Treating Addiction is a Medical Emergency

Treating Addiction is a Medical Emergency

Drug addiction is a life-threatening condition that should be treated as a medical emergency. Finding the right program when the addict is willing to go can be challenging. Our goal is to empower you to make an informed decision about how to proceed with addiction treatment.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recognizes five broad levels of care on a continuum of recovery-oriented addiction services.  In what follows, we explain these levels of care in simple terms so you or your loved one can find the most appropriate treatment.

An Overview Of Drug Rehab Treatment Levels

Specialized care is necessary for anyone struggling with addiction. It isn’t just a bad habit; according to the ASAM, “addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

Any substance use disorder needs to be evaluated and treated by addiction specialists who have been trained to treat the disease of addiction. That still leaves so many people wondering where to start. Treatment begins by entering into one of five levels of care:  

  • Level .5 – Early Intervention Services
  • Level I – Outpatient Services
  • Level II – Intensive Outpatient Services
  • Level III – Residential Services
  • Level IV – Intensive Inpatient Services
Early Intervention Addresses A Potential Substance Abuse Problem Before It Progresses

Most people do not know that early intervention services exist. Early intervention services address substance misuse such as binge drinking or drug or alcohol experimentation and may help to prevent more severe substance use disorders from developing. The Surgeon General reports that “the goals of early intervention are to reduce the harms associated with substance misuse, to reduce risk behaviors before they lead to injury, to improve health and social function, and to prevent progression…”

Most people do not know that early intervention services exist

Also according to the Surgeon General, early intervention services “consist of screening an individual to determine the extent of drug or alcohol use and providing information about substance use risks… and strategies to quit or cut down on use and use-related risk behaviors.” This can happen in one or two sessions, perhaps in tandem with some other kinds of therapy or support.

Outpatient Services – Getting Treatment Without Packing Your Bags

Outpatient services may be recommended for those who are able to address their addiction without significantly disrupting their lives. This allows people who need recovery to maintain their professional, family, and personal obligations.

Outpatient treatment involves attending group and individual counseling sessions and educational classes several days each week – usually in the evenings. It typically requires a time commitment of nine hours or less every week for 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient addiction treatment may include behavioral modification therapy, relapse prevention strategies, education about the disease of addiction, and exposure to other resources in the community. This treatment may be supplemented with individual or group therapy.

Basic outpatient services represent the lowest level of care for someone with a substance abuse problem. While some people can begin their recovery process with such minimal outpatient services, many need more intensive treatment when they begin their recovery. Outpatient services may serve best as “aftercare” following completion of intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment – A Step Up

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) requires a greater time commitment than “basic” outpatient treatment, although again most people can manage it without having to sacrifice their other responsibilities. IOP typically involves 12-15 hours a week of group sessions, individual counseling, and educational classes.

Intensive Outpatient Programs are increasingly popular. People appreciate the freedom and flexibility intensive outpatient has to offer because it allows them to continue to work or go to school while receiving enough support to encourage ongoing recovery.

IOP provides structure for time that was previously “high risk” because IOP usually keeps a client in session or in meetings several evenings a week and sometimes on weekends.

It is important to note that detoxification services are not generally offered at this level of addiction treatment. Many who are addicted to alcohol, heroin, prescription opioids and other drugs require a supervised medical detox to safely withdraw from their drug of choice. If you or your loved one needs to undergo a medical detox, you will likely require short-term services of a hospital or other highly structured detox program before beginning outpatient treatment.

Residential Services Offer Full-Time Care In Comfortable Surroundings

When most people think of getting treatment for a substance abuse problem, they typically envision a stay at a residential rehab. Residential services offer round-the-clock inpatient treatment and a safe, structured living environment for the duration of treatment.

Managing cravings, confronting triggers, and overcoming the compulsion to use drugs or alcohol can be overwhelming. Many people need the safe and secure environment offered by residential treatment to get stabilized – at least for the first month. Some stay as long as three months.  

