• Addiction & recovery

Questions to Ask Your Addiction Treatment Provider

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Vanessa de la Cruz, MD

June 27, 2022

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Note: Here at Eleanor Health, we believe that language surrounding addiction care should be positive, inclusive, and inoffensive to all affected. While this piece may use terms like “addiction” and “addiction treatment” to connect the content with those who need it, we encourage the use of “substance use disorder” instead, which is a less stigmatized term. Learn more about how words matter in recovery by checking out our full-length post here.

 

When treating a substance use disorder (SUD), healthcare providers must take into account all the aspects of a member’s life that may positively or negatively influence an addiction treatment plan, such as medications, therapy, life stressors, and physical health issues. Because a substance use disorder is likely to affect multiple parts of a person’s life, it is vital to view treatment as a means of positively influencing each of these aspects and bettering the person’s life as a whole. 

 

Types of Specialists: 

There are a multitude of types of addiction treatment specialists that have a focus on each specific treatment point. Keep reading to find out which kind of specialist may be right for you: 

Medication Specialists:  

Many types of medical providers are certified to prescribe medication for SUD. Directing yourself towards a medication provider may be as easy as asking for a referral from the doctor or nurse practitioner with whom you already have a relationship. The treatment they often provide is called MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment). 

Therapists: 

Similar to medication providers, there are also a handful of different types of therapists that provide support for addiction treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, and Psychotherapy, or “Talk Therapy”, are often used to help a member work through the underlying cause of their drug or alcohol use. These therapies also help build self-esteem, teach emotional understanding and regulation, and instill healthy coping mechanisms. 

Peer Support Specialists:  

Peer support groups, often called “Peer Recovery Programs,” are very helpful in providing support to people who have substance use disorders. These groups allow for a scheduled time to receive professional help as well as a place in which they can relate and connect with other people who are in the same situation. Within these groups and programs, there are often multiple roles assigned to SUD professionals. For example, Recovery Specialists are present to provide direct support and Recover Support Educators are present to develop education and training on addiction recovery. 

A doctor holding a patient's hand

Questions to Ask Your Addiction Treatment Specialist: 

So, you’ve made an appointment with an addiction treatment specialist. Congratulations! You have officially taken the first step towards a healthier lifestyle, which can often be the hardest part of recovery. You may already have a bunch of questions about what your addiction treatment plan will look like or you may be confused about where to start when speaking to your specialist. Here are some important questions to ask your provider when starting your journey: 

“What are your expectations in terms of frequency of appointments, urine drug screens, engagement in therapy, and/or engagement in recovery groups?”

After receiving information about the specific schedule your specialist informs you about, ask yourself if you can meet their requirements. Take into consideration your ability to travel to appointments (or the lab) and take time off from work/home obligations such as child care or elder care. If you find that their schedule does not fit well with yours, there are always other options out there! Here at Eleanor Health, we meet you where you are so recovery fits your specific needs. We’ll make sure appointments match your schedule and welcome you to bring children to your appointments when needed!

“What happens if I miss an appointment?”

Because the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oversees addiction treatment appointments, specialists need to see you regularly to account for your safety and routinely prescribe your medications. Depending on your specific provider, you may not be able to get your prescriptions on time if you miss an appointment, which may be unsafe for you. Therefore, if you are aware that you may have to miss an appointment, it is essential that you let your specialist know ahead of time and reschedule accordingly. To let your Eleanor Health specialist know you need to miss an appointment, call us or send us a message in the Eleanor Member Portal.

“What happens if my urine drug screen is positive for opiates other than buprenorphine?  What if it is positive for other substances?”

Some specialists are stricter than others in regards to urine drug screen monitoring. If you use substances regularly that show up on drug screens, you need to know what action your provider will take. Some providers refuse care after a positive drug screen. However, providers like Eleanor Health, who prioritize harm-reduction through evidence-based care, will work with you and build a care plan that fits your current needs and goals. In both instances, though, it’s best to be honest about what substances you’re using upfront so your provider can ensure they’re prescribing the safest, most effective medication for you.

“What other types of addiction treatments are out there? Can you refer me to them?”

If you find that you are struggling with the specific treatment plan your specialist puts forth, it is important to know what other treatment plans may work better for you. Some examples of common treatment plans are: 

  • Outpatient or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): These treatment plans do not require you to stay overnight at a hospital or residential facility. This makes them a flexible option for those going through recovery while still maintaining a work/home life. They are less intensive than inpatient/residential treatment plans, but still provide a wide variety of intervention services. 
  • Residential or Inpatient Programs: These treatment plans require you to check themselves into a controlled environment in which they will gain support and treatment for their drug use. They stay at a clinic with 24-hour medical and emotional support.

“What if I have other mental health needs?  How will you address them?”

Your addiction treatment specialist may refer you to an in-house psychiatric provider or they may coordinate with your existing provider.  Psychiatrists and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) can also provide direct psychiatric care or they can work with your existing providers. Additionally, they may refer you to a therapist that can directly help you with your specific needs. It all depends on what is best for your particular mental health requirements!

“How long are your appointments?”

Asking this question is necessary for determining your ability to comply with appointment expectations. Typical intake appointments with most specialists are 30-60 minutes long and follow-up appointments are often 15-30 minutes long. However, appointment lengths can vary greatly between providers and don’t include time spent waiting in the lobby. If you are also struggling with other mental health needs such as depression and/or anxiety, you may need a provider who can spend more time with you (typically a psychiatrist or a PMHNP) to ensure you receive all of the care you need.

“Do you think that buprenorphine is a medication that is required forever once someone starts taking it?  Or should it be tapered off after a certain period of time?”

The American Society of Addiction Medicine guidelines states that some patients may need to be on opioid agonist therapy for the rest of their lives because opiate use disorders are chronic biologic diseases. However, you should feel encouraged to find a provider who can listen to your specific preferences and provide guidance about how long buprenorphine is necessary.

To get started with your recovery journey today, reach out and learn more about how Eleanor Health can help.

Eleanor Health provides treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in LouisianaMassachusettsNew JerseyNorth CarolinaOhio, Texas, and Washington.

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Our mission at Eleanor Health is to help people affected by addiction live amazing lives. We deliver whole-person, comprehensive care and are passionate about transforming the quality, delivery, and accessibility of addiction & mental health treatment. Our actions are rooted in respect for each member's values, culture, and life experiences, and our commitment to their wellbeing is unwavering and without judgement.

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