The three missing elements in the treatment of substance use disorders: Lessons from the physician health programs

J Addict Dis. 2016;35(1):3-7. doi: 10.1080/10550887.2015.1102797.


To make recovery, and not relapse, the expected outcome of the treatment of moderate to severe substance use disorders, 3 currently missing elements would need to be emphasized: (1) the definition of long-term recovery as the goal of all treatment and post-treatment interventions; (2) the provision of sustained post-treatment monitoring and professional and peer support, including drug testing; and (3) the insistence by others around the patients on sustained abstinence as crucial for those suffering from moderate to severe and prolonged substance use disorders. Each of these 3 elements is central to the distinctive care management system of the state physician health programs. This approach to the long-term management of substance use disorders fits with the new direction of healthcare for serious, chronic diseases-away from isolated, and expensive acute care episodes of care and toward sustained chronic disease management with long-term monitoring, support, and early re-intervention if and when needed.

Keywords: Substance use disorder treatment; care management; physician health programs.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Patient Care Management / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*