Residential treatment usually happens in comfortable surroundings that feel very much like a home environment. While there is a staff available 24-7 to offer clinical support, a residential rehab does not have the look and feel of a hospital. Unlike outpatient treatment, residential services may offer a medical detox to promote the safe and comfortable withdrawal from addictive substances.

This addiction treatment level not only allows direct access to expert staff, it also provides a supportive peer community of recovering people. This creates an opportunity to forge rich and rewarding relationships centered on recovery.

Intensive Inpatient Services Are For Those Who Require Greater Medical Supervision

Of the five levels of rehabilitation treatment, intensive inpatient services are the most comprehensive and inclusive. They usually take place within a hospital setting or psychiatric unit. Intensive inpatient offers 24-7 medically directed treatment and almost always includes daily meetings with a physician. This level of care is highly recommended for those whose addiction or physical condition requires rigorous monitoring and evaluation.  

Intensive inpatient is also especially helpful for treating someone who is suffering from a dual diagnosis. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), dual diagnosis (also referred to as a co-occurring disorder) is a term used when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Those who have a co-occurring disorder require specialized services that treat both addiction and mental health disorders. Medication management services and cognitive or dialectical behavioral therapies as well as addiction treatment may be available here.  

Like ordinary residential treatment, patients who undergo intensive inpatient treatment live at the facility for a period of thirty to ninety days. During intensive inpatient, those receiving treatment participate in peer groups, individual counseling, and classes that offer coping and recovery skills. Intensive inpatient builds a strong foundation for those who have more complex issues that require complicated or focused treatment.

How To Determine What Level Of Care Is Necessary

Often the best level of care for a client is determined at intake, or in a conversation with a professional before one reaches out to a particular treatment center. Finding a clinician, interventionist or rehab that’s right for you – and your insurance – can be a real challenge.

Many rehabilitation facilities will perform a free, confidential evaluation over the phone. This will help you or your loved one determine which level of care is needed. You can start a search on your own with Get Help to find a treatment center near you so you can complete an assessment.

Get Help’s free search tool is the easiest way for anyone, anywhere to find addiction treatment fast. You can also download our app, go to, or call us at (323) GET-HELP. There is absolutely no fee. Our only goal at Get Help is to connect  you with quality substance abuse treatment services so you, your loved one, or your client can find freedom from active addiction.   

Addiction Treatment Doesn’t Always Require a Suitcase

Addiction Treatment Doesn’t Always Require a Suitcase

When it comes to treating an addiction problem, many people automatically assume that treatment means staying for weeks at a rehab. Fear or resistance to that kind of commitment keeps some people from trying to get help at all. There are addiction treatment options that involve little or no time away – and outpatient programs, intensive or not, allow people to begin  or continue their recovery journey without making a physical journey.

In this article, we will tell you why substance use or abuse treatment is important, explain the concept of IOP and outpatient treatment, outline the benefits and drawbacks of an outpatient program, and explain how you can find the treatment that’s best for you.

Why You Need Substance Abuse Treatment If You Are Addicted

Many people stay in active addiction because they are convinced that under the right circumstances, they will be able to overcome their addiction with willpower. We wish it were that easy.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.”  We all wish addiction could be addressed by prayer, or wishing, or “just getting our act together.” But it takes more than that. The journey to recovery usually begins with some type of treatment. When a client is able to stay home, meet their ordinary responsibilities and get the treatment they need – that seems like the best of all worlds. Of course there are times when a residential program is optimal. But intensive outpatient programs are proving increasingly effective.  

What Is An Intensive Outpatient Program?

According to NIDA, “addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society.”An IOP takes on these goals in the course of everyday living – not removing an addict from their environment.

Rather than taking recovery on as a full-time job, an Intensive Outpatient Program offers quality care in a more limited form – a few hours at a time, several evenings a week. Some people do go through an inpatient detox before beginning IOP; the need for this kind of service is generally determined during intake.

