Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health disorders have been increasing at an alarming rate. But since social distance and quarantining measures were put in place, the circumstance has caused tremendous challenges for individuals, families, and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults with depressive or anxiety disorder symptoms increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021. Whereas unmet healthcare needs significantly increased from 9.2% to 11.7% around the same period. 

A mental health disorder, also known as a psychiatric disorder, affects a person’s thinking, behavior, mood, and emotion. It causes significant distress and impacts the ability to relate to others and cope with work, relationships, and other demands of daily life. Mental disorders are generally treatable with medication and counseling, and the vast majority of people continue to function normally in their lives with treatment. 

What Causes Mental Disorders?

A variety of factors causes mental illness. And research has revealed that any number of factors can play a role in developing mental illness. Some of such risk factors include:

  • Biological factors such as chemical imbalances or defects in the brain.
  • Environmental factors such as dysfunctional family life or a lack of social life.
  • Genes or a family history of mental illness.
  • Childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Stressful life situations, such as the loss of a loved one or financial issues.
  • A traumatic brain injury due to a violent blow to the head.
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • A previous mental illness. 
  • Exposure to environmental stressors, toxins, or alcohol, or drugs while in the womb.

It’s important to note that mental disorders are not a result of character flaws, nor do they have anything to do with being weak or lazy. It is vital to break the stigma connected with mental health disorders to treat them appropriately.

Mental Health Disorders and Genetics 

Although there has long been evidence to suggest this link, recent studies have found that mental illnesses tend to run in families, making some individuals more vulnerable than others. This susceptibility is passed on through genes and is most common with conditions such as:

  • Autism 
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD) 
  • Schizophrenia 

However, experts also believe that mental illnesses are associated with abnormalities in many genes rather than one. And a few are caused by the interaction of genetic factors with other factors, such as stress, abuse, or traumatic events. Hence, the reasoning why some people who inherit susceptibility don’t necessarily develop the illness. 

Common Mental Health Conditions 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. And almost 300 different mental disorders are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The most common ones include:

  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

Mental diseases encompass a wide range of conditions with varying degrees of severity, ranging from mild to severe. Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) are two broad categories used to define these illnesses (SMI). All recognized mental diseases are included in AMI. And SMI is a subtype of AMI that is smaller and more severe.

What Is Depression? 

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common mood disorder affecting thousands of people in the U.S. and worldwide. Depression is one of the main causes of disability that negatively affects how a person thinks, feels, acts, and handles daily tasks. Depression is characterized by extreme bouts of sadness and hopelessness that last for two weeks or longer. Depression can be chronic or recurrent and can affect both adolescents and adults alike. If left untreated, depression can lead to various emotional and physical concerns, including suicide or suicidal ideations.

Types of depression include:

  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) – Also known as dysthymia, PDD is a form of chronic depression where symptoms can linger for a long period, often two years or longer. 
  • Postpartum depression – This form of depression occurs during or after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is much more serious than “baby blues” and may make it difficult for mothers to tend to themselves or their babies.  
  • Psychotic depression – This form of depression occurs when an individual has severe depression with some form of psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, or other breaks with reality. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – This form of depression is related to seasonal changes. It appears at the same time each year, usually during winter when there is less natural sunlight, and improves with the change of the season.  

Signs and Symptoms of Depression 

Signs and symptoms of depression can vary from one person to another, depending on the type of depression and its stage. However, they generally include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability or angry outbursts over trivial matters
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Finding it difficult to sleep or oversleeping 
  • Decreased energy or fatigue 
  • Moving or talking slowly 
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still 
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions 
  • Changes to weight or appetite
  • Aches or pains, cramps, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause 
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts 

Not everyone with depression experiences all of the above symptoms. Some people experience only a few, while others may experience many. Regardless, if any symptoms last for more than two weeks, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. 

Treatment for Depression 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapies, or a combination of both. Medications may involve antidepressants such as fluoxetine, citalopram, or sertraline to help improve the way certain brain chemicals control mood or stress. Treatment providers usually try several different antidepressants on a person before finding the right one for their condition. Certain times, a medication that has helped the person or a close family member in the past will also be considered. 

Psychotherapies, either with medications or as a single component, can also be used to control troubling symptoms of depression and improve overall physical and emotional well-being. Examples of evidence-based treatment approaches for depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy. 

