Like other chronic illnesses, substance use disorders (SUDs) tend to get worse over time, causing more harm to the patient.
And similar to the stages of cancer, health care providers measure the severity level of a SUD to help determine the right kind of treatment. The more severe the disorder, the more intense level of care is needed. As a patient moves through treatment, they step down to less intensive levels of care.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine describes treatment for substance use disorders as a continuum marked by four broad levels of care and early intervention.