Many people find that intensive outpatient is ideal because it allows them to continue to go to work, maintain family commitments, and keep up with their personal responsibilities. Not all addicts have the same story; some people lose everything before they get help, but for others the ability to maintain these elements of a “normal life” are vitally important.

What Is The Difference Between An Intensive Outpatient Program And Outpatient?

To be clear, there are two types of outpatient treatment – intensive outpatient and “regular” outpatient. The only difference between the two is the amount of time allotted. The less intensive outpatient programs are often offered as “aftercare” when someone comes home from residential treatment or if someone needs additional support after an Intensive Outpatient Program.

Outpatient treatment usually involves 4-10 hours a week in a clinical setting. An Intensive Outpatient Program generally takes place over the course of 12 hours or more per week. Usually outpatient services involve a mixture of group peer-focused therapy and individual counseling.  

Generally, the duration of most outpatient programs is about 12 weeks. Many take place in the evening to accommodate work and school schedules. Depending on the program, you will meet 2-5 times per week for 2-4 hours per group session and undergo 1-3 hours of individual counseling every week.

Most Outpatient Programs Do Not Offer Detoxification Services

Depending on what kind of drugs you have been using, you may be required to complete a professional medical detoxification or undergo medication-assisted treatment (MAT) before you can begin outpatient services. Withdrawal from certain drugs – like alcohol, heroin, or prescription opioids, for example – can be dangerous or even fatal. To safely withdraw from these substances, your recovery journey may begin with a trip to detox before you can start IOP or outpatient.

If you need that service in the beginning, a good outpatient treatment facility will refer you to a safe, reputable, and affordable detox center that can get you stabilized before you begin your outpatient program. It is a good idea to contact the treatment center and set up a consult to determine if detox services are needed. Once you decide on an outpatient facility, you will be assigned a case manager who will create, execute, and monitor a treatment plan specifically designed to meet your individual needs.

What You Can Expect From Outpatient Treatment

Here are some of the things you can expect from IOP or outpatient treatment:

  • You will learn about personal triggers that cause you to want to drink or use drugs and learn strategies to overcome them
  • You will be taught relapse prevention skills
  • You will be introduced to healthy coping mechanisms
  • You will receive evidence-based care that drives results
  • You will undergo behavior modification therapy to encourage the development of positive new behaviors
  • You will be provided continued support to encourage continued recovery and abstinence
  • Your family may receive ongoing support services to empower them to support your recovery
  • Depending on the program, you may be introduced to the 12-Steps and encouraged to attend meetings
  • Abstinence is expected – you may receive random drug tests
The Benefits And Drawbacks To IOP and Outpatient Services

Outpatient treatment has pros and cons. It’s a great answer for some people, but it’s not for everyone.  

Benefits to Outpatient Services:

  • You can return to the comfort of your home every night while attending IOP or outpatient
  • Outpatient services are more affordable than inpatient treatment and is more likely to be covered by insurance
  • Flexible hours allow you to continue working or going to school and maintain personal responsibilities
  • Evidence-based treatment will empower you with proven strategies to embrace a life in recovery
  • You will engage with other recovering people who can help support your recovery
  • You will be equipped with the tools you need to maintain abstinence
Drawbacks to Outpatient Services:
  • You will not stay at the facility; many people need round-the-clock care to stay abstinent in the early days of recovery, or live in unsafe conditions
  • You will still have easy access to drugs and alcohol outside the program
  • You will most likely have to undergo detox at a separate facility before you enter outpatient (if detox is needed)
  • Inpatient gives you the opportunity to focus solely on recovery. With outpatient, you will have to manage life stressors such as work, school, and family duties while attending treatment.
  • Outpatient does not give you 24-7 access to counseling services

Only you can decide if you have enough safety and support in your daily life to be free from drugs and alcohol while attending IOP or outpatient. Many people try outpatient treatment first,  with the understanding that residential treatment is an option if it doesn’t work.

