The Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment

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Why is The Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment Important?

If you or your loved one use drugs or drink to excess, you should seek help as soon as you can.

However, not all treatments for substance problems are right for everyone.

If you don’t get effective care, it can take longer to recover your sobriety.

Today, doctors and addiction specialists recognize the importance of appropriate addiction treatment.

To provide the best care possible, they rely on something called the continuum of care for addiction treatment.

The continuum covers all levels of treatment, from the mildest to the most intense.

It helps treatment programs decide where to start when planning your care. It also helps them adjust your care if and when your recovery needs change.

Basics of the Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment

So, what is the continuum of care for addiction treatment?

It’s an approach designed by a professional organization called the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The continuum contains five ASAM levels of care.

These levels help guide personalized treatment for anyone recovering from substance problems.

They include:

  • Medical Detox/Medically Managed Inpatient Care (known as Level 4)
  • Inpatient or Residential Care (known as Level 3)
  • Intensive Outpatient Care and Partial Hospitalization (known as Level 2)
  • Outpatient Care (known as Level 1)
  • Early Intervention (known as Level 0.5)

Medical detox and medically managed inpatient care provide you with the most intense treatment. In contrast, early intervention provides you with the least intense form of treatment.

The five ASAM levels are called a continuum because they’re connected to each other. That’s important because your recovery needs will change over time.

These changes will bring you closer to sobriety. When that happens, your doctor can switch you to a less intense level of care.

Unfortunately, some people experience worsening problems at some point in their recovery. If this happens to you, your doctor can switch you to a more intense level of care. When your condition improves, you can return to a lower level on the continuum.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the levels of care are basically the same for both adults and teenagers.

Deciding Where to Start Addiction Treatment

How do addiction specialists decide your starting level of treatment? They perform something called a admissions questionnaire. This physical and mental assessment is designed to reveal the symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction (also known as substance use disorders). It also helps doctors determine the severity of your symptoms.

Together, this information helps set the criteria for addiction treatment that meets your unique mental and physical needs. It also helps your doctor make the best possible choice for your starting placement on the continuum of care.

Medical Detox and Medically Managed Inpatient Care

To recover from addiction, you will need to go through a process of medical detox (detoxification). This process guides you through withdrawal and helps you quit using drugs or alcohol.

In doing so, it prepares you for the next phase of addiction recovery. The withdrawal symptoms you experience during detox can be severe. The most classic example of this problem is the alcohol-related symptom called delirium tremens (the DTs).

The DTs sometimes appear in people detoxing after drinking heavily for long periods of time. Delirium tremens can trigger seizures and other serious issues. At its worst, it can lead to life-threatening changes in how your heart works.

People with the severe detox symptoms require medically managed inpatient care. This level of care calls for direct, round-the-clock oversight from a doctor. It also requires direct support from a well-trained support staff. Medically managed care takes place in a hospital or a specialized facility.

The goal of this intense treatment is to protect your health while you deal with the worst effects of addiction. At this level, severe acute detox symptoms are common. To address them, you need an acute level of addiction treatment. This treatment helps you through any life-threatening complications.

A stay in managed care doesn’t usually last for long. Once your condition stabilizes, you can move to a lower level of care.

Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment – Inpatient (Residential) Care

All people in inpatient addiction treatment have relatively severe addiction symptoms. However, not everyone in residential treatment is the same. For this reason, Level 3 covers a range of inpatient rehab options.

These include:

  • Low-intensity services – These services are designed for people who need residential treatment but require relatively little day-to-day care.
  • Medium-intensity services – These services are designed mostly for teens affected by behavior or temperament issues caused by mental illness.
  • High-intensity services – These services are designed for adults and teens with serious mental or physical problems that don’t require constant medical

Each degree of intensity increases the level of care for residential rehab. However, all three services share some basic similarities. For example, people in a standard inpatient program have needs that include:

  • A stable, 24/7 treatment environment
  • Regular medical oversight
  • Daily treatment options in the form of medication or behavior therapy

Partial Hospitalization Programs for Addiction Treatment

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) share level three of the continuum with intensive outpatient care. However, they differ from intensive outpatient care in one important way. Namely, they’re reserved for people with unstable mental or physical health problems.