If medications and psychotherapies do not reduce symptoms of depression, treatment providers may also explore electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies. ECT is understood to provide relief for people with severe depression who do not respond to other treatments. ECT can also be employed as a first-line intervention when a quick response is required, or no other medications are safe to use.

Mental Health Disorders and Treatment - Turning Point

What Is Bipolar Disorder? 

Formerly known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by severe mood swings and unusual changes in energy, concentration, and the ability to function. It typically consists of episodes of mania (overly happy, energized, or irritated mood) and depression, separated by periods of normal mood. However, manic attacks without depressive episodes are also classified as a bipolar affective disorder. Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed during late adolescence or early adulthood, but it may occasionally appear in children. 

There are three types of bipolar disorder: 

  • Bipolar I disorder – This condition is characterized by manic episodes that last for at least seven days or episodes that require immediate hospital care. Although depressive episodes are not criteria for diagnosing bipolar I, they can occur and last for at least two weeks in people with this condition.
  • Bipolar II disorder – Both depressive and manic episodes characterize this condition. However, the manic episodes associated with this condition are not as severe as bipolar I disorder (hypomania).
  • Cyclothymic disorder (also known as Cyclothymia) – This condition is defined by periods of both hypomanic and depressive symptoms that linger for at least two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents. However, the manic and depressive symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for a hypomanic or depressive episode. 

Symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not relate to any of the above three categories are referred to as “other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders.” A bipolar affective disorder is a serious mental health condition that can wreak havoc in a person’s life or even lead to suicide if not addressed promptly. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The pattern, frequency, and severity of bipolar disorder symptoms can vary from one person to another based on factors such as the category and its stage. However, during a depressive episode, most people experience symptoms common to major depression, including sadness, emptiness, and worthlessness. Whereas during a manic episode, most people experience symptoms such as:

  • Increased activity, energy, or agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Racing thoughts 
  • Irritability or aggressiveness 
  • Impaired judgment and impulsiveness 
  • Unusual talkativeness 
  • An exaggerated sense of well-being and confidence 
  • Reckless behaviors 

Although the symptoms of bipolar disorder may vary over time, lifelong treatment is crucial to manage the disorder and improve quality of life. 

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder 

Similar to depression, an effective treatment approach for bipolar disorder includes a combination of medications and psychotherapies. Medical professionals usually prescribe mood stabilizers and second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics that target anxiety to improve bipolar disorder. However, antidepressants are also often used to manage this behavioral health disorder, in combination with a mood stabilizer to prevent manic symptoms. Most patients may have to try several different medications and work with their treatment provider before they find the right medication for them. 

In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoeducation, psychotherapies for bipolar disorder may also include advanced therapies, such as interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) and family-focused therapy, developed specifically for treating bipolar disorder. Treatment may also include brain stimulation techniques such as electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) if medications and psychotherapies do not show the desired results. 

What Are Anxiety Disorders? 

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health condition that affects nearly 30% of people at some point in their lives. They differ from the normal feelings of nervousness and anxiety and are characterized by excessive anxiety or fear that worsens over time. These disorders tend to alter how a person processes emotions and significantly interfere with many aspects of life, including work and school. Anxiety disorders can start during childhood or adolescence and progress into adulthood. 

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – This condition is characterized by persistent and excessive anxiety, worry, or apprehension regarding various things, including personal health, work, and everyday life experiences. Individuals with this condition can experience anxiety for at least six months. 
  • Panic disorder – This condition is associated with sudden episodes of anxiety and fear that appear quickly and peak within minutes (panic attacks). These attacks may repeatedly strike without warning or be brought on by triggers.
  • Phobia-related disorders – A phobia is an extreme fear or aversion to an object or situation that is considered out of proportion. Phobias can be deeply personal and dominate and hinder the day-to-day living of most people. Common phobia-related disorders include specific phobia, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), agoraphobia, and separation anxiety disorder. 

