6 Tips for Finding a Good Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center

Look for longevity, check the facility’s resources and don’t fall for guarantees of success.

Your life is careening out of control due to excessive alcohol consumption or drug use, and you need to find a treatment center to get off the addiction train before it crashes and wrecks – or ends – your life. Or your child’s drug-fueled reckless behavior has prompted you to look for a treatment center for him or her. Finding the right treatment program for your or your child’s substance use disorder is crucial – and could be complicated, experts say. A substance use disorder (formerly known as substance abuse or substance dependence) occurs when someone uses alcohol and/or drugs recurrently to the point the usage causes “clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home,” according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM-5.

“Perhaps the most critical factor in treating a substance use disorder is finding the right treatment center,” says Beth Kane-Davidson, director of the Addiction Treatment Center at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. “Does the treatment center have the services that match what the person needs?” For example, if the patient has a dual diagnosis of depression and alcoholism, consumers should verify whether a facility they’re considering has the resources to deal with both issues, she says.

If you’re looking for a substance use disorder treatment center for yourself or for a child or other loved one, experts recommend these strategies:

1. Get an assessment by a physician or other substance use disorder professional. Before you decide on an inpatient treatment facility for yourself or a loved one, obtain an evaluation from a doctor certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, a licensed clinical social worker or a psychiatrist experienced in treating substance use disorders. “Explore all options,” says Mark Cardillo, program director of behavioral health and the detox unit at Tampa Community Hospital. “Not everyone needs residential treatment; an intensive outpatient program or attendance at 12-step meetings might be the right fit for the patient. These approaches can be as successful as a stay in a 90-day residential treatment program.”

Typically, a doctor or therapist trained in treating addiction will recommend inpatient treatment when the patient is unable to stabilize in his or her recovery and can’t perform the activities of daily living, such as going to work and fulfilling family obligations, says Anita Gadhia-Smith, a psychotherapist who practices in the District of Columbia and suburban Maryland. Some patients may need in-patient treatment for help managing difficult withdrawal symptoms, she says. “Also, if the person has already tried 12-step meetings, individual therapy and intensive outpatient treatment and has been unable to get sober, in-patient treatment is needed,” Gadhia-Smith says. Generally, if a therapist or doctor determines in-patient treatment is the best course, he or she will recommend a 30-day stay that could be extended if necessary. If a patient has previously been to a 30-day treatment program, he or she may need a longer stay, Gadhia-Smith says. If someone has been drinking or using drugs to the extent that loved ones conducted an intervention, they should go directly to a 90-day in-patient program, says Howard Samuels, owner and chief executive officer of The Hills Treatment Center, an alcohol and drug treatment facility in Los Angeles.

2. Research whether the facilities you’re considering provide the resources you need. Many people with a substance use disorder have other clinical conditions, such as depression or anxiety, Kane-Davidson says. Check the website of any rehab center you’re considering to see if they have resources, such as counselors, to deal specifically with a dual-diagnosis, she says. Call the facility and ask them about each of the resources listed on the website; some facilities list services they don’t have, she says.

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