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What are the Four Levels of Treatment for Substance Abuse?

By: Samantha Schotters

Treatment-Angel Intervention Services-Ohio-Holly Conklin

                There are four main levels of treatment for substance abuse. These levels include:

  • Level 1 – outpatient treatment
  • Level 2 – intensive outpatient treatment
  • Level 3 – medically monitored intensive inpatient treatment
  • Level 4 – medically managed intensive inpatient treatment

Level 1 is a very relaxed loose treatment plan. It’s like the second level in treatment in the way they treat the clients, which is often with an individualized treatment plan or the 12-step program, but level one and two are different in the intensity of treatment. Often, outpatient programs have 9 hours a week or less, while the minimum hours for intensive outpatient treatment in 9 hours a week. 


            Level 2 is Intensive Outpatient Treatment (also known as IOP for “Intensive Outpatient Program”) is a primary treatment program recommended in some circumstances by a clinical and medical assessment. IOP may be recommended for those who do not need medically-supervised detox. IOP can also enable people in recovery to continue their recovery therapies following successful detox, on a part-time yet intensive schedule, designed to accommodate work and family life.

Start rebuilding your personal life and mending your important family ties right away, when you live at home and participate in intensive outpatient treatment. With the Intensive Outpatient Treatment program you are able to establish a foundation for long term recovery support in your local community right from the start of your treatment, instead of waiting until you return from living away in a rehab center.


            Level 3 is an inpatient treatment plan that allows some freedoms such as working, technology (phones, computers, etc.), and leaving the facility. They do, however, still have structure such as a curfew, restricted behavior such as no relationships inside of the facility, etc. Places that offer level 3 treatment programs are called “sober living homes”, these are meant to reintroduce people recently in residential treatment to society in a gradual way, in order to reduce the relapse risks.


            Level 4 is the most intense form of care out of the four levels of treatment. People in the 4th level of treatment are often starting their recovery, often having to go through detox. People in level four treatment programs are heavily restricted. Things like technology, leaving the facility, and certain other liberties are not allowed.

Why is a Structured Treatment Plan Better than a More Relaxed One?

After treatment, it may be tempting for people to go immediately back home, but one of the biggest triggers for relapse is environment. Chaotic environments may lead to people experiencing a lot of stress, of which is a big trigger for relapse. Often, people cannot change their environment, be it the neighborhood, the people, or the home they are living in, many people do not have the finances to change their situation, so what they need to learn is how to healthily deal with the stress of day to day life, not to engage in self injurious behaviors such as abusing drugs and alcohol.

            Level 1 or 2 treatment centers put you immediately back into the environment you were in before, be it a chaotic home life, a support system consisting of people addicted to drugs, or, in some cases, homelessness, with a bit of support from the outpatient or intensive outpatient treatment center you are attending. While these places do offer support, it is best to build a strong foundation before entering these centers. This foundation can be built via a level 4 treatment center followed by living in a level 3 treatment center, also known as a sober living home.

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If You or a Loved one is Struggling With Drug or Alcohol Addiction 

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