Addiction & Substance Use Organizations

6 min read · 11 sections

There are a variety of organizations, nonprofits, and educational institutions dedicated to researching, educating, treating, and supporting the science of addiction and those it affects. While each organization has its own area of focus, the primary goals of drug and alcohol organizations include:

  • Deepening the understanding of drug and alcohol misuse and addiction.
  • Exploring the impact addiction has on individuals, families, and communities.
  • Increasing addiction awareness and prevention strategies.
  • Educating the medical community on best practices for treating people with substance use disorders and improving treatments.
  • Influencing policymakers to create legislative changes that can help ensure people with addiction and their families can access the support and treatments they need.

The leading organizations in the United States work to address drug and alcohol addiction to bring about positive change and help individuals with mental and substance use disorders.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the leading medical research agency in the United States.1 A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH makes important research discoveries that improve the health of Americans and help save lives.1 Twenty-seven different institutes and centers make up the NIH.1 Each of these has its own research agenda, focusing on certain diseases or body systems. Two of these institutes concentrate specifically on alcohol abuse and drug abuse.2

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, the NIH sprawls across 300 acres, creating a campus-like environment with more than 75 buildings.2 Some of the country’s leading research takes place on this campus, though more than 80% of the research is conducted by researchers who work in all 50 states and in other countries.2

History of the NIH

The history of the NIH begins in 1887, with the creation of a one-room laboratory within the Marine Hospital Service (MHS), which was established to provide medical treatment and care for men at sea.3 The MHS was tasked with examining passengers arriving from ships for signs of infectious diseases to prevent epidemics.3 Since its inception, NIH research has led to discoveries that helped develop the MRI, understand how viruses can cause cancer, and dozens of other medical advances that have helped save lives.3

NIH Goals and Resources

The NIH’s mission is to “seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.”4

The agency’s goals include:4

  • Fostering fundamental creative discoveries and innovative research strategies and applying them to protect and improve health.
  • Developing, maintaining, and renewing scientific human and physical resources that will help the United States prevent disease.
  • Expanding the knowledge base in medical and associated sciences to enhance the country’s economic well-being.
  • Exemplifying and promoting the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility.

The NIH provides leadership and direction to programs that aim to improve the health of Americans by conducting and supporting research endeavors across the spectrum of human health, including understanding mental and addictive disorders.4

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the institutes under the NIH, supports scientific research on drug use and its consequences.5 The organization strives to “advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health.”5

NIDA addresses questions about drug misuse—from detecting and responding to trends in drug misuse and understanding how drugs affect the brain and body to developing and testing new treatment and prevention approaches.5 In addition to research, NIDA supports public education, research training, career development, and educating the public on various aspects of addiction, drug misuse, and prevention.5

History of NIDA

In 1935, a research facility in Lexington, Kentucky, was established as part of a U.S. Public Health Service Hospital.5 In 1948, it became the Addiction Research Center.5 In 1974, the federal government established NIDA to collect data and research the nature of drug misuse with the intent to explore addiction treatment, prevention, training, and services.5 NIDA joined the NIH in 1992.5

The NIH funds many scientific studies, including addiction and drug use-related research that has helped better our understanding of the nature of substance use disorders, how people’s brains and bodies are changed by addiction, and how treatments can promote healing and recovery.5

In 2010, NIDA collaborated with two NIH institutes and the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide $6 million in federal funding to 11 research institutions that explored the impact of substance misuse and addiction on U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families.5 In 2011, NIDA founded the Addiction Performance Project, which was created to educate medical professionals on the stigmas associated with drug misuse in an effort to reduce barriers to treatment for those who need it.5

Today, NIDA continues to provide research and funding to support further research on addiction, drug misuse, and the impact it has on people and public health.

NIDA’s Goals and Resources

NIDA’s efforts focus on several goals, including:5

  • Identifying the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction across the lifespan.
  • Developing strategies to prevent drug use and the consequences of drug use.
  • Developing new and improved treatments to help people with substance use disorders achieve long-term recovery.
  • Increasing the public health impact of NIDA research and programs.

NIDA offers lots of clinical resources, but they also created Family Checkup, an online resource that provides families with information to help educate their children on drug misuse and addiction.5

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, focuses on public health efforts to advance behavioral health in the United States and help individuals with mental and substance use disorders and their families.6 SAMHSA aims to reduce the impact of mental illness and substance misuse on communities throughout the country.6

Four different centers comprise SAMHSA. The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) deals with data and statistics available to the public, policymakers, and researchers; the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) promotes the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders; the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) uses evidence-based prevention approaches to improve behavioral health nationwide; and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) fosters community-based treatment and recovery services throughout the country.7

The research and information provided by these centers help drug abuse organizations in the United States improve access, reduce barriers, and promote high-quality treatment and recovery services to Americans who need it.7

