sober living homes serve as transitional housing between a person exiting inpatient treatment and returning to life in standard housing. In sober living homes, the risk of relapse is reduced since no substances of abuse are allowed on the premises, and the overall environment is supportive of recovery.

According to a study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the structure of a sober living home depends somewhat on who is living there – a mix of men and women, one gender alone, or women with children – but the basic house rules are the same, including:

  • Total abstinence from mind-altering substances, drugs, and alcohol
  • Participation in 12-Step or other group support meetings multiple times per week
  • Attendance at house meetings to set and report on goals
  • Accountability for whereabouts if not at the house
  • Respect for all house residents, including respectful behavior at all times

These homes generally require the person to pay rent, and any person who breaks house rules is subject to being removed from the home. Research has shown that residence in sober living homes can be an important element of the full treatment continuum, increasing the likelihood that residents will remain sober for the long-term.