Signs and Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Restlessness 
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Difficulty falling asleep 

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder  

Panic attacks generally last for 10-20 minutes. But they can also last for more than an hour in extreme cases. Symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Heart palpitations, or a fast heart rate
  • Sweating 
  • Trembling or shaking 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness 
  • Feelings of impending doom 

Signs and Symptoms of Phobia-Related Disorders 

Although the symptoms of phobia-related disorders can vary from one disorder to another, some common symptoms include:

  • Irrational or excessive dread of coming across the feared object or situation. 
  • Inability to function as normal when exposed to the feared object or situation.
  • Taking active steps to avoid the feared object or situation. 
  • Experiencing immediate anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation. 

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders 

There are many approaches to treating anxiety disorders, and patients are encouraged to work with their doctor to determine the most suitable approach for them. Usually, anxiety disorders are treated with anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Although these medications do not cure anxiety disorders, they can help reduce their symptoms. These medications are generally prescribed through a psychiatrist or primary care provider. 

In addition to medications, patients are also encouraged to participate in psychotherapies tailored to their anxiety disorder. Evidence-based behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you develop new, healthier ways of thinking, acting, and responding to anxiety triggers. CBT can also aid in acquiring and using social skills, which are critical in treating social anxiety disorder.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are behavioral health disorders characterized by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behaviors and related thought processes and emotions. They are associated with the constant preoccupation with food, body image, and weight. Eating disorders can have a detrimental impact on a person and cause various health complications or even death if left untreated. They are also considered to have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. These disorders typically occur during adolescence or early adulthood and affect people across all demographics, especially women. 

Some of the common eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa – Patients with this condition tend to consider themselves overweight, even when severely underweight. Patients with anorexia tend to constantly weigh themselves, severely restrict food intake, exercise excessively, and even force themselves to vomit or use laxatives to reduce weight. 
  • Bulimia Nervosa – Patients with this condition frequently consume large amounts of food until they become ill. These binge-eating episodes are followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics, fasting, or a combination of these to compensate for the overeating. 
  • Binge-eating disorder – Patients with this condition have frequent binge-eating episodes, but unlike bulimia nervosa, these episodes are not followed by forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with a binge-eating disorder tend to be overweight or obese.  

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa  

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), individuals with anorexia nervosa tend to be extremely thin (emaciated), with a body mass index under 18.5. Other symptoms of this eating disorder include:

  • Extremely restricted eating 
  • Unwillingness to gain or maintain a normal or healthy body weight 
  • Intense fear of gaining weight 
  • Denial of low body weight 

In addition to the above, people with anorexia nervosa may also develop certain other symptoms over time, including:

  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
  • Muscle wasting or weakness 
  • Brittle hair and nails 
  • Dry and yellowish skin 
  • Severe constipation 
  • Brain damage 
  • Multiorgan failure 
  • Infertility 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Feeling sluggish or tired most of the time 

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa 

Individuals struggling with bulimia nervosa may be slightly underweight, overweight, or even normal weight. 

The symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Chronically inflamed, and sore throat 
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems 
  • Severe dehydration 
  • Swollen salivary glands in the jaw and neck area
  • Increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth, due to exposure to stomach acid 
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too high or too low levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals), potentially leading to stroke or heart attack 

Signs and Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder 

Patients struggling with binge-eating disorders tend to display many of the following symptoms weekly for at least three months:

  • Continuing to eat despite being full 
  • Eating fast during the binge-eating episodes 
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid being called out
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty, or distressed about their eating habit 
  • Frequently dieting, possibly with no result 

Treatment Options for Eating Disorders 

Patients are advised to seek treatment as early as possible to mitigate the physical and mental health complications caused by eating disorders. Treatment for eating disorders is generally tailored to fit individual treatment needs but may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Individual, group, or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring 
  • Nutritional counseling 
  • Medications 

Psychotherapies may include the Maudsley approach (also known as family-based treatment), where parents of adolescents diagnosed with anorexia nervosa assume responsibility for feeding their children. This therapy has shown promising results in helping people gain weight and improve healthy eating habits. CBT is another approach used to help people identify and change distorted or maladaptive thinking patterns and beliefs and improve healthy eating. 

Medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers to treat eating disorders and other co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, major depression, or alcohol or drug addiction. 

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a behavioral health disorder that occurs in people who have endured or witnessed traumatic life events, such as a natural disaster, war/combat, sexual assault, or a serious accident. PTSD is characterized by intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the incident long after it has ended. 

Although nearly everyone goes through a range of emotions and reactions after trauma, people with PTSD find it difficult to recover from their trauma and life experiences. They may find themselves re-living the incident and stay detached or estranged from family and friends. And in most cases, they may require medical intervention to overcome their trauma and continue daily living. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of the U.S. population every year, and about one in 11 people get diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. 

Signs and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 

Symptoms of PTSD usually last more than a month and are severe enough to interfere with relationships and work. Some people recover from the condition within six months, while others may have symptoms for much longer as it can turn into a chronic illness. 

Signs and symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts about the incident 
  • Avoidance of places, situations, or objects that reminds them of the traumatic event 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Angry outbursts
  • Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic incident 
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world in general 
  • Distorted feelings such as blame or guilt 
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling tense or on-edge

PTSD is often accompanied by substance abuse, major depression, or one or more anxiety disorders. 

Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  

Treatment for PTSD may differ based on individual treatment needs and conditions but generally include antidepressants to control symptoms such as anger, sadness, and feelings of numbness. Other medications that treat specific PTSD symptoms, such as sleep problems and nightmares, may also be included as part of the treatment plan. 

Psychotherapy is also increasingly utilized to treat PTSD. And this form of therapy mainly includes CBT to help people control feelings of fear as they gradually overcome their traumatic experiences. PTSD treatment can also include other therapies that target social, family or job-related issues. Psychotherapies for PTSD usually last six to 12 weeks or longer. 

Coping With Mental Health Conditions 

While medications and psychotherapies are incredibly helpful in treating various mental illnesses, individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges are also advised to engage in certain self-care practices to better cope with the stresses of life, increase resilience and improve overall mental health status. 

These self-care practices may include:

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Having a balanced diet, inclusive of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Having quality sleep
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation 
  • Staying connected to family and friends 
  • Exploring healthy activities, such as journaling or gardening 
  • Establishing a balance between life activities, including work and personal life 

Mental health is a crucial component of overall health that plays a major role in your quality of life. Hence, people should prioritize their mental well-being and seek help when things look awry. 

Many mental health resources are now available, including community behavioral health centers, online mental health resources, telemental health services, and federal resources such as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locators to provide you with the treatment and help you need to improve your mental wellbeing and quality of life.

In case of immediate help, please contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, Veterans Crisis Line, or Disaster Distress Helpline. And if you are concerned about a friend’s recent behavior or social media updates, dial 911 in an emergency.

Addiction is a chronic and complex disease that requires long-term, intensive treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 14.5 million Americans ages 12 and over were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, and 8.3 million Americans were diagnosed with some form of substance use disorder (SUD) in 2019. Regardless of the severity of an individual’s condition, comprehensive addiction treatment can effectively manage substance use disorders.

The goal of addiction treatment is to reverse the negative impact of persisting substance use disorders. For this reason, a combination of behavioral and medicinal science is used in a variety of settings for varied periods. In addition to quitting harmful drug use, addiction treatment also aims to return individuals to productive functioning in their families, workplaces, and communities.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing disease that affects an individual physically and psychologically. Drug addiction can develop from the use of either illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, or legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, or prescription opioid pain medications.

The voluntary act of taking drugs is the first step towards addiction. But the ability to cease using, on the other hand, deteriorates over time. This lack of control is primarily due to the long-term effects of drug use on brain function. Addiction influences parts of the brain associated with reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior. For this reason, the sooner you seek treatment for drug addiction, the more likely you are to prevent or minimize some of the serious repercussions of this disease.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

There is a wide range of treatment options available for drug addiction. Studies indicate that addiction treatment is most effective when treatment is designed to address specific emotional, medical, psychosocial, and other aspects of each individual’s needs. For this reason, drug addiction treatment usually involves a combination of services.

As such, successful addiction treatment programs consist of several components, including:

  • Medication 
  • Behavioral therapy 
  • Medical applications for treating withdrawal symptoms.
  • Evaluation and treatment of co-occurring mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Other services to address a patient’s various occupational, legal, familial, and social issues.
  • Long-term follow-up care to reduce the risk of relapse.

The chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction necessitates that patients require lifelong treatment. For many individuals, addiction treatment is an ongoing process involving various interventions and continuous monitoring.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is characterized by a strong desire to consume alcohol and the inability to stop drinking even when it causes significant personal or social harm. Alcohol addiction is one of the most prevalent forms of substance abuse in the world.

Alcohol is frequently abused in conjunction with other substances. But as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, alcohol poses a serious risk when combined with other medications of the same class, such as benzodiazepines and certain painkillers. Irresponsible alcohol use on its own can be dangerous, but it can quickly become lethal when combined with other substances.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction 

Treatment for alcohol addiction is determined by the severity of a patient’s condition and personal recovery goal. Treatment can vary based on whether the patient desires to cut down on drinking or achieve abstinence. Individuals who wish to overcome their AUD effectively will require assistance and guidance from an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation center that provide services such as:

  • Detoxification – Detoxification is a series of interventions to assist patients safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol, allowing them to transition into a formal and often longer-term treatment program. However, if you are pregnant or have an underlying health condition like cardiovascular disease, consult your doctor before attempting to detox.
  • Medications for alcohol use disorder (MAUD) – Certain medications can help patients quit drinking, treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the risk of relapse. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for treating AUD, including naltrexone, acamprosate (Campral), and disulfiram (Antabuse).
  • Counseling and therapy – Counseling and therapy help patients better understand their addiction and facilitate recovery from the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction.

What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is a chronic disease characterized by psychological and physical opioid dependence, withdrawal, a high risk of relapse, and fatality. Opioid addiction includes the illegal use of heroin and other opium derivatives and the long-term abuse of prescription opioid pain relievers, including codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Although opioids are an effective medication when used as prescribed, they also carry the risk of addiction due to their powerful effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that nearly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse their medications. And between eight and 12 percent of patients using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.

Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment programs (MAT) are effective treatment options for individuals suffering from opioid addiction. MAT involves the use of medication along with counseling and behavioral therapies.

Medications provided through MAT programs include:

  • Opioid agonist therapies (OAT) – Opioid agonist medications such as methadone or buprenorphine help manage withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and the risk of relapse.
  • Opioid antagonist medications – Opioid antagonist medications such as naltrexone and naloxone are better suited for individuals who cannot be on OAT due to medical reasons.

As with any SUD treatments, effective opioid addiction treatment should also incorporate counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). 

Principles of Effective Treatment 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the following 13 principles should form the basis of any effective addiction treatment program.

  1. Addiction is a complicated but treatable disease that impairs brain function and behavior. 
  2. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment method for everyone.
  3. People require immediate access to treatment.
  4. Effective treatment considers all of the patient’s requirements, not just their substance use.
  5. It is vital to stay in treatment for a sufficient amount of time.
  6. The most widely used forms of treatment are counseling and other behavioral therapy.
  7. Medications, especially when paired with behavioral therapy, are often a crucial aspect of treatment.
  8. Treatment plans must be evaluated and adjusted regularly to meet the changing demands of the patient.
  9. Treatment should address other possible mental illnesses. 
  10. Medically-assisted detoxification is only the initial stage of treatment.
  11. Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
  12. Drug use during treatment needs to be closely monitored at all times.
  13. Patients should be tested for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases and be educated to lower their risk of contracting these illnesses.

The most effective programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet an individual’s needs.

Types of Addiction Treatment Programs 

Addiction treatment includes a wide range of treatment modalities. And familiarizing oneself with the different types of treatment programs can help individuals find the right treatment.

Addiction treatment programs often fall into one of two categories; inpatient or outpatient rehab. While equally focused on rehabilitation, each type has unique attributes and benefits to offer. As such, addiction treatment centers offer different levels of outpatient and inpatient care, including:

  • Inpatient Treatment Programs – Inpatient treatment is the most intensive level of treatment, offering 24-hour care with medical and emotional support.
  • Residential Treatment Programs – Individuals with more long-term requirements who do not require the intensity of a 24/7 medically monitored inpatient program should consider residential rehab programs.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – IOPs are for individuals with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health disorders who don’t need medical detox or 24-hour supervision. Outpatient rehabs are part-time programs, allowing the recovering individual to keep attending work or school during the day.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – PHP is more intensive than an IOP program but less than a full inpatient or residential rehab. PHP necessitates more visits and sessions per week than IOP. A PHP patient is not required to stay at the facility for the duration of their treatment, and they are free to live anywhere they like.
  • Addiction Therapy – Addiction therapy can teach patients how to recognize, avoid, or respond to high-risk relapse situations and develop coping strategies in the face of drug cravings. Addiction Therapy consists of individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

The length and duration of treatment are most often determined based on the patient’s progress. However, regardless of the treatment program chosen, each person must receive an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of their addiction, the presence of any co-occurring mental health disorders, and other unique needs.

