Many of the things people need to accomplish can be done online. From buying groceries to going to school and even bank loans can be accomplished with the click of a key. Medical, mental health, and substance abuse professionals are now using online platforms to provide care to more individuals. 

Telehealth or telemedicine is the use of computers and video conferencing platforms to perform medical services. Telehealth has been used in the military and with medical specialists for years. But, telehealth is becoming more common with 29 states plus Washington D.C. passing parity laws for telemedicine. 

What is Online Substance Abuse Treatment?

Online substance abuse treatment is precisely that treatment for substance abuse received via an internet-connected device. Addiction professionals provide care through video, audio, text, or a combination of all three. The level and type of care individuals receive depends on the therapy being received.

online substance abuse treatment

During online substance abuse treatment, addiction professionals use the same therapeutic techniques, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and group therapy. Individuals still attend group meetings to build recovery skills. The only difference is that it is not in person but through any internet-enabled device. 

The most intense forms of online substance abuse treatments will provide care via all communication methods. Certain therapy sessions are most effective when received through a video conference. This closely resembles in-person sessions and allows addiction professionals to verify a person’s wellbeing. 

Methods of Online Substance Abuse Treatment

Online therapy sessions for substance abuse rely on a variety of technologies. These technologies include:

  • Therapist-Led Treatment – Therapists can meet with individuals through video, phone calls, emails, and chats. To ensure privacy, sessions should be held through HIPAA compliant platforms.
  • Computer-Assisted Treatment – Individuals can participate in online, interactive programs that guide them through recovery. Treatment is through a set of predefined programs of videos. Individuals take assessments, follow tutorials, and complete assignments without interacting with a person.
  • Web-Assisted Treatment – Substance abuse treatment uses mobile apps and websites to assist in recovery.
  • Online Supplemental Treatment – Supplementing traditional treatment with web-based therapy is growing in popularity. Combining treatments has shown increases in the success of treatment. 

Why Choose Online Abuse Treatment?

Online substance abuse treatment has become increasingly popular. And, under the right circumstances and depending on a person’s addiction can be highly beneficial. While traditional substance abuse treatment is the best route for many people, many others are finding success with online treatment.

Benefits of online substance abuse treatment include but are not limited to the following.

Treatment Longevity

Research suggests that individuals who participate in online substance abuse treatment stay in treatment longer than in some traditional treatments. And for some, online treatment is more effective. Individuals who have struggled in traditional treatment have found that combining online tools increased their participation in treatment. 


Online substance abuse treatment can take place anywhere there is an internet connection. Since most people have a cell phone with internet access, treatment and support are available at the push of a button. 


People hiding their substance abuse from friends, family, and coworkers might fear that their secret will be revealed if they seek treatment. Online substance abuse treatment takes away that risk. Being in the privacy and comfort of home helps people feel safe enough to expose their struggles.

Access in Rural Areas

Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use is extremely high in small towns, but access to treatment is minimal. 34 percent of adults in rural areas struggle with substance abuse issues. Online substance abuse treatment allows individuals in rural areas to receive treatment. 

Treatment from Home

Those who have a difficult time leaving home or are homebound for health issues can easily access substance abuse treatment. Others do not have access to traditional substance abuse treatment because they lack transportation. With online addiction counseling, the need for transportation and fighting traffic is not a factor.

Drawbacks of Substance Abuse Treatment

Online substance abuse treatment has many benefits, but it also has some drawbacks. A few disadvantages of online substance abuse treatment include:


Online substance abuse treatment may not be useful for a person who needs to detox first. Like opioids and alcohol, many substances require medical detox programs to safely rid the body of drugs or alcohol.

Lack of Human Touch

With online substance abuse treatment through teleconference, individuals can see their therapist, but it can still feel impersonal. Interpreting body language through a screen can be difficult. Some people need the connection that traditional treatment provides.


In traditional substance abuse treatment, therapy is performed in a distraction-free environment. But with online substance abuse treatment, many distractions can interfere with therapy. 

Is Online Substance Abuse Treatment Safe?

