Treatment for Drug Abuse

There is no one treatment for drug abuse. This fact reflects the complexity of the condition and its diverse manifestations, highlighting the importance of the assessment process, which is critical in helping determine the best treatment for a given individual. In addition, drug abuse treatment may occur in different settings, with varying degrees of professional assistance (e.g., self-help/12-step and professional help) and other modalities of professional services (e.g., individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and pharmacological treatment).

Drug abuse treatment may be characterized as specialized treatment with one main goal: to stop using the substance. Treatment is primarily talking therapy—counseling and psychotherapy; in addition, medications may be employed to manage detoxification from some drugs and to treat coexisting psychological or medical conditions.

However, regardless of the setting of treatment, the intensity of the contact schedule, or which renders the treatment, it is ultimately talking therapy that takes place. Especially early in treatment, the focus of study is on behavior directly related to drug use and stopping the use of the drug. Most programs and professionals recommend complete abstinence from drugs; some have the goal of harm reduction (allowing users to continue while attempting to reduce drug use to less harmful levels), but they are in the minority.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug abuse treatment may be characterized as specialized treatment with one main goal: to stop the use of the substance.
Drug abuse treatment may be characterized as specialized treatment with one main goal: to stop the use of the substance.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive or uncontrollable drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long-lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to unhealthy behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.

The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is primarily due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior. Thus, addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. Fortunately, there’s a lot of drug abuse treatment obtainable for all kinds of addiction.

Can Drug Addiction Be Treated?

Yes, but it’s not simple. Because addiction is a chronic disease, people can’t simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Instead, most patients need long-term or repeated care to stop using completely and recover their lives.

Addiction treatment must help the person do the following:

  • Stop Using Drugs
  • Stay Drug-free
  • Be productive in the family, at work, and in society 

Principles of Effective Drug Abuse Treatment

Based on scientific research since the mid-1970s[1], the following fundamental principles should form the basis of any effective treatment program:

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is suitable for everyone.
  • People need to have quick access to treatment.
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just their drug use.
  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
  • Medications are often an essential part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
  • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
  • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases and teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.
Drug abuse treatment programs are for getting a person to stop using drugs and return to being a productive member of society.
Drug abuse treatment programs are for getting a person to stop using drugs and return to being a productive member of society.

Treatments For Drug Addiction

Many options have been successful in treating drug addiction, including:

  • Behavioral counseling
  • Medication
  • Medical devices and applications used to treat withdrawal symptoms or deliver skills training
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse

A range of care with a tailored treatment program and follow-up options can be crucial to success. Treatment should include both medical and mental health services as needed. Follow-up care may include community- or family-based recovery support systems.

Medications and Devices Used In Drug Abuse Treatment

Medications and devices can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions.

  • Withdrawal: Medications and devices can help suppress withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. Detoxification is not in itself “treatment,” but only the first step in the process. Patients who do not receive any further treatment after detoxification usually resume their drug use. One study of treatment facilities found that medications were used in almost 80 percent of detoxifications (SAMHSA, 2014). 
  • Relapse prevention: Patients can use medications to help re-establish normal brain function and decrease cravings. Medications are available to treat opioids (heroin, prescription pain relievers), tobacco (nicotine), and alcohol addiction. People who use more than one drug, which is very common, need treatment for all substances they use.

How Are Behavioral Therapies Used To Treat Drug Addiction?

Behavioral therapies help patients:

  • Modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use
  • Increase healthy life skills
  • Persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication

Patients can receive treatment in many different settings with various approaches.

Outpatient behavioral treatment includes a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a behavioral health counselor regularly. Most of the programs involve individual or group drug counseling, or both. In addition, these programs typically offer forms of behavioral therapy such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs
  • Multidimensional family therapy: developed for adolescents with drug abuse problems as well as their families, which addresses a range of influences on their drug abuse patterns and is designed to improve overall family functioning
  • Motivational interviewing: which makes the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment
  • Motivational incentives (contingency management): which uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs

Treatment is sometimes intensive at first, where patients attend multiple outpatient sessions each week. After completing intensive treatment, patients transition to regular outpatient treatment, which meets less often and for fewer hours per week to help sustain their recovery. 

Inpatient or residential treatment can also be very effective, especially for more severe problems (including co-occurring disorders). Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24-hour structured and intensive care, including safe housing and medical attention. In addition, residential treatment facilities may use a variety of therapeutic approaches, and they are generally aimed at helping the patient live a drug-free, crime-free lifestyle after treatment. Examples of residential treatment settings include:

  • Therapeutic communities are highly structured programs in which patients remain at a residence, typically for 6 to 12 months. The entire community, including treatment staff and those in recovery, act as critical agents of change, influencing the patient’s attitudes, understanding, and behaviors associated with drug use. 
  • Shorter-term residential treatment, which typically focuses on detoxification and provides initial intensive counseling and preparation for treatment in a community-based setting.
  • Recovery housing provides supervised, short-term housing for patients, often following other types of inpatient or residential treatment. Recovery housing can help people transition to an independent life—for example, helping them learn how to manage finances or seek employment, as well as connecting them to support services in the community.

How Many People Get Treatment For Drug Addiction?

Addiction is a complex disease that can affect many areas of a person’s life. In 2017, it was estimated that 20.7 million Americans needed treatment for substance use disorders; however, only 2.5 million received specialized substance use treatment[2].

  • Drug addiction can be treated, but it’s not simple. Addiction treatment must help the person do the following:
    • Stop using drugs
    • Stay drug-free
    • Be productive in the family, at work, and in society
  • Successful treatment has several steps:
    • Detoxification
    • Behavioral counseling
    • Medication (for opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction)
    • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
    • Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse
  • Medications and devices can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions.
  • Behavioral therapies help patients:
    • Modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use
    • Increase healthy life skills
    • Persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication
  • People within the criminal justice system may need additional treatment services to treat drug use disorders effectively. However, many offenders don’t have access to the types of services they need.
Behavioral Therapy approaches help engage clients in drug abuse treatment, providing incentives for clients to remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
Behavioral Therapy approaches help engage clients in drug abuse treatment, providing incentives for clients to remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol.

Drug abuse treatment can help many drug-using offenders change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors towards drug abuse, avoid relapse; and successfully remove themselves from a life of substance abuse and crime.

Many of the principles of treating drug addiction are similar for people within the criminal justice system and those in the general population. However, many offenders don’t have access to the types of services they need. Treatment that is of poor quality or is not well suited to the needs of offenders may not be effective at reducing drug use and criminal behavior.

General Principles Of Treatment

Some considerations specific to offenders include the following:

  • Treatment should include developing specific cognitive skills to help the offender adjust attitudes and beliefs that lead to drug abuse and crime, such as feeling entitled to have things one’s way or not understanding the consequences of one’s behavior. This includes skills related to thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.
  • Treatment planning should include tailored services within the correctional facility and transition to community-based treatment after release.
  • Ongoing coordination between treatment providers and courts or parole and probation officers is essential in addressing the complex needs of offenders re-entering society.

At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing information about drug abuse treatment and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

We Level Up treatment center can help with inpatient therapy programs exclusively. Depending on the extent of secondary behavioral disorders such as addiction we can first help assess your condition and thereafter guide you to suitable treatment options. We do not provide outpatient and PHP services at this time. Call to learn more.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

Source

[1] NIDA – Principles of Effective Treatment: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction

[2] SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2017-nsduh-annual-national-report

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