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Comparing Addiction Treatment Programs. 10 Ways to Know Which Addiction Treatment Program Offers the Best Care.

Updated on October 15, 2008

Are you getting good addiction treatment? There are a lot of addiction treatment providers out there, and the "business" of addiction is huge. You're not an expert, you're not a doctor…how can you tell which hospital, clinic or program offers you the best care and the best odds at success?

Evaluating an addiction treatment program is tough, but understanding what core elements of treatment have proven effective over time can help you to evaluate programs under consideration. The list of evaluatory criteria as follows was composed by the impartial National Institute of Drug Addiction (NIDA), and is a list of program elements or principles that are associated with quality and effective drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

A modified list, based on NIDA's Principles of Effective Treatment

Effective Treatment

  1. Effective addiction treatment is not a one size fits all experience. What is appropriate and effective for one person may not be suitable for another. Making a good match between the treatment and the individual is critical for long term success
  2. The timing is important. Treatment should be ready and available at the moment the person is ready to initiate treatment. Waiting lists are far from ideal (and yet are the unfortunate reality for nearly anyone not able to afford private care).

  3. The treatment should be holistic in nature, and concentrate not only on substance use and abuse, but also integrate programs that touch on other areas of life – such as programs for the medical, psychological, vocational, legal and social. People who leave addiction treatment facing serious problems in other areas of life are less likely to succeed.
  4. Treatment needs change over time. What was appropriate at the initiation of treatment may no longer meet the person's needs some days weeks or months down the line. Treatment plans must be updated on a regular basis to ensure a continuing "fit".
  5. Treatment takes time. Treatments that are not given the time to work are very rarely successful. NIDA suggests a minimum threshold towards success of at least 3 months in treatment.

  6. Good treatment programs should offer counseling and behavioral therapy programs.
  7. Many patients will need medications.
  8. Mental health disorders need to be treated in an integrated manner with addiction.
  9. Medical detox is only the first step on the road of treatment, and detox alone is almost never enough.
  10. People do not need to want help for help to work. There is no need for "rock bottom".

Use these 10 principles of quality addiction treatment to evaluate any treatment program under consideration, and as a way to compare contending addiction treatment organizations.


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    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Recovering Addict, I love your avatar! And I agree with everything you said in this hub. Great stuff. I agree and also disagree to a point on #10. "You don't have to want help for help to work." Initially, true. Family members (or courts) can insist on the addict getting into treatment. But it is essentially up to him/her to do the footwork necessary to get and stay clean. No one else can do that for you.

      I also totally agree that your treatment needs change over time. I work with women all the time who have come from other recovery programs because they still need/want "more." A 3-5 day detox is NOT sufficient and a 30-day program, even though that's what insurance typically pays for, is just scratching the surface.

      Thanks again for sharing this excellent piece of advice. I look forward to reading more from you!

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 8 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      Thanks for sharing this Hub on evaluating good addiction treatment. I have been trying to help others with addictions and mental illness for the last 39 years. Please see my new Hub on Emotional Recovery. Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist.