Treatment Definition

Deciding to get help for an addiction to alcohol or other drugs is a very important decision. Whether you are thinking about treatment for yourself or someone you care about, finding the right treatment is key. This guide provides information about different treatment options and will help you prepare to talk to an addiction or healthcare provider about getting help for an alcohol or drug use problem.

Myth: For treatment to work, you have to really want it.

Fact: Professionals who treat addiction are experienced working with people who do not really want to change when they begin treatment.

Many have been trained to help clients reduce uncertainty and increase their desire for change.

When is the right time to seek treatment?

The choice to enter treatment is a personal one. People often seek treatment when the negative effects of drinking or drug use become stronger than the positive effects. However, treatment can be helpful even for people who think their alcohol or drug use is only a mild problem.

Myth: Treatment only works once you “hit rock bottom.”

Fact: Entering treatment early often leads to better results and can help avoid the losses that come with “hitting rock bottom.”

Treatment

Most addiction and healthcare providers will begin by assessing whether you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs. They might use a screening tool or checklist and ask you questions about your experiences using alcohol or other drugs.

Some examples of questions they might ask include:

• How much alcohol or other drugs are you using, and how often?

• Do you find it hard to cut down or stop using alcohol or other drugs?

• Do you feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using alcohol or other drugs?

• Do you use alcohol or other drugs even when it is causing you physical or mental health problems?

• Are alcohol or other drugs negatively affecting other parts of your life (e.g., family relationships, work, school, social activities)? If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s alcohol or other drug use, you can get a full assessment by an addiction or healthcare provider. It is best to be assessed by someone with specialized training in alcohol and other drug treatment.

Who can help?

Professionals with the following credentials can help if they are also trained in addiction treatment.

• Medical doctors (M.D.) • Addiction Medicine Specialists (M.D.)

• Psychiatrist (M.D.)

• If your healthcare professional is not trained in assessing and treating addictions, he or she can refer you to a professional who is. Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral from your doctor.

• Licensed/registered psychologists and counsellors (Ph.D., Psy.D., M.A., M.Sc., MMFT)

• Licensed/registered social workers (B.S.W. or M.S.W.)

• Licensed/registered psychotherapists or counsellors (R.C.T.)

• Nurse/nurse practitioner

• National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) workers

• Other certified addiction counsellors.

Although they may not provide addiction treatment, other professionals, individuals and groups in your community can support you and help connect you to other resources:

• Peer support groups (e.g., 12-step programs, SMART Recovery, LifeRing)

• Family support groups

• Employee assistance programs through your employer

• School guidance counsellors

• Spiritual or cultural leaders

Planning your treatment

An addiction or healthcare provider can work with you to come up with a treatment plan. This process begins with an assessment of your alcohol or other drug use problems, and other related physical, mental and social concerns. Your care provider can help you decide on your treatment goals, explain what your treatment options are and set up the services you need to reach your goals.

Treatment

Sometimes, treatment can be short and take place in a community setting. Healthy changes can happen in as little as two to three visits. Sometimes, treatment is longer and can include staying in a residential centre or a hospital for a period of time.

People can use different types of treatments in different settings, depending on what works best for them: there are many pathways out of the struggle with alcohol and other drugs.

Myth: There is one type of addiction treatment that works best.

Fact: Treatment is more effective when it is matched to your needs and situation. It can include several options that change as you and your treatment goals change.

An addiction or healthcare provider can work with you to come up with a treatment plan. This process begins with an assessment of your alcohol or other drug use problems, and other related physical, mental and social concerns.

Your care provider can help you decide on your treatment goals, explain what your treatment options are and set up the services you need to reach your goals. Sometimes, treatment can be short and take place in a community setting. Healthy changes can happen in as little as two to three visits. Sometimes, treatment is longer and can include staying in a residential centre or a hospital for a period of time.

People can use different types of treatments in different settings, depending on what works best for them: there are many pathways out of the struggle with alcohol and other drugs.

Myth: There is one type of addiction treatment that works best.