The number one priority of any online substance abuse provider must be confidentiality and security. Laws and regulations are in place to protect individuals and include:

  • HIPAA, the Health and Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, provides rules to protect a person’s Protected Health Information (PHI). This applies to online medical services the same way it works in office settings.
  • HIPAA refers to a person’s PHI and health history. But, it does not apply to the treatment itself. In an office setting, privacy can be controlled due to walls and doors. In online substance abuse treatment, the amount of privacy can not always be controlled on the receiver’s end. 

All online interactions, whether video, text, voice, or email, should be encrypted. That means it should be scrambled into something that can’t be read. All data should be handled in ways to ensure the highest level of privacy. 

Three ways to know this information about the treatment facility is:

  • Certification
  • Accreditation
  • Licensure

A trusted substance abuse treatment center should be licensed in their state. The facility should also have accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). CARF accredits more than 6,700 treatment centers. The licensing and accreditation process is rigorous and ensures the client’s privacy and confidentiality. 

Online Substance Abuse Therapy Programs

Many therapy programs that are provided in traditional substance abuse treatment can also be offered online. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly successful form of substance abuse treatment that can be provided online. CBT focuses on identifying and avoiding negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT can help individuals recognize triggers that can lead to relapse and how to avoid them. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapist-led structured conversation that allows individuals to recognize the effects of substance abuse. Individuals learn that changing negative thinking produces positive behaviors. 

Family Therapy is an essential aspect of substance abuse treatment. Families in treatment learn to support their loved ones and encourage lasting sobriety. 

Group Therapy is crucial to building social connections and support systems. Group therapy occurs via video conferencing and is available at a variety of times throughout the day. 

Online Support for Substance Abuse 

With ever-changing technologies and the use of social media, support for substance abuse is at its highest. Before the internet, people received support via the phone or in person. Now there are online meetings, addiction forums, Twitter, Facebook groups, apps, and many other ways to receive support. 

There are many benefits to online support for substance abuse, including:

  • Anonymity – Online support groups are great for individuals who are uncomfortable with others seeing them. Those who fear their friends or family finding out or those who have social issues can receive support from their homes’ safety. 
  • Always available – People are on the internet 24/7, so finding support at any hour is possible. In the middle of the night, a person may connect with someone across the world. An individual’s support group size is always growing through the internet.
  • Online meetings – It is easy to access meetings online through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
  • Individualized pace – Some people may feel rushed or that they are falling behind in treatment. But with online treatment, individuals can go as fast or slow as they feel comfortable.
  • Educational – People are always sharing links to educational information. Online support allows people to share their stories and learn from others. 
  • Maintenence tool – Many apps and support groups are great maintenance tools. Between meetings and therapy sessions, it is essential to have a set of tools to maintain sobriety. 
  • Safety – Many individuals may feel uncomfortable in traditional support meetings. Women may feel vulnerable, while others suffer extreme anxiety that prevents them from attending meetings. 

The Effectiveness of Online Substance Abuse Treatment

A study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry compared online treatment and traditional treatment. 255 adults took part in an online program while another 255 took part in traditional outpatient treatment. The findings show that online treatment reduced substance abuse and increased participation in traditional supplemental treatment. 

Another study published by a group at Yale studied 137 individuals struggling with substance abuse. The individuals were split into three groups; one group went to outpatient treatment once a week. The second group went to individual cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the third group participated in online interactive media and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The results showed group three had a decreased dropout rate and a success rate of 67%. 

Other research shows that online cognitive-behavioral therapy is still effective after a 12-month follow-up. Studies also show online substance abuse treatment can outperform traditional treatment. Whether used as a standalone treatment or in combination with conventional treatment, online substance abuse treatment can increase long-term sobriety.

Online Substance Abuse Treatment: Who It Benefits

Online substance abuse treatment can be beneficial to almost all individuals. But, it is incredibly helpful for the following groups of people.

  • Anyone in active recovery
  • Individuals with physical limitations
  • People with work and family responsibilities
  • People in rural areas
  • Students
  • Executives

Help is Waiting at LA Detox

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, LA Detox can help. Our licensed substance abuse professionals are waiting to answer all your questions and start a life of sobriety. Contact us now, and our specialists will help you choose the program to fit your addiction needs.