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Drug Addiction Hotlines: Will They Actually Help You?

Drug abuse hotlines are typically free, confidential resources for people with addictions to seek information about treatment and services. Most are available 24/7 and staffed by people trained to provide advice and referrals for substance abuse treatment.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that they received 68,000 calls per month in the first quarter of 2018 on their national helpline. 

There are different types of drug addiction hotlines. All are intended to provide information and support, but there are differences in their funding and how they operate.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE HOTLINES?

Public hotlines are not attached to any specific drug treatment center. They aim to provide the caller with the information they need and the most accessible options available to them.

Public drug addiction hotlines can be resources for information about local treatment providers and what forms of payment they accept. They may also have information on local and national resources that provide additional information on addiction and related services.

Some private drug hotlines are attached to specific treatment facilities or networks. They serve as sources of information and support, with the goal of encouraging the caller to seek treatment at their facility. This is a standard form of marketing in the addiction treatment industry, and one of many different ways that private treatment facilities seek to market their services. 

If you’re not sure about who operates the hotline, you can ask the person you are speaking with if they are a public hotline or if they are attached to a specific treatment center. 

WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION CAN HOTLINES PROVIDE?

Some of the things that hotlines aim to provide are:

Hotlines can answer questions about dangerous drug interactions, how to identify symptoms of addiction, and the safety risks of different drugs of abuse.

Hotline operators may provide some assessment over the phone, gathering information about user habits and whether the caller is experiencing withdrawal or dependency symptoms. This information can be used to determine what type of care is appropriate on a precursory level.

Hotlines can provide referrals to either public or private treatment facilities. They may also have information on other resources, such as needle exchange programs or safe injection sites for IV drug users.

How to cover the costs of treatment is a common concern. Hotlines may be able to provide information on working with your insurance company to pay for treatment or on accessing public resources for payment.

Family members are often the people who call drug abuse hotlines to seek help for their loved ones. Family members can get support from these hotlines on how to talk to a loved one about addiction, whether an intervention would be appropriate or useful, and what they can do to help their loved one enter treatment. Many families are not sure where to begin, so hotlines can be a great place to start.

Seeking out treatment for substance addiction can be a scary prospect for many people with addictions. Callers may be concerned about withdrawal symptoms, how long treatment will last, whether they should stop using substances before going to treatment, and what they need to bring with them to treatment. Hotlines can answer questions about all of these topics and support people as they prepare to seek treatment.

The decision to seek treatment doesn’t come easily for most people. There are often many considerations to plan for, including time off from work, family responsibilities, financial obligations, and emotional hurdles to overcome before being admitted to a treatment facility. Hotlines can help people plan for their time away from home and provide emotional support as they contemplate the decision to seek treatment.

Hotlines can also support people after treatment is over. Drug addiction hotlines may be able to provide information about local 12-step meetings or other addiction support groups. They may also be able to provide referrals for outpatient treatment or aftercare centers.

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HOW CAN I KNOW IF A DRUG ABUSE HOTLINE IS LEGITIMATE?

Because there are so many different drug abuse hotlines available that could be attached to different treatment centers, there can be differences in the quality of the operations. If you feel uncomfortable with the person you are speaking with or the methods they are using to deliver information to you, then you have a right to be wary about the legitimacy of the organization. 

“Hotlines should not charge you money for information or referrals. Even if the hotline is attached to a treatment facility, they should not be asking for money to provide you with information. If this happens, hang up and look for a different resource.”

A hotline may encourage you to attend a specific treatment facility, but they should not be attempting to charge you just for seeking out information and support.

A black office phone

There are plenty of resources where you can get information and support for free, so you do not need to pay for referrals.

Be wary if the hotline attempts to offer you special bonuses or kickbacks for attending certain facilities.

If the operator offers to waive your insurance deductible or promises to pay for your room and board at a sober living facility while you attend a specific outpatient treatment program, this is another unethical and potentially illegal practice that indicates you should seek out help elsewhere.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

Drug and alcohol abuse hotlines can be great resources to get started on a recovery journey and find answers and support. Here are some you can try:

SAMHSA – Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Where can family members go for information on treatment options?

Sources

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Drug and Alcohol Abuse Helpline. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Treatment Facility Locator. Retrieved from https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

National Alliance on Mental Illness from https://www.nami.org/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

NIDA. (2020, June 3). Where can family members go for information on treatment options?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/where-can-family-members-go-information-treatment

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