A Deeper Guide to Addiction Treatment

levels of care addiction treatment

Addiction Treatment and the ASAM Levels of Care

Why is it so important to have a discussion surrounding the idea of addiction treatment?

From the alcohol prohibition from 1920 to 1933 to the Hippie Movement of the 60s and 70s which made recreational weed and LSD us more popular, to the War on Drugs in1971, and more recently, the Opioid Epidemic beginning in the late 90s, drugs have been a huge part of American society.

Drug abuse and addiction affect not only individuals. Abuse and addiction also affect families, the community and all of society. Due to these costly and far-reaching effects, it’s important that you’re informed as possible on addiction treatment options either for you or for a loved one.

As such, knowing what to expect can reduce the anxiety people may feel about addiction treatment and encourage them to get help.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)

The first step for learning more about addiction treatment can be finding out more about the types of care and the levels of care.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine, more commonly called ASAM, has a history going back to 1954.

  • They are a society composed of over 5,000 professionals in the medical field.
  • These professionals are clinicians and physicians specializing in helping people with addiction.
  • The mission of ASAM is to increase access and improve the quality of addiction treatment.
  • The organization also seeks to educate fellow professionals and the public alike. They work to help in the research and prevention of drug addiction
  • The ASAM places appropriate physicians in a position to help patients who suffer from addiction.


The ASAM CONTINUUM™, also known as ASAM Criteria Decision Engine™, is a guide to assist counselors, clinicians, and other medical treatment officials to decide what kind of drug addiction treatment is necessary for the patient and how intense it should be.

  • The continuum describes addiction treatment identified by four main levels of service including an early intervention level.
  • These numbered levels also include decimal numbers to better show the steady increase of intensity of care.
  • Using the continuum, clinicians can assess to figure out the best ASAM Level of Care that the patient needs.

ASAM Level 0.5 – Early Intervention

Level 0.5 is the least severe form of drug abuse. Therefore this is usually before the patient can even be considered addicted.

  • At this level of addiction treatment, someone in the persons’ life be it a family member, friend or doctor is aware the patient has a problem that is developing or has already developed and is at risk of getting worse.
  • At this level, services may include individual, group, or family counseling.
  • This level may include planned educational experiences to help the patient recognize and avoid harmful behavior.

ASAM Level 1 – Outpatient Services

This level of care usually consists of about 9 hours a week of recovery and motivational enhancement strategies.

  • These services are usually more organized and official than simple intervention.
  • They can help the patient make amazing progress in their alcohol and/or drug dependency, and their physical and mental health.
  • This level includes regularly scheduled visits from a health care professional.

ASAM Level 2 – Intensive Outpatient Services/Partial Hospitalization

At this level of care, things become more in-depth. Therefore, care providers can handle the complexity of the patients’ particular situation.

  • This level of service helps patients with their addictions and the co-occurring conditions that come along with them.
  • These outpatient services usually extend to more than 9 hours weekly, and in some cases, even more than 20 hours weekly.
  • The kind of addiction treatment can include psychiatric consultation, pharmaceutical consultation, and if need be, 24-hour crisis services.

ASAM Level 3 – Clinically Managed Low-Intensity Residential Services

Here is where treatment levels are for people severely addicted to a substance. At this level, the dangers of withdrawal or overdose are a high possibility.

  • This level of addiction treatment provides 24 living support with trained personnel at least 5 hours of clinical service a week.
  • At this level, a wide range of services are provided including clinic-based, and community recovery based.
  • These extend to medication management, recovery skills, relapse prevention, and other similar services.

ASAM Level 4 – Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Services

  • The highest intensity service there is available for someone suffering from any kind of addiction or substance abuse disorder.
  • On this level, the patient moves to a facility where they receive around the clock primary and nursing care.
  • This level of addiction treatment is for the treatment of severe cases where the patient is guaranteed to suffer withdrawal effects.

So the nature of this type of addiction treatment is to provide 24-hour medical help. The assistance addresses the patients medical, emotional, behavioral, or cognitive problems that come from suddenly stopping a drug.

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