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NIH Offers New Tool For Alcoholics Seeking Treatment

The National Institutes of Health is releasing a new online tool that aims to help those who want to find good care: directories of alcohol treatment providers accompanied by key questions patients should ask in order to get high-quality care.

George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the NIH, said, “Most people think treatment is detox for 28 days or Alcoholics Anonymous. There’s a vast in-between.”

The government estimates that around 15 million American adults have alcohol use disorder, meaning the misuse of or addiction to alcohol. Fewer than 10% seek treatment, US News and World Report states.

Many of those who do get treated don’t receive the kind of care that best fits their needs, Koob said. He ordered the development of the Alcohol Treatment Navigator after finding out that if medical providers were confused, families of those with alcohol abuse problems must feel lost.

Linda Rosenberg, president of the nonprofit National Council for Behavioral Health, said, “It’s the hardest thing, navigating how do you find treatment.” Rosenberg was not involved in the development of the too, but welcomed it.

It’s desperately needed.

The Navigator provides a step-by-step guide to evaluating options outside of AA and detox, which are the most known choices for rehabilitation. It links a user to existing directories of thousands of medical professionals certified to treat the disorder, accredited alcohol treatment centers, and licensed therapists. The information is searchable by ZIP code, and there are filters in place to make the search easier.

The NIH then gives five signs of quality to check when looking for treatment: credentials, a comprehensive assessment, customized treatment, evidence-based practices and continuing recovery support.

“It’s not just an acute disorder,” said Lori Ducharme, an NIAAA specialist who led development on the tool. “You want someone who will stick with you for the long-term. You need to call them and ask them questions to see if they’ll be the right fit for you.”

The Navigator has a script, lists f questions and an explanation of what answers to listen for so that users can find what they’re looking for more efficiently.

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