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 of treatment to significantly address, reduce, or stop their substance use, and best outcomes are associated with longer durations of engaged treatment.
But long-term addiction treatment doesn't have to involve an inpatient facility in Florida, or a luxury rehab in Malibu. In fact, the most effective (and affordable) addiction treatment begins in the doctor's office.
Every person’s experience with substance use disorder is unique, so treatment plans are most successful when they’re tailored to individual needs. Here are the most common components of a substance use disorder treatment plan.
For many types of substance use disorders, treatment includes an initial period of withdrawal management, often referred to as 'detoxification,' in which the physical symptoms of withdrawal are safely managed. This may take place at an inpatient treatment facility, or at an outpatient program under the care of a medical professional. Attempting to quit a substance "cold turkey" can be dangerous or even fatal for people who are addicted to alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines. Medically-supervised withdrawal management must be part of any addiction treatment plan.
Counseling and behavioral therapy
Therapy helps patients to address past trauma, learn healthy coping mechanisms, improve interpersonal and family relationships, and commit to lasting recovery. Since addiction and behavioral health disorders often go hand in hand, therapy and counseling are a very important part of the treatment plan. There are a wide range of behavioral therapies available, and a professional can help determine which type is most appropriate based on individual needs.
Medications for ongoing addiction treatment
In addition to using medications to manage withdrawal, research shows that some substance use disorders are best managed with longer-term use of medications. FDA-approved addiction medications have been proven to significantly reduce overdose risk and foster successful long-term recovery. There are several highly effective medications that can be used to treat alcohol and opioid use disorders. Learn more about the importance of medications.
Support groups include 12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, as well as programs that utilize SMART recovery approaches or other peer-counseling techniques. These programs provide opportunities for people in recovery to connect with one another in a supportive, safe environment. While peer support programs can be an invaluable resource for some people in recovery, it's important to remember two things: they don't work for everyone, and these programs alone are not an adequate substitute for evidence-based medical treatment for addiction. Learn more here.
The ultimate goal of treatment isn’t simply to eliminate substance use—it’s to help the person with addiction move forward in their life. 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. Drug use causes physical changes to the brain, and those changes must be addressed in order to fully recover.
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, 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.
Quitting a substance isn’t enough to manage a substance use disorder. A holistic approach to addressing the patient's mental health, personal health, and environment, plus family, work and other relationships, will ensure long-term success.
Treatment takes time and commitment.
Recovery from addiction usually requires multiple steps. As with other chronic illnesses, there may be relapses along the way, 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.
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. Relapse is not due to lack of willpower or resolve. It just means that additional treatment is needed.