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Online Addiction Treatment | Telehealth Substance Abuse Treatment

Many people assume that substance use treatment requires you to live at a facility away from home for days, weeks, or even months. While going to an inpatient treatment facility may be the best option for some people, it isn’t necessary for everyone.

Sometimes your doctor will determine that outpatient treatment will work well for you, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be in person. There are a variety of organizations that offer care virtually, which can include video calls, phone calls, and other online services.1

This guide will help you understand online addiction treatment and how to take advantage of this type of care if it meets your needs.


Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Addiction Treatment

American Addiction Centers can help people recover from substance misuse and substance use disorder. To find out if your insurance covers treatment, including telehealth and virtual care, at an American Addiction Centers facility, click here or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.


What is An Online or Telehealth Treatment Program?

Online or telehealth treatment for substance use can take a variety of forms, but in general, it’s the use of online or remote technology to provide therapy and counseling to help a person stop misusing substances.2 This can include online written materials, audio and video files, and therapist guidance.2

Telehealth treatment isn’t just for substance use—it can be used for serious mental illnesses, substance use, and a combination of the two, which is known as a co-occurring disorder.3

Some of the benefits of using telehealth and online treatment programs for substance use include:4

  • Lower wait times and faster access to care.
  • Telehealth treatment can be used in conjunction with in-person care.
  • Providers can learn more about your environment by seeing your space.
  • You can access immediate help via texting and apps when you’re facing temptation or a struggle.

Telehealth for all kinds of medical needs became vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the use of these services grew considerably between 2020 and 2022. In a recent study, over 70% of organizations that provided substance use treatment used telephone or video platforms to deliver services during COVID-19 and intended to keep doing so afterward.5


Different Types of Virtual Care for Addiction

When you get virtual care for substance use, you have a wide range of options. The approach that’s right for you will depend on your specific needs, and your doctor can help you create a treatment plan that includes telehealth addiction treatment.

Some of the common types of telehealth treatment for substance use include:6

  • Texting.
  • Video meetings.
  • Mobile apps.
  • Telephone-based support.
  • Web-based treatment support.
  • Virtual worlds.

Not all treatment centers will offer every option. Instead, you’ll need to decide what virtual treatment approaches work well for you and then find a program that offers them.

Everyone is different, so what worked well for someone else might not be a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of online addiction therapies to find the ones that work best for you.


Are Telehealth and Online Addiction Therapy Effective?

COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of telehealth and online therapy, which has given researchers the opportunity to see how effective they are.7

The news is good—one pre-COVID study found that certain telemedical approaches, such as web-based and mobile-based treatment, had even better results than traditional substance use care.6 That same study found that video meetings provided similar results to traditional face-to-face treatment.6

Why was it so helpful? The study found that telehealth substance use treatment was easier for people to access, so they were more likely to use it.6 Web-based and mobile services were especially effective because they could be accessed anytime, especially when you are in the midst of a struggle or tempting situation.6

Online addiction treatment can be a great supplement to in-person treatment, or it can be your entire treatment program, depending on your needs. Getting help at the moment when you’re making a decision about substance use can make all the difference in relapse prevention.


Sources

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2021). Virtual recovery resources.
  2. Ho, C. & Severn, M. (2018, June 17). e-Therapy interventions for the treatments of substance use disorders and other addictionsCADTH Rapid Response Report: Summary with Critical Appraisal.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2021). Telehealth for the treatment of serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
  4. Telehealth.hhs.gov. (2021, July 2). Tele-treatment for substance use disorders.
  5. Molfenter, T., Roget, N., Chaple, M., Behlman, S., Cody, O., Hartzler, B., Johnson, E., Nichols, M., Stilen, P., & Becker, S. (2021). Use of telehealth in substance use disorder services during and after COVID-19: Online survey study. JMIR mental health, 8(2), e25835.
  6. Molfenter, T., Brown, R., O’Neill, A., Kopetsky, E., & Toy, A. (2018). Use of telemedicine in addiction treatment: current practices and organizational implementation characteristicsInternational journal of telemedicine and applications, 2018, 3932643.
  7. Mark, T. L., Treiman, K., Padwa, H., Henretty, K., Tzeng, J., & Gilbert, M. (2021, Oct 13). Addiction treatment and telehealth: review of efficacy and provider insights during the COVID-19 pandemic. American Psychiatric Association Publishing.

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