How To Find An Intensive Outpatient Program Or Outpatient Services Near You

If you are considering outpatient treatment for your addiction to drugs or alcohol, there is a program near you that is ready to help you with your problem. Admitting you have an addiction is the first step in treating the disease. The second step is finding help.

At Get Help, we have made finding the help you deserve fast, easy, and free. You can use our free search tool  or download our free app to begin your search for an IOP or outpatient program near you. You can also call us at (323) GET-HELP.

Get Off The Internet

Get Off The Internet

Isn’t it a shame? When we started using the internet, it seemed like an information utopia. Everything was free and open; we could find whatever we wanted with a touch. And it was only supposed to get better. Remember that? But then it changed.

Search Engines seemed to make the whole process easier, but there was a switcheroo happening that we didn’t see til it was too late: we thought we were the customer, but in fact we were the product.

We are the Product

Whether it’s clicks, views or our data that are being sold, marketers are buying access to us as viewers and consumers. And this has distorted the search process so badly that we often can’t find what we’re looking for at all. Most of the time, that’s just annoying. But when we’re in the midst of something important – when lives are at stake – it’s a catastrophe.

Search Engines and the Treatment Industry

Our industry has been one of the most badly impacted by this trend. At a time when addiction treatment is reaching new levels of effectiveness, when the science of addiction is making breakthroughs every day, what’s on the news? Scandals about shady client brokers and illegitimate treatment scams. The salesmen are overshadowing the scientists, and they’re ruining our reputation.

That’s embarrassing, but it’s not even the worst of it. Because these call centers and for-profit clearinghouses make their money by either selling leads or “putting heads in beds,” clients with funding are directed to the treatment center with the best commission deal – not the most appropriate treatment modality for their needs. And clients who are uninsured, underinsured or on government insurance? Forget about it. They get dismissed without any help at all.

When clients and clinicians are sold as “leads” they get peppered with sales calls from centers that may or may not be appropriate for them. These calls burn credibility as they burn time.  What clinician can make time or space for all those calls? And what addict or family member won’t feel like they’re about to be taken advantage of? They may not even be wrong.

From the perspective of treatment professionals the frustration is different, but at least as great. Clinical Directors build their careers and stake their reputations on particular treatment modalities, specialties and practices that distinguish their model. They spend their careers researching best practices, training staff and creating an environment that supports a carefully crafted treatment model. But when that treatment center gets funneled through a call center, the client doesn’t hear much or anything about that model – nor are clients screened as to what treatment model might optimize their experience. The client and rehab are matched based on insurance and timing, period.

Consider your treatment center’s marketing plan. How much time, energy and money has your center invested in branding? How much have you devoted to developing a mission and vision that drive and explain the particular work you do? And how much of the time does a client or clinician who finds you through one of these web clearinghouses learn about any of that? All that marketing and visioning work is meaningless if it’s not reaching the people it’s intended to educate. And how can it? Some operator in a call center is forwarding your number to a guy because you’re in-network for his insurance. That’s not marketing, that’s hustling.

What Is the Solution?

It seems almost tragic to say it, but at this point in our history, it’s time to get off the internet. We don’t need an optimized search; we need an app for that. And that’s the story of Get Help®.

As clinicians in private practice, we were so frustrated with the available options that we realized we had to invent something entirely new. The Get Help® app offers treatment centers, clinicians, interventionists and detox facilities a new way to reach out to clients, where you get to shape and control your message. It offers clients a new way to find treatment, where they control the search and filters to find results best suited to their needs. We think of this as “democratizing the data” – taking out the search optimizers and ad filters that render internet searches overwhelming and futile, and replacing all that with an easy interface that allows clients and providers to communicate directly. There is no middleman.

We’re not another variation on the not-quite-brokering racket that’s destroying our industry. We want that gone, and we understand the only way to make it go away is to provide something better. Our revenue source isn’t selling leads or making connections for you. We may offer premium subscriptions for treatment providers that allow more information, more graphics, fuller data management. We’re not selling clients, we’re selling knowledge management. We believe that when treatment providers are able to offer a complete picture of their services, when clients and clinicians can find and filter information efficiently, and when communication is unmediated by commissioned middlemen, that everyone wins.

