Addiction is a chronic and complex disease that requires long-term, intensive treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 14.5 million Americans ages 12 and over were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, and 8.3 million Americans were diagnosed with some form of substance use disorder (SUD) in 2019. Regardless of the severity of an individual’s condition, comprehensive addiction treatment can effectively manage substance use disorders.
The goal of addiction treatment is to reverse the negative impact of persisting substance use disorders. For this reason, a combination of behavioral and medicinal science is used in a variety of settings for varied periods. In addition to quitting harmful drug use, addiction treatment also aims to return individuals to productive functioning in their families, workplaces, and communities.
What Is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing disease that affects an individual physically and psychologically. Drug addiction can develop from the use of either illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, or legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, or prescription opioid pain medications.
The voluntary act of taking drugs is the first step towards addiction. But the ability to cease using, on the other hand, deteriorates over time. This lack of control is primarily due to the long-term effects of drug use on brain function. Addiction influences parts of the brain associated with reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior. For this reason, the sooner you seek treatment for drug addiction, the more likely you are to prevent or minimize some of the serious repercussions of this disease.
Treatment for Drug Addiction
There is a wide range of treatment options available for drug addiction. Studies indicate that addiction treatment is most effective when treatment is designed to address specific emotional, medical, psychosocial, and other aspects of each individual’s needs. For this reason, drug addiction treatment usually involves a combination of services.
As such, successful addiction treatment programs consist of several components, including:
- Behavioral therapy
- Medical applications for treating withdrawal symptoms.
- Evaluation and treatment of co-occurring mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- Other services to address a patient’s various occupational, legal, familial, and social issues.
- Long-term follow-up care to reduce the risk of relapse.
The chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction necessitates that patients require lifelong treatment. For many individuals, addiction treatment is an ongoing process involving various interventions and continuous monitoring.
What Is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is characterized by a strong desire to consume alcohol and the inability to stop drinking even when it causes significant personal or social harm. Alcohol addiction is one of the most prevalent forms of substance abuse in the world.
Alcohol is frequently abused in conjunction with other substances. But as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, alcohol poses a serious risk when combined with other medications of the same class, such as benzodiazepines and certain painkillers. Irresponsible alcohol use on its own can be dangerous, but it can quickly become lethal when combined with other substances.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Treatment for alcohol addiction is determined by the severity of a patient’s condition and personal recovery goal. Treatment can vary based on whether the patient desires to cut down on drinking or achieve abstinence. Individuals who wish to overcome their AUD effectively will require assistance and guidance from an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation center that provide services such as:
- Detoxification – Detoxification is a series of interventions to assist patients safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol, allowing them to transition into a formal and often longer-term treatment program. However, if you are pregnant or have an underlying health condition like cardiovascular disease, consult your doctor before attempting to detox.
- Medications for alcohol use disorder (MAUD) – Certain medications can help patients quit drinking, treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and reduce the risk of relapse. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for treating AUD, including naltrexone, acamprosate (Campral), and disulfiram (Antabuse).
- Counseling and therapy – Counseling and therapy help patients better understand their addiction and facilitate recovery from the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction.
What Is Opioid Addiction?
Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is a chronic disease characterized by psychological and physical opioid dependence, withdrawal, a high risk of relapse, and fatality. Opioid addiction includes the illegal use of heroin and other opium derivatives and the long-term abuse of prescription opioid pain relievers, including codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Although opioids are an effective medication when used as prescribed, they also carry the risk of addiction due to their powerful effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that nearly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse their medications. And between eight and 12 percent of patients using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Medication-assisted treatment programs (MAT) are effective treatment options for individuals suffering from opioid addiction. MAT involves the use of medication along with counseling and behavioral therapies.
Medications provided through MAT programs include:
- Opioid agonist therapies (OAT) – Opioid agonist medications such as methadone or buprenorphine help manage withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and the risk of relapse.
- Opioid antagonist medications – Opioid antagonist medications such as naltrexone and naloxone are better suited for individuals who cannot be on OAT due to medical reasons.
As with any SUD treatments, effective opioid addiction treatment should also incorporate counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Principles of Effective Treatment
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the following 13 principles should form the basis of any effective addiction treatment program.
- Addiction is a complicated but treatable disease that impairs brain function and behavior.
- There is no one-size-fits-all treatment method for everyone.
- People require immediate access to treatment.
- Effective treatment considers all of the patient’s requirements, not just their substance use.
- It is vital to stay in treatment for a sufficient amount of time.
- The most widely used forms of treatment are counseling and other behavioral therapy.
- Medications, especially when paired with behavioral therapy, are often a crucial aspect of treatment.
- Treatment plans must be evaluated and adjusted regularly to meet the changing demands of the patient.
- Treatment should address other possible mental illnesses.
- Medically-assisted detoxification is only the initial stage of treatment.
- Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
- Drug use during treatment needs to be closely monitored at all times.
- Patients should be tested for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases and be educated to lower their risk of contracting these illnesses.
The most effective programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet an individual’s needs.
Types of Addiction Treatment Programs
Addiction treatment includes a wide range of treatment modalities. And familiarizing oneself with the different types of treatment programs can help individuals find the right treatment.
Addiction treatment programs often fall into one of two categories; inpatient or outpatient rehab. While equally focused on rehabilitation, each type has unique attributes and benefits to offer. As such, addiction treatment centers offer different levels of outpatient and inpatient care, including:
- Inpatient Treatment Programs – Inpatient treatment is the most intensive level of treatment, offering 24-hour care with medical and emotional support.
- Residential Treatment Programs – Individuals with more long-term requirements who do not require the intensity of a 24/7 medically monitored inpatient program should consider residential rehab programs.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – IOPs are for individuals with substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health disorders who don’t need medical detox or 24-hour supervision. Outpatient rehabs are part-time programs, allowing the recovering individual to keep attending work or school during the day.
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – PHP is more intensive than an IOP program but less than a full inpatient or residential rehab. PHP necessitates more visits and sessions per week than IOP. A PHP patient is not required to stay at the facility for the duration of their treatment, and they are free to live anywhere they like.
- Addiction Therapy – Addiction therapy can teach patients how to recognize, avoid, or respond to high-risk relapse situations and develop coping strategies in the face of drug cravings. Addiction Therapy consists of individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.
The length and duration of treatment are most often determined based on the patient’s progress. However, regardless of the treatment program chosen, each person must receive an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of their addiction, the presence of any co-occurring mental health disorders, and other unique needs.
How Are Medications Used in Addiction Treatment?
Medications are used in addiction treatment to reduce addictive behaviors. The most effective medications are those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medications can assist with breaking the chains of physical dependence, helping to ease difficult withdrawal symptoms, reducing the risk of relapse, and managing any other medical or mental health issues that may have been left untreated or undiagnosed along the way.
Most medications for substance use disorders fit into three general categories:
- Full agonist medications – Full agonists directly stimulate receptor sites in the brain. For example, full agonist medications like methadone bind to the opioid receptor in the brain similar to heroin. These medications are generally prescribed as replacement therapy. Agonist medications are taken daily to decrease cravings or withdrawal that can lead to a relapse.
- Partial agonist medications – Partial agonists act like agonists but do not stimulate the opioid receptor to the same degree. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist developed for detoxification and used as a maintenance medication for patients at risk of relapse.
- Antagonist medications – These medications bind to the opioid receptor without stimulating it and prevent drugs from binding to the receptor. Naltrexone is an example of an antagonist medication used in the treatment of opioid addiction.
Medication is not a standalone treatment for substance use disorders. It should accompany other addiction management techniques such as behavioral treatments, counseling, and aftercare support groups. Combining all these treatment elements works in synergy to mitigate substance abuse and reduce the probability of relapse.
How Are Behavioral Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment?
