When you are looking for help with a substance abuse problem, your choices for help may seem overwhelming. There are several different kinds of treatment and several different levels of care that vary in intensity. It can be a challenge to determine what level of care is appropriate for you. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has established a set of criteria for determining the most appropriate level of care for individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse. A skilled substance abuse counselor will be able to help you make this determination and guide you to the level of care that best fits your needs.
Early intervention treatment is the least restrictive and least intense level of care. In early intervention treatment, people who are considered to be at a high risk for abusing substances are able to learn more about drugs and alcohol and identify high risk behaviors. Individuals that are appropriate for this level of care do not currently meet criteria for a substance abuse disorder, but are still able to benefit from some sort of treatment.
Outpatient treatment is the next level of care that is provided for substance abuse treatment. Individuals receiving outpatient services are seen by a counselor according to patient need, although this must be less than nine hours a week. Generally, an individual will carry a substance abuse diagnosis at this level of care, but the symptoms the individual displays are not serious enough to interfere with daily activities of living to a point that a higher level of care would be necessary.
Intensive outpatient treatment is very similar to traditional outpatient treatment. The main difference between these two levels of care is that the individual must spend a minimum of nine hours a week in services. Intensive outpatient treatment does not require the individual to live at the facility where treatment is being provided, but does offer the individual the opportunity to work through issues related to substances on an intense level. Individuals in this level of care are experiencing a decline in the ability to handle their daily activities of living and, therefore, meet criteria for receiving services at a higher level of care than those in traditional outpatient settings.
Residential treatment takes place when the individual lives at the facility, and the majority of the individual’s time is spent focusing on recovery. Residential treatment is gender specific in terms of living quarters, although treatment oriented activities such as group may contain members of both sexes. Residential treatment facilities have staff members on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are able to provide constant support for individuals receiving treatment. Residential treatment is recommended for individuals who cannot abstain from using substances in a less intense level of care, and/or cannot keep up with activities of daily living. These programs are traditionally 28 days in length, but can vary depending on the needs of the individual.
Medically managed treatment is the most intense level of care available. This setting has the same components that of a residential treatment, but also requires a doctor to see the individual on a daily basis. This level of care is appropriate for individuals who have severe biomedical complications due to their substance use, such as a person requiring a medically monitored detox. This level of care tends to be brief in nature due to the intensity of the services provided, but is often followed up by traditional residential treatment.
Jessica Parks is a certified alcohol and drug counselor in the state of Illinois and has her M.A. in art therapy counseling.