The Ins and Outs of Addiction Treatment

In this article, we discuss a number of topics related to drug addiction treatment. We explain what is meant by drug addiction, how drug addiction is treated and the specific medications and therapies used to treat drug addiction. If you or a loved one suffer from a drug addiction, this article will inform you how you may make use of addiction treatment to improve this situation for the better.

What is drug addiction?

Many people assume drug addiction is a choice. They conclude the individual addiction is at fault for his or her addiction. However, this viewpoint heavily conflicts with a unanimously accepted scientific stance that addiction is actually a disease of the mind. The disease theory of addiction is now accepted by the vast majority of addiction experts across the globe.

The disease of addiction is characterised by loss of control. The person with a drug addiction exhibits compulsive and uncontrollable behaviour, particularly when it relates to seeking out and consuming the drug in question. People affected by drug addiction will continue to engage in drug use despite the negative consequences that arise as a result. These consequences include poor health, loss of career, and damage to family life.

At first, a person will consciously choose to consume drugs. However, over time, continuing to take drugs is largely an involuntary act. The choice to not take drugs becomes compromised. Drug use thus becomes compulsive.

Can drug addiction be treated?

The good news is that drug addiction is highly treatable.
Whilst drug addiction cannot be ‘cured’, it may be arrested. It’s also true that many drug addiction treatment programmes are unsuccessful, and marred by the relapse cycle.

The most effective forms of drug addiction treatment are long-term in nature. This addiction is a chronic disorder. This means treatment must run over several months in order to be effective. Any programme lasting under this amount of time is highly likely to be ineffective.

To be effective, drug addiction treatment must aim to assist the drug user in:

  • Stopping to use drugs
  • Staying drug-free for at least six months
  • Developing a lifestyle that’s fun and interesting without drugs

Generally, no single treatment is effective for every drug user. This means a drug user may attempt many different programmes before one particular approach is settled on. It’s also important to access a drug user’s personality and needs to try to select the most suitable form of treatment from the outset.

It’s usually beneficial to combine several forms of treatment into one overall programme. This is because several forms of treatment typically compound the effectiveness of each other. This is known as a ‘holistic approach’ to addiction treatment.

Treatment typically begins with a medically assisted detox programme. This is then followed up with counselling and therapy to ensure the mental aspect of addiction is addressed.

Treatment should also be reviewed at regular intervals. The needs of recovering drug users will change as their treatment progresses. The needs of somebody who has been in recovery for twelve months will significantly differ to the needs of somebody who is new to recovery.

How is drug addiction treated?

Drug addiction is treated over stages. Treatment begins with detoxification. Here, the physical aspects of addiction are treatment. Medications are given to the patient to help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Following the conclusion of the detoxification, treatment then takes on a more therapeutic approach. Common forms of therapy employed to tackle drug addiction include cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy and dialectical behaviour therapy.

Addiction treatment is most effective when it is tailored to the individual patient’s needs. If addiction treatment is offered on a residential basis, it must be combined with an intensive outpatient basis in order to be effective. Short-term residential treatment programmes without any form of regular outpatient treatment are highly likely to result in relapse.

What are the medications used to treat drug addcition?

During the detox programme that precedes rehabilitation, patients will be given medications to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms. The specific medications that patient receive during detox will vary depending upon the drug they may be addicted to.

Below, we outline each type of medication used to manage withdrawal symptoms according to the drug in question:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol-related withdrawal symptoms are treated with slow acting benzodiazepines such as Librium. This may be combined with an opioid blocker such as naltrexone or an anti-anxiety medication such as acamprosate
  • Opiods: Opiod-related withdrawal symptoms are best treated using a slow-acting and partial opioid agonist such as buprenorphine. Buprenorphine affects the same areas of the brain as do full opioid agonists such as heroin and morphine. In this way, Buprenorphine suppresses withdrawal symptoms

What therapies are used to treat drug addiction?

Therapy is offered following the completion of a detox programme. This allows therapy to take place without the interruption caused by withdrawal symptoms. Now the patient is detoxed, he or she will be better able to concentrate during therapy sessions. Therapy sessions seek to help patients modify their behaviour and address the underlying emotional causes of their addiction to drugs.

Therapy is offered on one of two basis. The first is outpatient treatment. This is when the patient visits a counsellor and then returns home. The vast majority of outpatient therapy sessions are given in group settings. During these sessions, patients will benefit from different forms of therapy such as CBT and DBT as described above.Outpatient treatment is often intensive at first, and then patients will begin to attend therapy sessions less frequently.

Therapy may also take place in an inpatient setting. This is when the patient resides in a ‘rehab’ for literally 24 hours a day for around eight to twelve weeks. This is an extremely intensive form of therapy. Residential therapy is most effective when it is combined with intensive outpatient treatment. This is because addiction is a chronic disorders and it is unlikely to be fully arrested even following the completion of a 12-week residential programme.