How Are Medications Used in Addiction Treatment? 

Medications are used in addiction treatment to reduce addictive behaviors. The most effective medications are those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medications can assist with breaking the chains of physical dependence, helping to ease difficult withdrawal symptoms, reducing the risk of relapse, and managing any other medical or mental health issues that may have been left untreated or undiagnosed along the way. 

Most medications for substance use disorders fit into three general categories: 

  • Full agonist medications – Full agonists directly stimulate receptor sites in the brain. For example, full agonist medications like methadone bind to the opioid receptor in the brain similar to heroin. These medications are generally prescribed as replacement therapy. Agonist medications are taken daily to decrease cravings or withdrawal that can lead to a relapse.
  • Partial agonist medications – Partial agonists act like agonists but do not stimulate the opioid receptor to the same degree. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist developed for detoxification and used as a maintenance medication for patients at risk of relapse.
  • Antagonist medications – These medications bind to the opioid receptor without stimulating it and prevent drugs from binding to the receptor. Naltrexone is an example of an antagonist medication used in the treatment of opioid addiction. 

Medication is not a standalone treatment for substance use disorders. It should accompany other addiction management techniques such as behavioral treatments, counseling, and aftercare support groups. Combining all these treatment elements works in synergy to mitigate substance abuse and reduce the probability of relapse. 

How Are Behavioral Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment? 

Behavioral therapy is a treatment technique that aids in the alteration of self-destructive behaviors. It helps people stay motivated during their treatment, provides coping strategies for cravings, and helps manage the risk of relapse. Behavioral therapies can also help people improve relationships, parenting skills, and family dynamics. As such, individuals can participate in a range of outpatient behavioral treatment programs, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy is used to adjust how a person feels by modifying attitudes and behaviors concerning substance abuse. CBT can also be used to treat co-occurring disorders like bipolar disorder.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – During DBT, severe mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder are treated in conjunction with a substance use disorder. This therapy aims to encourage people in recovery to remove triggers from their life.
  • Contingency Management Therapies – Contingency management uses positive reinforcement to change detrimental behaviors. 
  • Motivational Interviewing – Motivational interviewing is a technique for enhancing an individual’s internal motivation for change. It’s developed based on motivational psychology principles.
  • Family Behavioral Therapy – Family behavioral therapy works well for addressing family dysfunction caused by substance abuse or comorbid disorders.
  • 12-Step Programs – These programs focus on building community support through attending regular meetings. The 12-step principle is used in a variety of programs, including:
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – for those recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – for people recovering from drug abuse and addiction.

What to Expect at an Addiction Treatment Program?

Although the exact schedules may differ from center to center, individuals can anticipate going through the following steps after enrolling in a rehabilitation program:

  • Intake – The intake process often involves gathering basic information about the patient and their background.
  • Assessment – Psychological and medical assessment.
  • Orientation – The patient will be introduced to basic treatment concepts and goals.
  • Addiction treatment – Inpatient or outpatient care.
  • Aftercare planning – Aftercare planning is the final step in addiction treatment. 

The duration and pace of treatment will be determined by the patient’s unique circumstances and recovery milestones.

How to Choose the Right Addiction Treatment Center?

Once you have decided to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, choosing a treatment program that addresses your unique needs and circumstances is important. Selecting the right treatment center will increase your chances of completing the program successfully and maintaining your sobriety in the future. As such, it would be beneficial to consider the following before making your choice. 

