EP 17 Blog Post

How to Find Help for Addiction

The Emergency Department is the fastest route to treatment. 


Those needing treatment typically don’t want to go to the Emergency Department; they want direct admission to a rehab program. Unfortunately it can take several days or weeks to find an available bed and control withdrawal while they wait, which is not safe, as many are unable to manage symptoms on their own. If they cannot find admission to a rehab, It’s best to get care at a hospital that same day. The following tips will help you achieve admission to treatment in a variety of ways.


  1. If you’re headed to Emergency, call more than one hospital to find the shortest wait time.


This is also a great way to find out which hospital will treat you or your loved one with quality care and compassion. Avoid being turned away when you arrive and save time by calling ahead.


  1. After you find the Hospital with the shortest wait time, inform the emergency department of your needs and ask if they can accommodate you.


If you’re calling for yourself, you can say:


“Hi, my name is ________ and I need medical stabilization for severe alcohol withdrawal, followed by transfer to an inpatient rehab facility; can your emergency department treat me and facilitate this today?”. 


If you’re calling for a loved one, you can say:


“My son/daughter/partner/sister needs medical stabilization for severe alcohol withdrawal, followed by transfer to an inpatient rehab facility; can your emergency department treat him and facilitate this today?”.


  1. If you do not feel up to the task or are experiencing barriers when you call, ask a counselor, healthcare professional or friend to call the emergency department for you with this information. 


During the height of the pandemic, I called ahead for a client. I gave a nurse all the essentials; withdrawal symptoms, length and quantity of use, and I emphasized how eager, polite and highly motivated the patient was to stop drinking.  She carefully took notes and promised to give them to the department physician so the patient could receive the best care.  I asked her to notify me with the disposition, and gave her my phone number. Knowing a patient has an advocate helps keep staff accountable, and informing them ahead of time shows respect, allowing them time to be prepared.


  1. If the Emergency Staff does not follow the treatment plan you requested and wants to discharge you, be very assertive.


Clarify that it’s not safe for you to be discharged to your home. Don’t wait for them to ask if you want to seek further treatment, tell them you do.   I’ve gotten so many calls from patients who were sent home, only to find that they had immediately resumed substance use, or that they couldn’t get admitted to a rehab program from home.


  1. If possible, have a family member or friend stay with you while you’re at the Emergency Department.


Every patient in a medical crisis needs an advocate; a second set of ears to hear what staff advise, to ask questions regarding the treatment plan, especially when admitted for a behavioral health concern.


If you are an advocate for a friend or family member in this situation, make sure staff is aware the patient is requesting transfer to a rehab; and that they’re looking for a bed.  Many rehabs won’t admit a patient unless they have just been medically cleared.


If you do not need or cannot get care at the Emergency Department, you still have options:


  1. If you have a Primary Care Physician (PCP) you trust, call their office first thing in the morning and ask for an urgent, same-day appointment for a medical evaluation to start addiction treatment.


PCP’s (Primary Care Physicians) reserve fifteen minute in-person or telehealth virtual appointments for urgent same day “sick visits”.


You can say:


“Hi, this is ________. I would like an evaluation to start addiction treatment and it’s urgent, can the doctor fit me in for an appointment today?”


For those without a PCP or regular doctor, go to a local Urgent Care, or call the Mental Health Department in your County.


  1. Call your health insurance plan and request a same day medical evaluation. 


Most plans now offer same day Telehealth appointments. Call the Customer Service phone number on your insurance card and ask for one. A person I was helping was able to get a same day Primary Care appointment, and also an appointment with a Psychiatrist two days later; on a Sunday.


  1. Use federal or state resources to find a local treatment program.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) operates a confidential National Helpline at (800) 662–HELP (4357) and has resources online, www.findtreatment.gov.


If you or your loved one do not have financial resources or insurance, SAMHSA can determine eligibility for grants that will fund treatment programs at no cost to the patient.


Scholarships are also offered by treatment facilities to those who have exhausted all other financial assistance options. If you call around to treatment centers, ask if they offer scholarships and find out how to apply.


The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has a great website called the Navigator, that will direct you toward evidence-based treatment and has information on how to interview programs for quality.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a helpline and online resources and guidance on how to obtain treatment.


  1. Dial 211 for up to date information on local treatment availability in your state. 


You can find local resources, information, and assistance for addiction treatment by calling 211 or by visiting their Substance Use Resource Page.


If you need assistance locating long-term or short-term mental health resources, or want to explore mental health treatment options, 211 can help you with this too.


According to 211.org:

  • Specialists are available to lend a judgment-free ear and help you talk through life’s stressors.
  • All 211 conversations are confidential, can be made anonymously, and are available in 180 languages upon request.
  • If you prefer to text, use web chat, or search for resources online, click here to find more ways to contact your local 211.


  1. When you Google “addiction treatment near me”, find the local business results.


Local Businesses are listed after paid advertisements, just below Addiction Treatment Centers and  a local Google map. Typically there are 3 listings, and you can select the button to see “more places”.


Select each local business for an overview, phone number, hours, information, photos, reviews, and website.


Google will not give reliable recommendations based on quality; and many treatment centers advertising online use chat bots to help you gain admission to their program. Be wary of these centers, as they are not always evidence based and may not accept insurance. You’ll still need to interview programs for evidence-based therapies and goodness of fit.




Treatment for addiction is not one size fits all, be wary of programs that claim they can help everyone; it just doesn’t happen that way. There are many treatment methods disguised as addiction treatment that are not medically proven to work. For example, medically supervised withdrawal in an emergency department, detox clinic, five day rehab, or business that looks and acts like a medical setting is NOT addiction treatment. This may stabilize your body, but it does nothing to bring about long term recovery or wellness. Without a period of several months (at least) of additional treatment, the likelihood of resuming use is very high.


Quality addiction treatment starts with an evaluation by a licensed medical professional. This evaluation should also collect information from any family members that are positive influences supporting recovery.


People seeking treatment usually succeed when they have a say in the type of treatment they want to pursue. Therefore it’s important to support your loved ones choices as they make their own healthcare decisions; whether you agree or not.


While we need to make treatment more accessible, the good news is that addiction is a highly treatable illness. Remain hopeful and continue to ask for help in all possible ways.


Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments here.