With any chronic illness, finding the right treatment is the first step toward disease-management and living life. Addiction is no exception.

Research has shown that most people need at least three months in treatment to significantly address, reduce, or stop their substance use, and best outcomes are associated with longer durations of engaged treatment.1


Every person’s experience with substance use disorder is unique, so treatment plans are most successful when they’re tailored to individual needs. However, substance use disorder treatment usually includes some combination of the following components:2

Detoxification

For many types of substance use disorder, treatment includes an initial detoxification, in which physical symptoms of withdrawal are safely managed. This may take place at an inpatient treatment facility or outpatient program under the care of a medical professional. Certain medications may be used to assist with the detox and to minimize the symptoms of withdrawal, which can be dangerous in certain cases.

Counseling and Behavioral Therapy

Since drug and alcohol treatment plans address both the causes and effects of addiction, counseling and behavioral therapy is an important part of nearly every plan. It helps to address motivation, behavior changes and interpersonal and family relationships. There are a wide range of behavioral therapies available, and a professional can help determine which is most appropriate based on the type of addiction and other issues being treated.

Medication

In addition to medication that may be administered to help with withdrawal symptoms, research shows that some substance use disorders are best managed with longer-term medication assisted treatment (MAT).3 MAT is the use of medications, along with counseling and behavioral therapies, to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose. There are currently highly effective medications that are used in the treatment of tobacco, alcohol, and opioid use disorders.

Support groups

Support groups4 include 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, as well as programs that utilize SMART recovery approaches or other peer-counseling programs. These programs provide opportunities where people in recovery can connect with one another in an environment that promotes and supports long-term recovery.

The ultimate goal of substance use disorder treatment isn’t simply to eliminate the use of a specific substance—it’s to help the person with addiction move forward to become a full member of their community, maintaining steady work and healthy relationships. As you or someone you love works toward that goal, it’s helpful to keep the following considerations about substance use disorder treatment in mind.

Addiction is a disease, and it can be treated.

Research shows that addiction affects brain function and behavior, and overcoming it has nothing to do with willpower or weakness.5 Drug use causes physical and permanent changes to the brain,6 and those changes must be addressed to become substance-free.

Every addiction is unique—so every treatment must be unique.

Not only does treatment depend upon the type of drug involved, but it also depends upon the person with the substance use disorder. Personal and family history with drugs, mental health concerns, and other factors must be taken into consideration to form an effective treatment plan. 

Treatment should address both the substance use and the whole health of the patient.

Detoxification isn’t enough to manage a substance use disorder. A holistic approach to addressing the mental health, personal health, family, work and other relationships and environmental factors must also be addressed to ensure long-term success.

Treatment takes time and commitment.

Recovery from addiction usually requires multiple steps, from initial detoxification to behavioral therapy and support programs. As with other chronic illnesses, there may be relapses, or additional types of treatment may be needed. Understanding and accepting that a person must stay in treatment for as long as necessary is critical for maintaining recovery on long-term basis.

From Kate, a Shatterproof Ambassador:

“The path to recovery requires time, structure, and the non-judgmental support of loved ones. My son Daniel is proof that recovery is possible.”

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Relapse does not mean failure.

With every chronic disease, there’s the chance that a patient will relapse and require additional treatment. This is as true for people with asthma or diabetes as it is for a person with substance use disorder.7 Relapse is not due to lack of willpower or resolve. It just means that additional treatment is needed.

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 If you’re ready to seek help for an addiction, either for yourself or for someone you love, find out how to get started on the path to recovery.

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