  • Determine your treatment goals – Before selecting a treatment program, seek advice from a qualified clinician specialized in addiction to clarify your treatment goals and requirements. 
  • Accreditation, licensing, and certifications – When a treatment center is accredited, it is held to a higher standard that is stringent and unbiased. Choose a facility that has both the necessary state license and accreditation from a reputable accreditation firm. 
  • Use of evidence-based practices – The most effective treatment programs use evidence-based approaches that have been established through science-based research. Examples of evidence-based programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step facilitation, and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Availability of mental health services – The most promising rehab centers incorporate treatments for both addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders at the same time.
  • Availability of specialized programs – It’s important to choose rehab programs that provide individualized and tailored care.
  • Length of program – Your progress is determined by the length of time spent in treatment. Look for programs that offer different levels of rehabilitation so that you can advance to a less intensive level of care as you progress through recovery. 
  • Cost – Substance abuse treatment can be costly, so look for in-network addiction centers with your insurance provider. The “in-network” also signifies that the program has met the insurance provider’s quality standards.
  • Post-treatment recovery support – Quality treatment centers provide post-treatment support services and assistance to help patients maintain recovery after rehab.

Benefits of Addiction Treatment

There are many benefits to seeking professional addiction treatment. The most significant benefit of any treatment program is getting the individual off drugs or alcohol and guiding them to live a healthier life. The following are some of the other benefits of receiving addiction treatment:

  • A safe and supportive environment – Patients will be surrounded by others who understand their situation within a safe and supportive environment. Peer support is an important component of treatment and is required for long-term sobriety.
  • Multiple therapies and treatments – Rehab programs include a wide range of therapy options, which is important because no single treatment is right for everyone.
  • Setting goals and building new habits – Addiction treatment can help teach people how to set short and long-term goals concerning their recovery and accomplish those goals.
  • Ongoing support – Ongoing support is generally provided in the form of support group meetings and counseling to ensure that patients receive the continued help they need when they return home.

Individuals who struggle with substance use disorders often wish to quit but find it difficult to do so on their own. Seeking help from addiction specialists can help improve your chances of long-term sobriety and achieve successful recovery. Addiction treatment programs can help individuals find their path to recovery by connecting them to the most appropriate level of care that best fits their needs.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) cost the U.S. millions of dollars per year. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the harmful use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medicines cost the U.S. more than $420 billion per year, with more than $120 billion in healthcare costs. However, the consequences of SUDs are not just limited to the financial burden it incurs. SUDs also cripple the nation’s health, education, and social systems and cause disabilities and untimely deaths due to drug-related violence and overdoses. It also opens the door to various personal and professional consequences for individuals with addiction and those around them. 

While people have realized the seriousness and the cost of substance abuse, science has initiated and implemented a range of effective interventions, treatment medications, behavioral therapies, and recovery support services to help people with SUDs make a full recovery. Since overcoming addiction requires more than a detox, rehabilitation is recommended as the more viable solution to maintaining long-term recovery. Addiction rehab helps people overcome substance abuse through medically supervised detox, comprehensive therapies, counseling, and aftercare programs. 

Addiction rehab is available in two main forms, namely, inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient rehab requires patients to reside at the treatment facility to receive treatment, while outpatient rehab allows patients the flexibility to receive treatment on a part-time basis. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a more intensive level of outpatient care available for patients who wish for a more comprehensive treatment without compromising on the flexibility of maintaining routine life. 

What Is an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Intensive outpatient programs are treatment programs that help patients overcome substance use disorders while also maintaining their everyday life. IOPs typically schedule treatment sessions for a few hours, several days a week, to help patients address the root causes of addiction, learn relapse prevention techniques, change maladaptive behaviors, and participate in support groups. Such programs also assist patients in addressing psychosocial issues such as housing, employment, and meeting probation requirements. IOPs are more rigorous and time-intensive than most standard outpatient treatments. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most IOPs require nine to 20 hours of participation per week. 

IOPs generally last anywhere between 6-12 months, with most programs meeting 3-5 days a week. The sessions per week decrease gradually over time when patients meet milestones and show significant progress. 

Group therapy is the key component in most IOPs. However, the programs also include:

  • Individual counseling 
  • Medication management 
  • Case management 
  • Introduction to support groups 
  • Vocational training 
  • Psychiatric screening

How Do IOPs Work?

Most IOPs start with an assessment to ensure the eligibility of a patient. The assessment will also consider the patient’s condition, and their treatment needs to help customize a treatment plan that achieves the desired recovery goals. Once the patient is deemed eligible to undergo IOP treatment, the patient will work with a therapist to decide on a schedule that conveniently fits their everyday routine.

