NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator points the way to quality treatment

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A new online resource is now available to help people recognize and find high quality care for alcohol use disorder, which affects more than 15 million adults in the United States. The Alcohol Treatment Navigator, designed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is a comprehensive, yet easy-to-use tool to help individuals and their loved ones navigate the often-complicated process of choosing treatment for alcohol problems. With many treatment options available, the navigator makes the search easier by telling them what they need to know - and what they need to do – to find appropriate, quality care. 

“We developed this tool to help address the alcohol ‘treatment gap,’” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D. “In any given year, less than 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder receive treatment, and many of them do not receive the type of care that best fits their needs. A big reason for that, we believe, is that people with alcohol use disorder often don’t know where to turn for help. The Alcohol Treatment Navigator offers a comprehensive strategy to help people search for professionally-led, evidence-based alcohol treatment, which should improve their chances for success.”

The release of the Alcohol Treatment Navigator culminates a nearly two-year development effort grounded in a review of decades of scientific research on clinical interventions and health services, and with input from people seeking alcohol treatment, treatment providers, and researchers.

“Good alcohol treatment can be very hard to find,” said Lori Ducharme, Ph.D., NIAAA’s program director for Health Services Research and lead developer of the navigator.  “Knowing where to look for treatment is difficult, mainly because treatment takes many forms which often are not well integrated into general health care. That makes it hard for people to find the kind of care that they need, when they need it. The navigator is designed to take the mystery and frustration out of that search by guiding them through a step-by-step process to find a qualified treatment provider.”

Another factor, notes Dr. Ducharme, are popular stereotypes about alcohol treatment. Many people think their only treatment options are either a mutual help group or a long-term residential rehab facility.  While those options certainly can be helpful for some people, they are not a good fit for everyone.

“In fact, a theme of the navigator is that different people need different options,” said Dr. Ducharme. “We need to help people understand the whole range of treatment options that are available, how to find one that meets their unique needs and preferences, and that treatments with the strongest chances for success are those that are informed by the results of rigorous scientific research on alcohol use disorder.

Overall, the Alcohol Treatment Navigator is an easy-to-use and comprehensive resource that can inform the search for quality treatment.  It includes:

  • An overview of alcohol use disorder
  • A description of different kinds of professionally-led treatment options
  • Step-by-step instructions for searching several existing online directories of treatment providers, including information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Behavioral Health Treatment Locator
  • Ten questions to ask a provider, and 5 signs of quality to listen for
  • A downloadable Toolkit to help organize and simplify the search process

As its name implies, the navigator is designed to help point the way to evidence-based alcohol treatment options delivered by skilled health professionals, and to help people choose the best options for their specific situations.

About the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorder. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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