Content Reviewed by Cameron Bolish, M.Ed., CEO of PaRC

Addiction affects everyone differently, which means effective treatment must be individualized to meet each patient’s personal needs and goals. While some people may need more intensive or highly structured treatment, others may need more flexible treatment options in order to incorporate treatment sessions into their weekly schedule.

Levels of Care in Addiction Recovery

The current treatment system follows a continuum of care, which means that patients enter treatment at a level deemed appropriate to meet their needs but can shift to more intense or less intense therapy on an as-needed basis. This continuum helps patients make successful transitions between different levels of care. For substance use and addiction treatment specifically, The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) outlines the five primary levels of care as:

  • Level 0.5: Early intervention services
  • Level I: Outpatient services
  • Level II: Intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization services
  • Level III: Residential and inpatient services 
  • Level IV: Medically managed intensive inpatient services

It is important to be familiar with each level of care to recognize that every person, no matter how many times they have gone through treatment, will find themself needing different levels of care throughout recovery. By understanding each level of care, you can acknowledge that all play a critical role in an individual’s recovery journey.

Level 0.5: Early Intervention Services

This level of care is designed for individuals who may have increased risk factors for developing an addiction or other substance use disorder. It helps patients address personal substance misuse, educates patients on the consequences of continuing substance use and helps patients prevent the development of future disorders.

Early intervention services may include treatment engagement and harm reduction interventions, especially for those exhibiting signs of a substance use disorder but do not meet diagnosable criteria or are not yet ready to commit to treatment. Engagement in treatment can help patients reduce the risks and harms associated with substance use.

Understanding the risk factors associated with developing an addiction is essential for everyone—even if a person is not regularly using or misusing substances. In general, there are three categories of risk factors to be wary of:

  • Genetic risk factors
  • Environmental risk factors
  • Drug-specific risk factors

If and when a patient meets the criteria for a diagnosable substance use disorder, they may be prompted to shift into a different level of care.

Level I: Outpatient Services

Outpatient services allow patients to engage with regular treatment appointments throughout the week while staying involved with other personal responsibilities, such as work or school. There is no overnight or residential care with outpatient services. It is vital that patients are in a stable living environment, have access to reliable transportation and have a supportive community of friends and family supporting them through their treatment journey.

The frequency and duration of appointments will depend on patient needs. Outpatient services can last as long as necessary, with most programs running from two months well into a year.

Level II: Intensive Outpatient or Partial Hospitalization Services

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) offer a more smooth transition between residential and outpatient services. They are also an excellent option for those that can not commit to residential treatment because of personal responsibilities. IOP programs have many benefits, including:

  • Greater flexibility for patients
  • Greater personal responsibility for patients
  • Increased opportunity to actively apply skills learned in treatment
  • Greater privacy than residential facilities
  • More extensive access to support networks

Partial hospitalization services are the most intensive of all outpatient programs. They offer therapeutic care for patients severely struggling with substance use issues or associated emotional distress. Generally, this level of care provides structured outpatient psychiatric services as an alternative to residential treatment or hospitalization.

Level III: Residential or Inpatient Services

Residential programs, also known as inpatient treatment programs, offer 24/7, live-in care for patients. Residential treatment settings are stable, allowing patients to engage with long-term treatment while following clear expectations and guidelines.

Residential services are an excellent option for individuals that may not have a stable living environment or have limited social support outside of treatment. Programs are highly structured and help patients uncover underlying motives and triggers that initially led them to substance use. For individuals with severe substance use disorders, residential treatment can help them achieve and sustain long-term sobriety without the daily reminders and influence of common environmental triggers.

Level IV: Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Services

The highest level of care has all the benefits of residential treatment and then some. This level of care provides 24-hour treatment services and intensive monitoring for patients. Two standard services offered in this level of care include medical detox and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Patients are seen by therapists and medical professionals multiple times throughout the day to help monitor progress and keep them comfortable.

It is essential to acknowledge that the continuum of care is not necessarily linear. Patients can jump up or down from one level of care to another, while they can also skip several levels of care before they find a comfortable and appropriate treatment program. No matter what level a person finds themself in, trust that the levels of care are there to help patients stay focused and motivated during their journey to achieve and sustain long-term recovery.

PaRC is an addiction treatment facility that offers specialized drug treatment for all ages. We have a program for every level of care, which helps meet the needs of all of our patients. Levels of care are determined upon clinical assessment. To schedule an evaluation, learn more about the different levels of care or hear about treatment options, give us a call today at (713) 939-7272.