Most programs meet in the morning or evening during weekdays for three hours each day. The sessions mainly revolve around group counseling as it helps participants improve communication, socialize without alcohol or drugs, and experience discipline and structure. However, IOPs also include individual therapy sessions to provide patients with a more private environment to address and discuss issues of sensitive nature. Groups in IOPs are usually small, with around 8-15 members. Private IOPs may have even smaller groups to provide a more individual focus. 

Individuals gather in groups to participate in:

  • Relapse prevention 
  • Skills development 
  • Codependency support  
  • Family therapy 
  • 12-step programs
  • Addiction education 

Drug testing is also a significant component of an IOP. IOPs conduct regular drug testing to ensure that the patients adhere to the program rules and safeguard other group members from patients that use drugs. 

After completing an IOP treatment, the patient and the therapist will decide on the next course of action. If the patient has met all set goals, the therapist will recommend a less intensive level of care to continue with treatment. Some of such less intensive care options are weekly individual meetings with the therapist, alumni meetings, and participation in 12-step programs. 

Is IOP Right for Me - Turning Point

Benefits of IOP 

One of the most apparent benefits of intensive outpatient treatment is its flexibility. As IOPs don’t require patients to reside at the facility, they provide patients with the flexibility to tend to their personal needs and family life without compromising the structure and intensity of addiction treatment. The flexibility also allows patients to strengthen relationships with family and friends and to implement the skills learned through therapy in real-time. IOPs are also less expensive than residential treatment and provide patients with a greater level of privacy to continue addiction treatment. 

Another cited benefit of IOP is greater patient responsibility. Since IOPs do not remove patients from their familiar environment like residential treatment, maintaining recovery falls solely on the patient. This responsibility provides patients with a deeper sense of achievement. IOPs also provide patients the opportunity to build a strong community of peers in recovery. 

Is IOP Right for Me?

IOP treatment may not be ideal for everyone battling an addiction to alcohol or illicit drugs. However, since the program doesn’t detach patients from the outside world during treatment, it may only suit individuals with:

  • A mild to moderate SUD that doesn’t require medically supervised detox or round-the-clock care and supervision.
  • No major mental health disorders or physical health complications.
  • Strong support base at home.
  • Positive, trigger-free home environment. 
  • Strong commitment and discipline to maintain recovery. 

IOPs are also ideal for individuals looking for a step-down program after an inpatient program and for those who have unavoidable work or family obligations to fulfill. While IOPs may seem like a more flexible treatment option, it would be best to opt for a higher level of care such as PHP if you need more support in overcoming your addiction. Patients are highly advised to consult their physician or addiction specialist to help them decide on the best course of treatment.


Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are intensive outpatient rehabs that provide patients with the flexibility to receive treatment while maintaining their routine life. However, the main difference between IOP and PHP is their time commitment. PHPs are more time-intensive than IOPs and require patients to dedicate a considerable portion of their week to treatment. PHPs usually take place Monday through Friday every week, for six to seven hours each day. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends that PHPs provide 20 hours of treatment per week.

The other major distinction between IOP and PHP is their treatment services. Unlike IOP, partial hospitalization programs are highly structured and designed to provide treatment services similar to inpatient rehabs. PHPs may also offer limited medical detox services under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner, depending on the needs of the patients. PHPs are also more restrictive than IOPs.

How to Find an IOP Near Me?

It may take a significant amount of time, research, and determination to find an intensive outpatient program that best meets your unique needs and requirements. Since there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all IOP for substance abuse, it’s always advisable to consult an addiction specialist to assist you in your search. Assuming you want to join an IOP after you’ve completed a residential treatment program. In that case, you can ask your treatment center for referrals to IOPs in your area. Next, double-check that your health insurance covers the treatment program you’ve chosen. 

If you don’t have health insurance, ask behavioral health and substance abuse treatment centers if they offer IOP or can recommend you to one. If money is a concern, see if the IOP provides financial aid, such as scholarships or a sliding scale based on income. If your income is low and you cannot work, you may be eligible for Medicaid, a state-based program that provides medical help to low-income families.

Participating in an IOP can be a crucial step toward resolving alcohol or illicit drug addiction. However, to get the most out of IOP, you must first decide if it’s right for you. 

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