Support and Advance Effective Treatment

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Introductory Paragraph

According to a 2022 national survey, about 29.5 million people ages 12 and over in the United States had an alcohol use disorder and 48.7 million people had a substance use disorder within the past year. [1] Alcohol and substance abuse are commonly treated with talk therapy, medications and support groups. Alcohol and substance use impacts not just the user but the entire family. There are several evidence-based therapies for alcohol and drug misuse. The most common evidence-based therapies are cognitive behavioral therapy and 12 step-programs. Medication-assisted treatment has proven effective in treatment of opioid use disorder. Medication in combination with talk therapy can reduce withdrawal symptoms and promote long-term recovery.

Key Information

There are multiple effective pathways leading to long-term recovery and improvements in work, family, relationships, and overall mental health and well-being. Substance use disorders are treated to meet the needs of the individual and may include the following:[2]

  • Therapy (individual, group, couples & families)
  • Medications
  • A combination of therapy and medications
  • Peer support programs
  • 12-step or recovery programs
  • Family support and family recovery programs

Evidence-based treatments that have been researched and scientifically proven include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is therapy during which a therapist provides one-to-one attention. It has been proven to reduce substance use and have a positive impact for life improvements. CBT has also been proven to be effective with trauma which may coincide with substance use disorders. [3]
  • 12-step therapy programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are self-help group therapy programs that are evidence-based in assisting with maintaining sobriety. [4]
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a combination of medications and talk therapy. Depending on the substance, MAT is an evidence-based option for recovery from alcohol and opioid use. [5]

There are inpatient treatment options, such as residential treatment, and outpatient choices, depending on what is best suited for the level of care for an individual. Treatment may require detox on either an outpatient or inpatient basis, depending upon professional medical advice.

Relevant Research

HHS has a report titled "Best Practices and Barriers to Engaging People with Substance Use Disorders in Treatment." This study addresses the models of care, quality improvement interventions, and best practices used by higher-performing health plans to improve initiation and engagement in SUD treatment. It also describes the provider, beneficiary, and market factors that affect their ability to successfully initiate and engage beneficiaries in substance use treatment services. [6]

This NIDA article provides a literature review of treatment communities, such as community lodges and sober houses that have seen themselves as a mutual self-help alternative to medically oriented strategies to address addiction. [7]

This book is in its third edition and is titled "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide." It offers health professionals and other stakeholders information on principles of effective drug addiction treatment, answers to frequently asked questions, an overview of the drug addiction treatment landscape in the United States, and an outline of evidence-based treatment approaches. [8]

This book provides a set of analyses focused on the evaluation of alcohol and drug treatment programs. [9]

This article provides a comprehensive review of empirical studies that have addressed differences in patient outcome and dropout rates and their correlation to the effectiveness of the therapists. It notes that the differences appear to be independent of both the therapists' professional background and the patient factors at the start of therapy and that the primary therapist characteristic associated with higher effectiveness is the possession of strong interpersonal skills. [10]

Impactful Federal, State, and Local Policies

The STOP Act. The Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act authorized community coalition enhancement grants, the national adult-oriented media campaign, the Interagency Coordinating Committee to Prevent Underage Drinking (ICCPUD), epidemiological research on excessive and underage drinking, and the annual report to Congress on state underage drinking and enforcement activities. [11]

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report provides a review of prevention, treatment, and recovery policies and programs and discusses opportunities to bring substance use disorder treatment and mainstream health care systems into alignment[12]

Available Tools and Resources

SAMHSA has numerous resources including:

  • Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator -- a confidential and anonymous source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. Territories for substance use/addiction and/or mental health problems. [13]
  • The Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center which provides communities, clinicians, policy-makers, and others with the information and tools to incorporate evidence-based practices into their communities or clinical settings. [14]
  • "Selecting Best-fit Programs and Practices: Guidance for Substance Misuse Prevention Practitioner," This resource places the selection of programs and practices within the broader context of evidence-based prevention and covers the value of embedding program and practice selection in a strategic planning process. It provides information on programs and practices, how to choose among them, and tips for their adoption, adaptation, and implementation, and continual improvement. [15]

BJA has published "Promising Practices Guidelines for Residential Substance Abuse Treatment." This aims to assist correctional administrators and practitioners at the state and county levels in establishing and maintaining programs that adhere to the promising practices suggested by current research and related standards developed for substance-use disorder treatment and criminal justice programming. [16]

SAFE Project offers a Treatment and Family Support Locator> to "find critical resources and options best matched to your needs or the needs of a loved one." [17]

The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers has a web page titled "Navigate Treatment Options. This provides addiction and treatment FAQS as well as evaluates new methods based on developments in neurobiology and behavioral health, integrating practices within a best practice bio-psycho-social-spiritual treatment model. [18]

American Addiction Centers provides Treatment Solutions an online resource dedicated to helping people find solutions that meet their specific treatment needs. [19] It also provides a succinct overview of SAMHSA programs, Grants, and treatment services. [20]

Optum Health Education Current Opioid Prescribing Guidelines: Ensuring Safe and Effective Pain Management.[21]

Promising Practices

Drug Free Communities (DFC) There are hundreds of local substance use prevention coalitions that have participated in the DFC Program. Funding by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) provides up to $125,000 per year for five years to local community coalitions to apply evidence-informed strategies. [22]

New Jersey There are nearly 400 Municipal Alliances in New Jersey -- all organized to provide substance use prevention education services. Each alliance focuses on its community’s particular needs and may include: [23]

  • parenting workshops to enhance parent’s ability to assist their children to live a healthy and drug free lifestyle,
  • peer leadership programs to train students to develop leadership skills and goal oriented behaviors and to be role models and helpers to other students,
  • drug awareness events that offer families and community members drug-free activities while providing information about substance abuse and community-wide prevention programs, and
  • collaboration with the Division of Senior Services to provide education on potential consequences of medicinal interactions with other medicines, over-the-counter drugs, or alcohol.


  7. "Therapeutic Communities Research Report - What Are Therapeutic Communities?"