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Effective, Comprehensive Treatment

Effective treatment is typically delivered in outpatient, inpatient and residential settings where individuals receive an initial assessment to form an individualized treatment plan. 

Inpatient Treatment:  Patients stay in a hospital or treatment center setting.

Outpatient Treatment: Patients visit the clinic at regular intervals.  Many outpatient programs offer a variety of services, including individual therapy, group therapy and drug education programs.

Residential Treatment Programs – Patients remain at residence in therapeutic communities, offering a highly structured program where the average stay is six to twelve months.

Support Groups – Groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, offering support and crisis intervention through face-to-face meetings as well as on-line services.

The first stage of addiction treatment often involves detoxification and the medical management of withdrawal. Virtually all plans will then consist of behavioral therapies (such as counseling, cognitive therapy, or psychotherapy) and with some patients, medication is used in combination with this therapeutic process.  Also, there must be an integrated treatment approach with patients who have coexisting mental health disorders. 

Treatment providers should help patients:

  • Manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Understand the behavioral and cognitive changes resulting from drug abuse
  • Achieve long term changes and prevent relapse
  • Establish on-going communication between physician and community provider to ensure coordinated care
  • Engage in a flexible treatment plan to help them achieve recovery

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Clinical Toolbox – Science-based materials for the drug abuse treatment providers.

Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx) – Network working with addiction treatment providers to make more efficient use of their capacity and shares strategies for improving treatment access and retention

Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment: A Research-Based Guide  - NIDA guide summarizing basic overarching principles characterizing effective treatment.  Also provides answers to frequently asked questions and describes types of treatment with examples of scientifically based and tested treatment components.

SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Evidence-Based Programs Directory – Effective programs in reducing or preventing substance abuse.

SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices – Searchable database of interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders.

Initial Phase of Treatment

The initial phase of treatment involves a combination of the following: 

  • Detoxification
  • Psychotherapy
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Urine testing
  • Counseling
  • Self-help groups
  • Relapse prevention strategies

During this first phase of treatment and recovery, patients are persuaded, motivated or involuntarily committed to treatment.  The main goal of this phase is to help stabilize the acute symptoms of the drug use disorder.

Recovery from a chronic, often relapsing, disease is a long-term process. Remaining in treatment for an adequate amount of time is critical.  While in treatment, patients begin to learn about their disease and are supported in their efforts to change drinking and drug habits.   They are taught ways to avoid alcohol and other drugs and how to manage cravings.  They learn about and participate in self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  Strategies for changing behaviors and habits will be discussed, along with aftercare plans, including referrals to other medical, psychological, and social services.

NIDA-SAMHSA Blending Team Initiative, Buprenorphine Awareness Blending Team. (2006). Buprenorphine Treatment: A Training for Multidisciplinary Addiction Professionals. Module I.  Retrieved on January 3, 2008 from

GLATTC Bulletin. (2002). Drug Treatment for Offenders: Why It Matters. Retrieved on January 9, 2008 from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2000). Approaches to Drug Abuse Counseling. NIH Publication No. 00-4151.


Click here to find an effective addiction treatment program approved by the State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Authority.

Components of Comprehensive Drug Abuse Treatment:
Resource: NIDA’s Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment: A Research-Based Guide

diagram of Components of Comprehensive Drug Abuse Treatment

Treatment Approaches:

For more detailed information on treatment approaches for drug addiction and examples of specific programs proven effective through research, view NIDA’s Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.

For treatment in the criminal justice system, view NIDA’s Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations:  A Research-Based Guide.


Screening / Brief Intervention Tools for the Clinician:

Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) – a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for persons with substance use disorders.

Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Trauma Patients - guide to assist Level I and II trauma centers incorporate alcohol screening and brief intervention as part of routine trauma care.

click here for Clinician Screening Resources



SAMHSA Drug Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Reports
SAMHSA’s National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services
The DASIS Report, December 12, 2003: The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS)


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