History of SAMHSA

Congress established SAMHSA in 1992, to lead public health efforts and increase the public’s access to research on mental health and substance misuse.8

SAMHSA’s Goals and Resources

SAMHSA provides leadership and resources, including programs, policies, information, and funding to advance mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services to improve the health of individuals and communities.8

To that end, SAMHSA offers a range of resources to help individuals with mental health and substance use disorders and their families. Through the website, people can access data, learn about treatment options, find strategies to address substance misuse with loved ones, and more.8

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) falls under the Department of Health and Human Services.The CDC works to increase the health security of the United States by conducting research, providing health information, and responding to health threats as they arise.9

CDC History

In July 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) opened in Atlanta.10 Initially established to prevent malaria from spreading across the United States, the organization quickly grew, expanding its focus to cover all communicable diseases and providing help to state health departments.10

Since its inception, the CDC has made extensive contributions to public health and continues to function as the nation’s leading health promotion, prevention, and preparedness institution.10

CDC’s Goals and Resources

The CDC fights diseases and supports communities against acute, chronic, curable, and preventable diseases, including alcohol and substance misuse.11

Currently, the CDC’s Injury Prevention and Control arm works to prevent drug misuse, overdose, and deaths, among other initiatives, with strategies that include:12

  • Gathering data.
  • Funding programs to address the public health response to drug misuse and overdose.
  • Supporting healthcare providers and offering opioid prescribing guidelines and tools.
  • Partnering with public safety to provide communities with information and evidence-based strategies to recognize the early warning signs and prevention of opioid overdose.
  • Educating the public.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

The largest grassroots mental health organization in the nation, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) improves the lives of the millions of Americans who live with mental illness.13

NAMI History

Two moms—Harriet Shetler and Beverly Young—who each had sons who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, were fed up by the lack of services and sought out others with similar frustrations. In 1979, NAMI started as a small group of likeminded parents and caretakers sitting around a kitchen table together in Madison, Wisconsin.14

Today, NAMI is an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations, and volunteers across the country all working to raise awareness and provide support and education about mental illness and substance use.14

NAMI’s Goals and Resources

NAMI helps individuals and families affected by mental illness in myriad ways, including:15

  • Offering free peer-led education programs for individuals with mental health conditions and their families, significant others, friends, caregivers, and mental health professionals to provides skills, training, and support.
  • Providing volunteers with tools, resources, and skills to advocate and help shape public policy that results in improved treatments, increased access to services, and better outcomes for people with mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Offering the NAMI HelpLine, where individuals can call for information and support about mental illness, including referrals to local resources and treatment centers.
  • Holding events and activities to fight stigma, promote understanding of mental illness, and stress the importance of mental healthcare.

American Addiction Centers (AAC)

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a nationwide organization that provides high-quality, compassionate, and evidence-based care to people struggling with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and co-occurring behavioral and mental health disorders.16

AAC provides comprehensive and individualized addiction treatment plans for each person we serve in our inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities to promote long-term recovery and help people achieve wellness of the mind, body, and spirit.16 To foster this, AAC offers several specialized programs, including services for veterans, first responders, licensed professionals, members of the LGBTQ community, people with chronic mental illnesses, and more.

Additionally, many staff members—from senior leadership to admission navigators—have experienced addiction themselves or actively supported a loved one through recovery. They understand the journey innately.

AAC’s History

Founded in 2007, in Brentwood, Tennessee, by Michael Cartwright, AAC has now become the largest network of private rehab facilities across the country with programs in California, Nevada, Texas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida.16

AAC’s Goals and Resources

AAC provides support, education, treatment, and therapies to individuals and families affected by drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental and behavioral health issues.16 In addition to offering a variety of evidence-based addiction treatments, AAC supports education with guides on a variety of topics—from the symptoms of addiction and what to expect during treatment to finding state-funded rehab centers and advice for families affected by substance use. AAC also offers a 24/7 hotline and text support to help individuals get information about addiction treatments. Call our drug abuse hotline at

Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of more than 60,000 health and human services—including behavioral health and opioid treatment programs, among others—at over 28,000 locations.17

History of CARF

In 1966, two organizations—the Association of Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) and the National Association of Sheltered Workshops and Homebound Programs (NASWHP)—each with a decade of experience developing standards for their memberships, pooled their interests to form CARF.18

In 1994, CARF reorganized to focus on accreditation of organizations that provide services in three fields: vocational and employment and developmental disabilities, medical rehabilitation, and alcohol and other drugs and mental health.18

CARF’s Goals and Resources

CARF’s accreditation, research, education, and improvement services ensure that individuals seeking programs have access to the services they need, are treated with respect, and are empowered to exercise informed choice.17

When individuals carefully research and select their options in treatment facilities for drug or alcohol misuse, a rehab accreditation, like CARF, means the facility commits to continual improvement and meets international standards of quality.17