In PHP rehab, you still live at home. However, you’ll stay in a hospital setting part-time on most days of the week.

Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment – Intensive Outpatient Care

In intensive outpatient care, you will live at home while receiving help. However, you’ll need to make visits to your treatment facility multiple times a week. You’ll also need to spend a good amount of time there during your visits.

For adults, this level of care requires nine to 19 hours of structured, onsite participation each week. For teenagers, it requires six to 19 hours a week.

Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment – Outpatient Care

Outpatient addiction treatment forms the next level of the care continuum. People at this level have mild or moderate symptoms of a substance use disorder.

In an outpatient program, you stay at home while receiving help. However, you will still need to make periodic visits to the facility in charge of your care. During these visits, you’ll receive treatment. They also give your doctor the chance to check on your condition and make adjustments.

The treatments used in outpatient programs are basically the same as those used in most inpatient programs. They include medication designed to ease withdrawal or help you remain sober. They also include behavior therapy designed to help you develop a stable, substance-free lifestyle.

Outpatient care can take place in a wide variety of settings. In addition to doctors’ offices, these include:

  • A standalone clinic
  • A clinic at your school
  • Facilities for mental health treatment
  • Aftercare Programs

When you complete your main substance treatment, experts recommend that you follow up with an aftercare program. Aftercare programs help you by maintaining your access to doctors and other addiction specialists. In this way, they help you maintain your sobriety long-term.

The right choice for after care depends on where your main treatment falls on the continuum of care. Generally speaking, you drop down to a lower level of care. As an example, if you complete treatment in an inpatient facility, you may do your follow-ups on an inpatient basis. For supporting your sobriety, longer aftercare treatment tends to work better than shorter treatment.

Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment – Early Intervention

Early intervention is the right level of care if you have clear risks for substance addiction. You may also receive it if your degree of risk is unknown. Early interventions exist for both adults and teenagers. There are also programs available for younger children.

The goal of early intervention is to prevent the start of actual addiction. To do so, doctors and other trained professionals look for developing signs of drug or alcohol abuse. Such signs may include things like:

  • Drinking to excess on multiple days a week
  • Taking medications not prescribed for you
  • Hiding your pattern of drug or alcohol use

If they detect a problem, they can direct you to any early intervention program. These programs come in a variety of forms. Counseling is one common option. You may also take part in a motivational session that encourages you to change your behavior. In addition, you may receive something called a brief intervention.

This may seem a little confusing, since the entire level of care also includes “intervention” in its name. However, a brief intervention is a specific technique designed to provide quick education about the dangers of substance abuse. In this way, it differs from early intervention as a whole.

If you need further help, your early intervention will include a referral for follow-up treatment. Early interventions often take place in a doctor’s office. However, you may also receive one in other settings, including:

  • Emergency rooms
  • A clinic
  • Your school
  • Your workplace
  • Your residence

Again, remember that the purpose of an early intervention program is to halt a risky pattern of substance use before you develop an addiction.

Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment – How Long Does It All Take

The time spent at each level of the continuum varies. For example, early interventions are usually short. In some cases, you may finish them in a single day.

For most people, medically managed inpatient care also doesn’t take a lot of time. As soon as your condition improves (which may take as little as hours or days), you’ll move on to other treatment.

Your length of stay in partial hospitalization depends on the details of your unique situation. Outpatient and inpatient care often take anywhere from 30 to 90 days to complete. However, some inpatient programs last for up to six months or even a full year.

Find Out Where You Fall on the Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment

The continuum of care helps ensure that you receive the most effective treatments for addiction. From early intervention to medically managed inpatient care, it covers all possibilities. A clinical assessment will help determine where your treatment begins. And when appropriate, you can move to lower or higher levels of care.

The Continuum of Care for Addiction Treatment at Resurgence Behavioral Health

Need more information on the continuum of care? Just contact the addiction treatment specialists at 855-458-0050.

We’re happy to provide you with more details on what to expect. We can also provide you with information on the specific treatments available at each level of care.

From medications and behavior therapy to 12-step programs, we’ll guide you through it all.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.