Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, which stimulates, changes, and potentially damages the brain’s reward system through compulsive ingestion of an intoxicating substance, or by performance of a specific behavior like shopping or gambling. As addiction is better understood by psychologists and medical researchers, treatment for addiction is changing. Drug addiction treatment is a collection of detox, rehabilitation, and support programs that help people overcome their addictions and maintain sobriety. Treatment should be a long-term process, because substance abuse and addiction have no simple, one-time, or one-size-fits-all answers.
There are many myths about treatment, relapse, and the affected individuals who seek treatment. Unfortunately, these myths can prevent people from getting the help they need, whether it is their first attempt at recovery or they have relapsed. It is important to dispel these myths so people struggling with substance abuse and addiction can get help.
Myths about Treatment
- The individual has to want treatment for it to work. while it is important for a person overcoming a substance abuse disorder to want help, more often, a person struggling with addiction will be told by a judge to seek rehabilitation or asked by a family member or close friend to get help. In fact, some evidence suggests that people in “high-pressure” treatment programs do better than others, even when the person did not enter the program of their own volition.
- A person must hit “rock bottom” before they realize they need help. While many people suffer losses due to their addiction, many people are functional addicts and seek help while many aspects of their lives are still in working order. Many people realize that they are chronically abusing a substance and seek help while still employed, maintaining a happy family, and an active social life. In fact, the earlier people are able to admit that they need help overcoming a substance use disorder or addiction, the more effective treatment can be.
- One type of program works for everyone. Everyone is different, with different needs, underlying conditions, life experiences, and lifestyles. Therefore, there cannot be one type of treatment that will suit everyone. Treatment must be tailored to meet the unique needs of each client.
- Treatment should only happen once. Like treatment for other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, treatment for substance abuse is ongoing and may include any combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes at any time. The idea that one course of treatment should work promotes the idea that people who need long-term rehabilitation programs, ongoing therapy, medication to manage their addiction, or repeated treatment are somehow failures, which is not true at all.
- Public funding for treatment programs is a waste of tax money. Substance abuse and addiction are public health concerns, just like crime and diseases, which do receive public funding for evidence-based treatment programs. While ideas about treatment for substance abuse are changing, that is because medical researchers are investigating plans that work and promoting those plans.
- The individual just needs the willpower to overcome their addiction. No one can overcome an illness alone. Cancer and diabetes are not beaten by mentally resisting the disease’s progress, and addiction cannot be overcome without help either. Changes to the structure of the brain make overcoming this chronic illness very difficult, which is why it is important to seek help from a medical professional who can structure a treatment plan.
- Relapse is failure. Although treatment programs work hard to help their clients avoid relapse, it is often simply part of the recovery process. People who undergo treatment for diabetes sometimes experience setbacks, as the disease changes or they ingest something that triggers symptoms. This is true of addiction as well. Avoiding intoxicating substances is part of treatment, and understanding how stress can trigger compulsive behaviors is another aspect. While these parts of treatment are designed to prevent relapse, experiencing a relapse does not mean treatment has failed. Continue to seek help.
Quick Facts about Treatment
Now that the myths about treatment have been busted, here are some notes on what drug addiction treatment looks like. Effective drug addiction treatment programs seek to help individuals in three primary ways:
- Help the individual stop using drugs
- Help the person maintain a drug-free life
- Help the individual become productive in work and active in their communities and families
These goals are met through a combination of medically monitored detox, prescriptions for withdrawal symptoms when applicable, behavioral counseling individually and in groups, and long-term follow-up care. The goals of drug addiction treatment can be met at inpatient or outpatient programs, depending on what the individual and their medical provider decide are the best choices for the specific situation.
No single course of drug treatment will suit everyone, which is why there are so many options for both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs. Options ranging from intensive short-term to long-term treatment plans are available.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), there are some basic steps to drug addiction treatment. These include:
- A complete assessment of the individual seeking treatment, conducted by a medical professional
- The identification of specific goals by treatment professionals in conjunction with the client
- Finding the best course of action to help the individual meet those goals (e.g., detox, rehabilitation programs, counseling, specific therapies, etc.)
- Other services, including family therapy, medical help for drug abuse side effects, job skills training, and more
There is no quick, easy solution to overcoming a substance use disorder or addiction, but there are many options for help. People who want to overcome their addiction can get the help they need when they reach out for that help.
Drug addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life, from their physical health to their social relationships. SAMHSA noted in a 2009 survey that 23.5 million individuals in the United States, aged 12 and older, needed treatment for an illicit substance use disorder. However, only 2.6 million of those individuals sought treatment, and this might in part be due to the myths surrounding drug addiction treatment. Ultimately, treatment can restore a person’s life balance, so they can live a happy and healthy life.