We want a revolution. And we’re building it.  Won’t you join us?

As an early adopter of Get Help®, you don’t just get access to our rapidly growing client base – you get to be part of the creative process building this process and creating the Get Help® ecosystem. Because that’s what we’re building -not just a simple search app, but an ethics-forward, client-centered network of providers who are collaborating on turning our industry on its head. Or more accurately, putting it back on its feet.

We’re all at our wit’s end trying to deal with the dysfunction that’s taking over our industry. It’s embarrassing, it’s expensive and it’s endangering people who should be in treatment but can’t find their way to a safe option that works for them. And frankly, after lots of trial and error, we learned that it’s a waste of time trying to re-optimize the optimized search engines. It’s time to do something entirely different. Let’s build it together.

We’re ready to get back to what matters to us, what got us into this field to begin with – helping clients change their lives. We want that to be our priority, not our relationship to a search engine. We want clients and clinicians to know more about us than what insurance we accept -we want the programs we design and build, the treatment modalities we believe in and work so hard to optimize – to speak for themselves, clearly and directly, to the people who most need to hear about us.

We want a world in which diverse treatment options can share an ethical consensus, an information base, and an opportunity to reach clients without breaking the bank or compromising our integrity. So we’re building it. Get off the internet. Walk away.  It’s time to do something different.

Download the Get Help app, check out our website, or be in touch with us directly to find out more about how we work, what we do, and our vision for transforming addiction treatment by changing what happens on the front lines – when a client or clinician first reaches out to Get Help.  Our free search tool is the easiest way for anyone, anywhere to find addiction treatment fast. You can download our app on iTunes, go to, or call us at (323) GET-HELP.



One the goals Get Help® is committed to is making sure the facilities we find adhere to a Code of Ethics. Our Code of Ethics has been adapted from National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals ( We have circulated this Code amongst treatment professionals and consider it an ongoing living document. The basis of it is that facilities are transparent with their cost structures, insurance(s), licensure and credentialing, and most important are their marketing practices. In order for the providers listed in our database they must confirm that they adhere to our Code of Ethics. Granted, a lot of it requires them telling us the truth. That said, one of the things I spend a lot of my time doing is marketing, talking to treatment professionals, attending trade shows, and investigating the practices of treatment programs. If I find out or hear about some unethical business practices I’m committed to investigating it and getting to the bottom of it. Keep in mind, I’m doing this while I’m maintaining a full time private practice and referring clients of my own into treatment– in other words, using the app I created.

The Story of Get Help

The Story of Get Help

Get Help began as a vision in the desert – literally. Putting a willing client together with the help they urgently need should be simple. But with all the resources at my disposal as a mental health professional, I still couldn’t find a drug treatment program that would accommodate the needs and insurance of a challenging client.

The reality is that for addicts in need, finding appropriate, effective, affordable treatment has been anything but easy. Clients and their desperate families have been left open to a variety of unethical practices in the marketplace as they struggle to find treatment. Facing addiction is hard enough. It shouldn’t be so hard to Get Help®. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A Friend In Need

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… (and also two years ago in the Valley) I got one of those calls that changes the day, and then changes everything. A dear friend had relapsed with 28 years clean, had a psychotic break, and was wandering through the desert near Las Vegas. I knew if I could just get her back to LA, we would be able to find a place for her to get the treatment she desperately needed. Without hesitation I headed to Nevada, and it felt like I got there just in time. I did an impromptu intervention, and we started on the long road home.

It was 105 degrees on the world’s largest thermometer in Baker, CA. There was no A/C in her rickety car, and we had the windows rolled down so I could barely hear when the first of our friends who had run a major treatment center said, “you can’t come here. I don’t know where you can go but absolutely not here.” Our old friend had been transformed before my eyes into a high-need, high-risk, low-resource client, and even the treatment professionals who knew her as a friend were unwilling to take her as a patient. I looked at the phone in disbelief – and then I started dialing. I called my professional contacts; I cold-called treatment centers. Thinking that there were online resources that would make this easy was a mistake. No one had room for such a complex patient without private insurance.

