You’ve decided it’s time to seek treatment for a substance use disorder for yourself or for someone you love. Now, what do you do next?

First, take a deep breath, and realize that you’ve taken one of the hardest steps by simply recognizing the need for help.

There are many steps ahead, but we’re here to guide and support you on this journey. That begins by providing you with the information you need, and helping you to understand what to expect as you start the process of seeking treatment.

The first thing to do after you’ve decided to get help for a substance use disorder is to schedule an assessment from your personal physician or a qualified clinician at a treatment center. There are 3,500 board-certified physicians who specialize in addiction in the US, and you can locate resources near you with the American Society of Addiction Medicine Find a Physician feature or the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry's Patient Referral Program.

At your assessment

The clinician or doctor will begin by asking you questions to learn more about your life and your substance use. They will ask how the substance use started, how long substances have been used, and if there’s family history of use. The assessment will also include a physical examination to determine your general health. Tests for substance use and other diseases may also be included. After the exam, the doctor will recommend a treatment plan, which may include a treatment center, medication, behavioral therapies, counseling, or a combination of these options.

Beginning treatment

If you’re referred to a treatment center, you can work with your doctor or an addiction specialist to determine which type of facility is right for your recovery. There are more than 14,500 specialized drug treatment facilities in the US, including both inpatient and outpatient options. Both types of treatment centers are extremely successful at helping in recovery, but a qualified professional can help you determine which will be most suited to your individual needs.

At an inpatient treatment center, the person in treatment lives at the facility for a designated period of time and is monitored by professionals. Benefits of inpatient treatment include:

  • assistance with the detoxification process
  • emotional and physical support
  • isolation from the factors that may have contributed to the addiction

Outpatient treatment centers are also available, where a person visits the center for regularly scheduled treatment on a daily or weekly basis but lives at home and continues with daily activities. Benefits include:

  • a higher level of privacy
  • more affordability
  • access to family support

To find both inpatient and outpatient options, call the US Department of Health and Human Services helpline, at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or visit to find a facility in your area.

If your treatment includes medication, your doctor may write a prescription and provide any necessary medical advice. Medication may also be administered through a treatment facility or licensed clinic.

Your doctor or clinician can also help you locate support services including counseling, 12-step or other peer support programs in your area. You can find additional resources by contacting the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visiting the Behavioral Health Treatment Service Locator online.

It’s important to remember that every person with substance use disorder is unique, and even two people using same drug may require different treatments. Every treatment should be individually tailored to the person in recovery and will consider the type of substance use, the length and recurrence of the substance use disorder, psychological issues, along with any other concerns, to form an effective treatment plan.

Once you’ve decided upon a treatment plan with your doctor, you can arrange medical leave with your employer, if necessary. The Family Medical Leave Act allows employees to take leave for substance use treatment, and employers cannot take action against employees who take medical leave for substance use treatment. Privacy laws prohibit your doctor from sharing information about your substance use disorder or your treatment without your consent, so you can share as little or as much information as is appropriate for your situation.

These first steps on the road to recovery can be scary—but knowing what to expect can make it a little easier.

Addiction is a disease, and like other chronic conditions, it can be managed with the right treatment.

Resources You Can Rely On

The Family Resource Center has trusted resources to support treatment of substance use. All of the resources have been evaluated by addiction experts.

Visit Family Resource Center