In addition to accrediting substance abuse organizations, CARF provides the tools to help individuals find CARF-accredited treatment programs and offers educational brochures on a variety of topics—all created by industry-leading organizations and government agencies.17

NAADAC The Association for Addiction Professionals

NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, represents more than 100,000 addiction-focused counselors, social workers, educators, administrators, and healthcare professionals worldwide.19 They work to help individuals, families, and communities through addiction education, counseling, research, prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery, and support.19

History of NAADAC

Founded in 1972, as the National Association of Alcoholism Counselors and Trainers (NAACT), the organization aimed to develop a field of professionals with appropriate qualifications and backgrounds to properly serve individuals with addiction and substance use disorders.19

In 1982, the organization evolved to become NAADAC and unite professionals who work in alcohol and drug addiction services.19

NAADAC’s Goals and Resources

NAADAC strives to lead, unify, and empower professionals who work in addiction to achieve excellence through advocacy, education, knowledge, standards of practice, ethics, professional development, and research. The hope is that every individual, family and community that needs addiction programs and treatment can receive up-to-date, science-based services. To do this, NAADAC provides free webinars and online training and publishes articles and blog posts.20

The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD)

The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc. (NASADAD) is a private, not-for-profit organization that aims to foster and support the development of effective alcohol and drug misuse prevention and treatment programs in every state.21

NASADAD is engaged in several activities, including:21

  • Promoting, planning, developing, expanding, and utilizing educational materials and scientific activities about addiction.
  • Coordinating and facilitating the exchange of information with states concerning policies regarding alcohol and drug use.
  • Responding to requests for grants and other funding opportunities that help NASADAD carry out its goals to serve every state.

History of NASADAD

Created in 1971, NASADAD initially served drug agency directors in each state.21 In 1978, membership expanded to include state alcoholism agency directors, too.21 Today, NASADAD examines drug and alcohol-related issues and works with several federal agencies and national organizations to plan substance use disorder services, treatment, and recovery programs.21

NASADAD’s Goals and Resources

NASADAD has several objectives, including:21

  • Facilitating research translation and knowledge sharing to improve the treatment for substance use disorders.
  • Fostering communication and collaboration with organizations and national associations that work in the field of substance misuse.
  • Promoting substance misuse prevention and treatment training.
  • Promoting the establishment of national standards for substance use disorder treatments.
  • Shaping public policy to advance effective prevention and treatment services.

NASADAD maintains—and provides for the public—a list of organizations that focus on alcohol and other drug misuse prevention, treatment, and recovery; a list of federal resources that relate to substance use disorders; and their own reports on topics that range from reaching at-risk youth to accessing treatment for opioid overdose.21

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) consists of individuals who collectively come together as a fellowship to work on their relationship with alcohol and sobriety.22 AA meetings are free and open to anyone who wants to take action—through a 12-step program—regarding their alcohol misuse.22

This abstinence-based organization holds meetings in most cities and towns throughout the United States and other parts of the world. Self-supporting groups run on donations from members.22

History of AA

AA began in 1935, in Akron, Ohio when Bill W., a stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., a surgeon—both in recovery—started working with individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, the medical term for alcohol addiction, in Akron’s City Hospital.23 Taking the approach that alcohol use disorder was a disease of the mind, body, and emotions, the two began helping others in the Akron area achieve recovery and a life free from alcohol misuse.23

By the fall of that same year, a similar group formed in New York, and by 1939, the existing groups published “Alcoholics Anonymous,” which shared AA’s philosophies, methods to achieve sobriety, and the 12 steps of recovery.23 Today, AA is a global fellowship with meetings held in over 180 countries, helping countless individuals achieve long-term recovery.23

AA’s Goals and Resources

To help its members achieve sobriety, AA hosts meetings.24 The only requirement to attend a meeting and join the fellowship is a desire to quit drinking. Local and virtual AA meetings can be found on AA’s website.

Beyond in-person and virtual meetings, AA provides resources for individuals who misuse alcohol, families of people with alcohol use disorders, and professionals who work with them.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a nonprofit, global fellowship of people who misuse drugs. The organization follows the 12-step model developed for people with substance use disorders.25

Members provide ongoing support and guidance to help individuals maintain long-term recovery.25

History of NA

Inspired by the widespread success of AA, a group of individuals in Los Angeles developed the foundation of NA in the early 1950s. NA grew slowly, with new groups popping up throughout North America and Australia in the 1970s.26

In 1983, NA published its self-titled basic textbook, and shortly after, NA’s popularity exploded, with meetings held in more than 12 countries.26 Today, group meetings take place in 143 countries. Collectively, around the world, there are over 76,000 in-person and virtual NA meetings each week.26

NA’s Goals and Resources

NA’s sole mission is “to provide an environment in which addicts can help one another stop using drugs and find a new way to live.”26

Individuals can find local and virtual meetings online; resources for people with substance use disorders, their families, and healthcare providers; and educational materials about addiction, prevention, and treatment.26

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