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Is On-Demand Drug Addiction Treatment the Future?

In the United States alone, over 20 million people struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 gets treatment. Most people don’t know that people seeking treatment have to wait weeks or months to get the help they need. These delays can jeopardize the chances they’ll be able to recover from addiction. As a result, many are asking for on-demand drug addiction treatment options to fight these barriers. Are we ready for that?

What’s On-Demand Drug Addiction Treatment?

As most policymakers refer to, drug treatment on-demand or “treatment on demand” (TOD) is the idea of immediate entry into drug treatment for whoever requests it. TOD is becoming widely popular in metropolitan areas like Baltimore, Maryland, and California. 

The main goal of TOD is to improve access to treatment. Access to addiction treatment analyzes various dimensions, including temporal, geographical, financial, psychological, and cultural. These dimensions can be the distance to treatment programs, financial cutbacks, psychological and cultural barriers, or treatment waiting lists. 

Research on Treatment On Demand Policies

While treatment on demand seems like a viable approach, the reality is different. These policies are still reasonably new, with the first one dating back to 1995 in Sacramento, California. There, the idea was to increase the availability of publicly-funded substance abuse treatment. The four-year idea was highly debated, and it might serve as a baseline for future programs. These programs are the result of looking at substance abuse epidemics as a public health issue. 

According to a study, access to drug abuse treatment under the Treatment on Demand policy in San Francisco showed a small significant decline in monthly waiting lists. However, during the study’s length, the days of those admitted to treatment increased in TOD-funded facilities. Although access to treatment improved slightly, the study’s authors believe that an increase in people seeking treatment thanks to the policy caused a snowball effect that affected the waiting lists. 

Nonetheless, the number of people entering the system increased by 18% in a single year, and the number of admissions increased by 15% in a single year. Other states are still looking to see how these policies might help their citizens. 

The Realities of Treatment Barriers

Most people think that someone with a substance use disorder can merely walk into a rehab facility and start treatment. While this would be ideal, the reality couldn’t be further away from that. Substance abuse treatment presents many challenges for some of these individuals, for example:

  • Insurance may only cover a small portion of the cost of treatment
  • Lack of addiction treatment programs in rural areas
  • Socioeconomic status may also play a role in access to treatment
  • Stigma still keeps people away from seeking treatment services
  • Pregnant women and mothers might have unique challenges
  • People with co-occurring mental health disorders present other types of challenges

Interestingly, out of all treatment barriers, 53.8% of participants in a study emphasized waiting time as a significant barrier to treatment entry. For treatment facilities offering “treatment on demand,” their idea of waiting time is an average of 48 hours or less for treatment entry. However, one study found that facilities offering treatment on demand were seven times more likely to turn patients away. 

According to the study, the type of facility also played a role. For-profit or private treatment facilities were twice as likely to provide treatment on demand. Conversely, rehab centers that served more indigent populations were less likely to provide this option or turn patients away. The type of program also matters. For example, methadone maintenance programs were less likely to offer TOD, but more likely to turn patients away. 

Looking Into the Future of Addiction Treatment

The reality is that as a collective, we must work towards bringing treatment barriers down. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we work hard to open our doors to anyone looking to seek treatment. We also dedicate time to fighting to end the stigma around substance abuse disorder. 

In the meantime, it might be time to reconsider treatment on demand. Perhaps, we’re not ready for these policies to work fully. But, we can offer 24/7 support via phone, chat, or text messages, for example. The advances in telehealth are starting to permeate to the substance abuse treatment center. Nowadays, you can access online group support meetings, reach a therapist via text message, or have a video conference with your addiction therapist. 

Remember, if you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Our addiction specialists are always available to answer any treatment questions, the different therapy options, insurance coverage, payment options, and more. Don’t let waiting lists keep you away from seeking the treatment you need to recover your life.

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