- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that substance use disorders can be effectively treated, with recurrence rates no higher than those for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. With comprehensive continuing care, recovery is now an achievable outcome.
- Only about 1 in 10 people with a substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment. The great majority of treatment has occurred in specialty substance use disorder treatment programs with little involvement by primary or general health care. However, a shift is occurring to mainstream the delivery of early intervention and treatment services into general health care practice.
- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that medications can be effective in treating serious substance use disorders, but they are under-used. The U.S/ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications to treat alcohol use disorders and three others to treat opioid use disorders. However, an insufficient number of existing treatment programs or practicing physicians offer these medications. To date, no FDA-approved medications are available to treat marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other substance use disorders, with the exception of the medications previously noted for alcohol and opioid use disorders.
- Supported scientific evidence indicates that substance misuse and substance use disorders can be reliably and easily identified through screening and that less severe forms of these conditions often respond to brief physician advice and other types of brief interventions. Well-supported scientific evidence shows that these brief interventions work with mild severity alcohol use disorders, but only promising evidence suggests that they are effective with drug use disorders.
- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that treatment for substance use disorders—including inpatient, residential, and outpatient—are cost-effective compared with no treatment.
- The primary goals and general management methods of treatment for substance use disorders are the same as those for the treatment of other chronic illnesses. The goals of treatment are to reduce key symptoms to non-problematic levels and improve health and functional status; this is equally true for those with co-occurring substance use disorders and other psychiatric disorders. Key components of care are medications, behavioral therapies, and recovery support services (RSS).
- Well-supported scientific evidence shows that behavioral therapies can be effective in treating substance use disorders, but most evidence-based behavioral therapies are often implemented with limited fidelity and are under-used. Treatments using these evidence-based practices have shown better results than non-evidence-based treatments and services.
- Promising scientific evidence suggests that several electronic technologies, like the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and the use of telehealth, could improve access, engagement, monitoring, and continuing supportive care of those with substance use disorders.
*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summarizes strength of evidence as: “Well-supported”: when evidence is derived from multiple controlled trials or large-scale population studies; “Supported”: when evidence is derived from rigorous but fewer or smaller trials; and “Promising”: when evidence is derived from a practical or clinical sense and is widely practiced.