What Are the Different Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a significant issue in America today. Despite the more than 60,000 fatalities caused as a result of drug overdoses, many people who require treatment are largely unaware that there is help available to them.

What Are the Different Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction?

Misconceptions and falsely-held beliefs about addiction prevent thousands of people with drug dependency from reaching out for treatment, either through lack of support from others or because they simply don’t know how to take the next step.

Drug addiction is characterized by compulsive behavior that leads to uncontrollable drug seeking and abuse even when it is patently obvious the person is causing harm to themselves. Addiction goes beyond the occasional urge to use drugs to get high to become a need that is completely beyond an individual’s control.

Although the path to addiction begins with a person making a choice to use drugs, as dependency develops, their ability to choose becomes more compromised. When using becomes a compulsion, an individual has become addicted due to the long-term effects of drugs on brain function and its impact on the reward system.

Can drug addiction be effectively treated?

The short answer is “yes” although the process is far from straightforward. It’s important for people to accept that there is no overnight cure for addiction. The majority of patients in addiction treatment require a program with a duration of anything from a few weeks to a few months and even after treatment has been completed, there is still work to do.

All drug addiction treatment programs have the same objectives, which are to encourage patients to:

  • Stop using and abusing drugs
  • Remain drug-free
  • Live a happier, healthier life

What are different treatments for drug addiction?

There are several approaches that are either used separately or in combination with most drug addiction treatment programs including:

  • Behavioral Therapy
  • Prescription medications
  • Medical applications for treating withdrawal symptoms or for skills training
  • Assessment and evaluation of co-occurring mental illness known as dual diagnosis
  • Aftercare and long-term follow up for relapse prevention

How are medications used in drug addiction treatment?

An addiction treatment program will use a combination of medications for the management of withdrawal symptoms, relapse prevention and also for the treatment of dual-diagnosis patients.


Detox is the first and possibly most important step in a treatment program and is often the most intimidating for patients entering rehab. However, the advantage being in a specialist facility means that patients have access to 24-hour medical supervision throughout the detox process to treat any difficult withdrawal symptoms. According to research, more than 80% of drug rehabilitation centers use medications during detoxification.

Relapse Prevention

Medications are commonly used to allow the brain to establish normal function after prolonged addiction and also reduce cravings. There are specific medications used according to which drug has been abused and treatment programs will be able to deliver a controlled program, where doses are monitored so a patient’s dependency isn’t ‘replaced’ by another substance. Among the other ways, medications prevent relapse is by creating a bad physical reaction should a substance be abused while taking them.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Many people with addiction issues also suffer from a mental health condition. These patients are known as dual-diagnosis and the medical approach is to treat both conditions separately and at the same time. Specific medications will be prescribed for the mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and panic disorder, while other medications specifically for addiction will be administered simultaneously.

Individual and Group Therapy

Open communication is a non-judgmental setting is crucial as part of addiction treatment. Not only is it important for patients to communicate what they are thinking and feeling on a one-to-one basis, but it’s essential to listen to others experiencing the same things. Being in a group environment where everyone is accepting of each other gives additional motivation to stay on the path to recovery. Therapy sessions are also important as a way of establishing a solid support network with people who can be relied on to be there when another is having difficulties.

Alternative, Holistic and Complementary Addiction Therapies

Drug rehabilitation centers across America are offering more holistic addiction therapies than ever before and they have been proven to be highly effective in preventing relapse in recovery. Mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation can equip addicts with the tools they need to cope with the daily stressors and triggers that would otherwise lead to relapse. Animal-assisted therapy such as working with horses together with art or music-based therapies provide people with addiction issues with a wealth of different options to suit all personality types.

Addiction is a difficult and often isolated journey and although the journey to recovery is no joy-ride, there’s plenty of support to be found from a specialist drug rehabilitation program. Everyone has their own backstory and a different experience of addiction and so it makes sense that treatment programs should be as personalized as possible to suit individual care needs. Drug rehabilitation facilities offer the treatment solutions and each patient their own route map towards recovery.

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