’m a professional in this field. I have a doctorate in psychology, 20 years in recovery, and lots of friends who work in treatment. If I had this much difficulty getting someone help, what are laypeople going through?

In desperation, I took her to a public hospital to be placed on a suicide hold while I tried to figure out her next steps. I left the hospital at 3:00 am, exhausted and overwhelmed.  And then it hit me:I’m a professional in this field. I have a doctorate in psychology, 20 years in recovery, and lots of friends who work in treatment. If I had this much difficulty getting someone help, what are laypeople going through?We know that time is of the essence when we’re making an intervention. When there’s a waiting period or delay, addicts die  – but waiting lists can extend to more than one hundred days for an addict on Medicaid, and when we add in co-occurring disorders it can get even worse.

It’s a small miracle that clients ever find their way to treatment.

There ought to be an app for this.

But there was no app; there have been very few ways for carers or clinicians outside institutions to match clients to beds. I set out on a path to create a tool that would help anyone, anywhere, find treatment fast. I had no idea what I was up against.

The reality is that there aren’t nearly enough beds for the people who want and need treatment. We are in a state of emergency, and the care just isn’t there to deal with it. It’s a catastrophe, and we intend to address that. But in the meantime – getting an addict into treatment isn’t actually impossible, even if it sometimes feels that way.

There are helplines and websites that appear to offer unbiased guidance in seeking treatment, but are in fact marketing grindhouses or client brokerages. We’ll talk more about this in a later blog (link). We might even be able to live with that, but once you add in a few variables – a client with special needs, co occurring disorders, no insurance or the wrong kind – well, that ends the conversation.

We need a new paradigm. But until we change the system we need to optimize our ability to work with it – or around it. Breaking through the barriers to appropriate treatment requires grit, patience – and the right tools.

They say desperation is the mother of invention. That day, when I thought, “we need an app for this,” I imagined that we would simply be accessing networks and information that was already out there. What I learned was that we need a whole new way of talking to each other – among and between clients, professionals, and treatment centers we needed a simple way to ask and answer the questions that determine eligibility and outcome, and we need to be able to do that quickly and cleanly – so that by the time actual conversation is happening, we can get to the heart of the matter and make sure the client is getting the help he or she needs, and the facility is getting a patient they can effectively work with.

Changing the Game

We don’t ever want another addict to go through what our friend suffered on that awful ride home. But we know they will. We know addicts right now are on that journey, and they may or may not get help in time. We committed that day to disrupt a system that leaves beds empty and addicts suffering.  We had no idea how challenging that would be, or how much reaching out to a friend would make us want to up-end the whole system.

Back when I was making those calls from Baker, CA, I thought my connections would be all that we needed. When that approach failed, I wanted to take it personally, but it’s just business. I don’t know about you, but I’m not alright losing a client – or a friend – to “just business.” I’m not taking it personally, but I am taking it professionally. I’m devoting my career to making tools that change the interaction between clients, providers, and facilities. We can do better, and we can be more humane in the process. The problem isn’t bad providers; it’s bad communication, bad information sharing, bad resource allocation. We can do better. That’s not personal. It’s just business.

What is emerging from this commitment is not just another helpline or website but an ecosystem in which treatment providers, rehabs, detoxes, independent clinicians, addicts and their families can all Get Help with the challenges of matching clients and services. We put patients together with appropriate care, help treatment centers fill the beds they have available, match families to the therapeutic interventions and funding resources they need.

After two years and a lot of learning, we have finally brought that desert vision into reality… that anyone can Get Help®  when they need it and want it. Welcome to  Download the Get Help® App available on the iTunes Store and Google Play, and join me on this adventure to turn the current system upside down. Together we are creating the Get Help® ecosystem – where everyone is the beneficiary.

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