Behavioral therapy is a treatment technique that aids in the alteration of self-destructive behaviors. It helps people stay motivated during their treatment, provides coping strategies for cravings, and helps manage the risk of relapse. Behavioral therapies can also help people improve relationships, parenting skills, and family dynamics. As such, individuals can participate in a range of outpatient behavioral treatment programs, including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy is used to adjust how a person feels by modifying attitudes and behaviors concerning substance abuse. CBT can also be used to treat co-occurring disorders like bipolar disorder.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – During DBT, severe mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder are treated in conjunction with a substance use disorder. This therapy aims to encourage people in recovery to remove triggers from their life.
- Contingency Management Therapies – Contingency management uses positive reinforcement to change detrimental behaviors.
- Motivational Interviewing – Motivational interviewing is a technique for enhancing an individual’s internal motivation for change. It’s developed based on motivational psychology principles.
- Family Behavioral Therapy – Family behavioral therapy works well for addressing family dysfunction caused by substance abuse or comorbid disorders.
- 12-Step Programs – These programs focus on building community support through attending regular meetings. The 12-step principle is used in a variety of programs, including:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – for those recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – for people recovering from drug abuse and addiction.
What to Expect at an Addiction Treatment Program?
Although the exact schedules may differ from center to center, individuals can anticipate going through the following steps after enrolling in a rehabilitation program:
- Intake – The intake process often involves gathering basic information about the patient and their background.
- Assessment – Psychological and medical assessment.
- Orientation – The patient will be introduced to basic treatment concepts and goals.
- Addiction treatment – Inpatient or outpatient care.
- Aftercare planning – Aftercare planning is the final step in addiction treatment.
The duration and pace of treatment will be determined by the patient’s unique circumstances and recovery milestones.
How to Choose the Right Addiction Treatment Center?
Once you have decided to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, choosing a treatment program that addresses your unique needs and circumstances is important. Selecting the right treatment center will increase your chances of completing the program successfully and maintaining your sobriety in the future. As such, it would be beneficial to consider the following before making your choice.
- Determine your treatment goals – Before selecting a treatment program, seek advice from a qualified clinician specialized in addiction to clarify your treatment goals and requirements.
- Accreditation, licensing, and certifications – When a treatment center is accredited, it is held to a higher standard that is stringent and unbiased. Choose a facility that has both the necessary state license and accreditation from a reputable accreditation firm.
- Use of evidence-based practices – The most effective treatment programs use evidence-based approaches that have been established through science-based research. Examples of evidence-based programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step facilitation, and medication-assisted treatment.
- Availability of mental health services – The most promising rehab centers incorporate treatments for both addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders at the same time.
- Availability of specialized programs – It’s important to choose rehab programs that provide individualized and tailored care.
- Length of program – Your progress is determined by the length of time spent in treatment. Look for programs that offer different levels of rehabilitation so that you can advance to a less intensive level of care as you progress through recovery.
- Cost – Substance abuse treatment can be costly, so look for in-network addiction centers with your insurance provider. The “in-network” also signifies that the program has met the insurance provider’s quality standards.
- Post-treatment recovery support – Quality treatment centers provide post-treatment support services and assistance to help patients maintain recovery after rehab.
Benefits of Addiction Treatment
There are many benefits to seeking professional addiction treatment. The most significant benefit of any treatment program is getting the individual off drugs or alcohol and guiding them to live a healthier life. The following are some of the other benefits of receiving addiction treatment:
- A safe and supportive environment – Patients will be surrounded by others who understand their situation within a safe and supportive environment. Peer support is an important component of treatment and is required for long-term sobriety.
- Multiple therapies and treatments – Rehab programs include a wide range of therapy options, which is important because no single treatment is right for everyone.
- Setting goals and building new habits – Addiction treatment can help teach people how to set short and long-term goals concerning their recovery and accomplish those goals.
- Ongoing support – Ongoing support is generally provided in the form of support group meetings and counseling to ensure that patients receive the continued help they need when they return home.
Individuals who struggle with substance use disorders often wish to quit but find it difficult to do so on their own. Seeking help from addiction specialists can help improve your chances of long-term sobriety and achieve successful recovery. Addiction treatment programs can help individuals find their path to recovery by connecting them to the most appropriate level of care that best fits their needs.