Fact: Treatment is more effective when it is matched to your needs and situation. It can include several options that change as you and your treatment goals change.

Treatment settings

There are many types of treatments and treatment settings. The best fit for you will depend on many things, including how severe your problem is and your physical and mental health. These details are determined through a comprehensive assessment by a qualified addiction or healthcare provider.

Outpatient (community): Delivered in a variety of places in the community, such as an addiction or healthcare provider’s office, a mental health clinic or an addiction clinic. Most often used by people whose alcohol or other drug use does not put them or others at serious risk, and who have safe stable homes. Outpatient treatment can sometimes involve structured treatment activities.

Inpatient (hospital): Care provided at a hospital, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, involving intensive structured treatment activities. Most often used by people with alcohol or other drug problems and also medical or mental health problems who need more intensive and comprehensive supports including greater medical care and supervision.

Residential: Care provided in a live-in treatment centre, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, involving intensive, structured treatment activities. Most often used by people whose alcohol or other drug problems are long-standing and complex.

Withdrawal management centres: Sometimes called detox centres, these are places where people who are physically dependent on alcohol or other drugs are helped to withdraw safely from them. They can be in different settings, including hospitals, residential centres and non-residential centres.

Continuing care: Care provided post-treatment to support recovery and help maintain healthy changes. Can include different activities such as peer support groups, continued use of addiction medications and specialized supportive housing.

Structured treatment programs

These intensive programs have a structured daily schedule of addiction treatment and activities. Treatment can include group and individual therapy, education about symptoms, social skills training and treatment planning.

treatment programs

The programs can last from a week to several months long, depending on the person’s assessment and response to treatment. Structured treatment can be part of a residential program or offered as an outpatient service. These programs are most often used by people with longstanding problems who feel they have not had success with other types of treatment.

People who have an alcohol or other drug use problem and also a serious mental illness or medical condition might need a structured treatment program that is in a hospital. The hospital setting allows qualified staff to address the other health conditions.

Myth: When it comes to treatment programs, you get what you pay for.

Fact: Programs that deliver effective treatment and services are not always the most expensive. In USA and Canada, many of the best programs are free of charge as part of our healthcare system and provincial health plans.

Other treatment considerations

Mental health: Not all addiction treatment providers are also trained to deal with mental health issues. If you have mental health concerns, find an addiction or healthcare provider who is also qualified to treat both alcohol or other drug use problems and mental health problems. If that is not possible, make sure your addiction treatment provider can refer you to a mental health professional and can work with that person to coordinate care for you.

Experience of trauma: Many people who seek treatment for alcohol or other drug use problems have experienced trauma. If you have, you may want to consider a treatment program or provider who offers trauma-informed care. Such care will provide a safe and empowering environment for you, your family, your service providers and others as you address your alcohol or other drug use problems. If needed, you will be connected to specific services that address the experience of trauma.

Women and men: Many women, especially those who are pregnant or have children, face unique challenges when they seek alcohol or drug use treatment and support. Women are more likely than men to have care-giver responsibilities and to have experienced trauma. If you are a woman, you might want to consider an addiction or healthcare provider or program that takes the specific needs of women into account. Men might also find it helpful to access alcohol and drug use treatment that addresses men’s experiences of trauma, parenting roles and relationship issues.

Youth: Addiction treatment for young people differs from treatment for adults. Treatment programs for youth need to be designed for youth, and be provided by addiction or healthcare providers who are trained to treat youth.

LGBTQ: Alcohol and drug use should be understood in the context of the stigma and discrimination that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or two-spirited often face. Those who identify as LGBTQ might find it helpful to look for addiction or healthcare providers and programs that have expertise in addressing their specific needs and issues.

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis: People who identify as Indigenous might wish to seek culturally informed treatment programs and healthcare services or those that understand the role of Culture and cultural practices in healing. Also, First Nations communities have access to the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) funded by the government. Native friendship centres might also have additional services and supports.

Veterans: Veterans often experience significant stress, hardships and trauma during their time serving our country. These experiences can contribute to alcohol or drug use problems.

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