How Helpful is that Helpline? – A Guide to Finding Addiction Help on the Internet

January 16, 2007 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

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By Anita Edge

Where do you go? How do you know what is right for your situation? Many different resources exist; and good advice can make a big difference.

Here is a brief outline of available resources on the Internet:

1. The SAMHSA facility locator – A searchable government database of over 10,000 treatment facilities. You can use this yourself to locate treatment centers that meet your criteria, but there are no reviews or success statistics to help you with your decision.

2. Free Referral services and hotlines (found through search engines, directories, and links) – There are many of these, with varying levels of service, and can usually be contacted by phone or email:

– Government agency hotline (such as the SAMHSA help line). These generally search the SAMHSA database for you and give you several facilities to contact.

– Basic help line. Like the SAMHSA help line, many referral lines search the SAMHSA database for you and offer little additional guidance. These are often non-profit organizations and may be specifically geared toward substance abuse issues or may deal with a wide range of social services.

– Affiliated help line. Many help lines are actually affiliated with a particular treatment center. They generally have the goal of determining if your needs and characteristics fit their target public. If so they will direct and perhaps help you get the addict into treatment at their facility. If not, they may refer you to another facility in SAMHSA database.

-Independent help line*. There are referral services not connected with a particular treatment center that will spend some time trying to direct you to the right service for your particular needs. How much time without charging you? It varies and may depend on your particular needs. Getting an addict into treatment can be difficult and time-consuming, and a referral service may recommend bringing in a paid interventionist.

3. Intervention services (look under “Intervention” in your local directory on this site) – A professional interventionist can help you get the addict into treatment, usually not an easy task. Expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for an intervention.

4. Counseling services – Limited counseling services are available for free, and there are many paid services. The most effective treatments for addiction generally are residential treatment programs that include counseling.

Which is for you?

– First, we suggest taking part in support groups such as AA, NA, Al-Anon, etc. and talk to others about their experiences. You will hear recommendations as well as trials, tribulations, and defeats. Keep in mind that others may have different needs from yours, and a treatment center may be well-suited to one person and not another.

– Talk to some referral services. They may or may not be able to help, but are typically manned by people dedicated to helping others get off drugs. You can expect them to have far more experience and understanding of handling addiction than you do.

– With recommendations or programs through work or your insurance, you may want to go directly to a treatment center or counseling service.

How do I find a referral service?

At this time, we are not aware of any directories specifically for referral. If you search using Google, Yahoo, MSN, or another search engine for “drug rehab”, “drug treatment referral”, “alcoholism treatment”, etc., you will find many referral organizations.

How do I tell what kind of referral service it is?

You can’t. If you look at the web sites for referral organizations, they generally look similar. They say “Get Help Now! Call this phone number!” and you may be getting a government-funded organization, an independent organization, or a referral service that is part of a treatment facility. Many web sites have domain names and organization names completely different from the organization they belong to. Many have multiple referral web sites. This is a very common marketing practice on the Internet. All we can suggest is that you ask questions when you talk to them and see how comfortable you feel with their approach.

Can I trust them?

At this time, we are not aware of any scams related to treatment referral. When dealing with anyone over the Internet, there are certain precautions you should always take (due to the anonymity it provides):

– Never give your social security number, credit card, or bank account numbers over the Internet without extensive verification of who the other party is.

– You usually do not need to give full contact information. You can typically give first name only, phone number, and email. It often helps to give information on how you can best be contacted.

– Many households have tensions and conflicts at home. Addiction professionals are aware of this and may be cautious about leaving phone messages. Let them know how to contact you and what to avoid.

– Talk to them and see how helpful they seem. If you feel uncomfortable, try another.

Don’t give up. There is help out there. Just remember, handling addiction is difficult.

For a comprehensive guide to addiction resources, go to

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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