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What are the Different Types of Substance Abuse Treatments?

By Tiffany Manley
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many types of substance abuse treatments. The four main types of programs are outpatient, residential, medical/detoxification and counseling services. Programs focus on many aspects of substance abuse, including social, behavioral, mental, and physical components. Many treatment programs have identified the need for substance abuse treatments that treat all aspects affecting an individual’s addiction. In addition, many programs also include medical treatments, because addictions can physically affect an individual in an adverse manner.

Outpatient programs are good options for individuals who are looking for lower-cost substance abuse treatments or who are unable to attend residential programs because of their job or other constraints. The intensity levels of these programs vary, with some offering very basic educational information and others offering intense, day-long treatments based on the individual’s specific needs. Group counseling often is an integral part of outpatient substance abuse treatments. This might offer a great support system and the feelings of acceptance and inclusion.

Residential substance abuse treatments can be broken down into short-term and long-term programs. Short-term programs offer an intense program of treatment that generally lasts for three to six weeks. They usually are conducted in a hospital setting and utilize a systematic approach to treatment. Long-term programs consist of a six- to 12-month stay in a community-like setting. They focus on the whole person and acclimating the person back into society as a successful and useful member.

Detoxification and the medical management of a drug withdrawal is another way to assist a person in overcoming substance abuse. This type of program generally should be used only to clear the individual’s system of the drug, and it does not offer treatment for the factors that contribute to the abuse. A physician generally is in charge of administering prescription drugs to the patient in order to reduce what can be uncomfortable or life-threatening side effects of detoxification. It usually is recommended that the individual seek some sort of substance abuse treatment afterward in order to address the circumstances surrounding his or her addiction and to help him or her remain drug-free.

Counseling is another form of substance abuse treatment, and it might be performed in an individual or group setting. Individual counseling is tailored to the individual’s needs and might assist him or her in areas such as employment, family relationships and prior abuse. Group counseling allows a drug abuser to see that there are others afflicted with the same disease, and members of the group can share in each other's successes and failures. It provides the abuser with a community where everyone is working toward the same goal of sobriety.

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