Can addiction be treated? Yes, but it’s not simple.
It’s easy to think of an addiction treatment program as a recipe. You’ll add a dash of therapy, a pinch of medications, and a sprinkle of support. With just the right mix of elements, you’ll have the perfect plan to help you recover.
But what should you include?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to that question.
The nature of recovery and characteristics specific to people with addictions can make generalizations about efficacy tough. But there are a few modes of care that get high marks from researchers, and they could be good solutions to explore as you look for relief from your addiction.
What Is Success in Addiction Care?
When it comes to treating disease, we tend to put therapies into two groups. One can cure the problem and one can’t. When you’re searching for the right treatment, you’re seeking out the therapy that has the power to restore you to good health.
Addiction care is a little different.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says addiction is chronic. You can keep the issue under control, and that could mean you have no symptoms others can see. But it will always be beneath the surface, and you may need to get care for the problem in spurts for the rest of your life.
Measuring relapse rates is meaningless, says NIDA, as relapse is part of the continuum of addiction care. You’ll always need help for the rest of your life.
The goal of addiction treatment isn’t always total sobriety, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says. Treatment aims to:
- Stop or reduce substance abuse.
- Improve health.
- Repair and strengthen social relationships.
- Manage relapse risks.
Effective programs can make you healthier, more productive, and happier. You can feel these changes, but how can you measure them? And how can you compare your new life with the results another person achieved?
Addictions can be complicated by:
- Mental illness. Underlying depression, anxiety, and other conditions need care during addiction treatment. If you don’t have those conditions, you don’t need this therapy. But if you do, it’s vital to your success.
- Economics. It’s hard to stay sober when you live in a neighborhood torn apart by drugs. If someone relapses when moving home to a rough part of town, their therapy may not be to blame.
- Relationships. A difficult marriage can work against sobriety, while a strong one can shore it up. These are elements outside the scope of a treatment program.
- Physical health. When you don’t feel well, it’s hard to avoid temptation. Viruses and chronic illnesses may not be a target of treatment, but managing them is important to success.
Counselors assess all parts of their clients, and they build programs accordingly. No one solution is best for everyone. In fact, a one-size-fits-all addiction treatment program would likely harm everyone. You need the plan that’s right for you and your background, your present, and your future.
Proven Treatments Experts Recommend
While there are no universal statistics about addiction recovery, and there is no established plan that works for every single person with a substance abuse problem, there are a few elements of care that experts agree work well for most clients.
Those elements include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy helps you spot triggers that prompt drug use, and you’ll learn what to do instead of using. Researchers say 60 percent of people with an addiction to cocaine who participated in CBT had clean toxicology screens 52 weeks later. This is just one study that suggests CBT can help you to recover from addiction.
- Medication management. Drugs like methadone and buprenorphine help to soothe chemical imbalances in your brain, and that could help you to overcome cravings without acting on them. Research suggests that people using medications for some types of addiction, including those to heroin and alcohol, do better with those therapies than without them.
- Support groups. Talking with people who are also in recovery can help you learn about real-world solutions that work for others. There are rules in some support groups, including those that follow the Alcoholics Anonymous model, but others have a looser format. Research says these meetings are helpful both for people in recovery and for those who care for them.
- Group therapy. In this format, you work with a counselor alongside other people who have similar issues. Research says that including peers tends to augment the lessons you learn in therapy, and the format helps to improve your social functioning. Since addictions can come with a stigma, being surrounded by a caring group can seem like a major change.
What Works for You?
Clearly, researchers have looked into what works and what doesn’t in addiction care. But how can you put that to work for you?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that no single form of addiction care is right for everyone. They also say that people enrolled should have the right to speak up about what they do and don’t want included in their treatment program.
Do your research and learn more about what others have tried and how they felt about it. Look over the studies performed on people with your type of addiction, in your age group, and in your part of the country. See what looks promising and what doesn’t.
Then, bring all your research with you to talk with your doctor about the care you want and the treatments you need. Be an active part of your recovery, and you’ll be well placed to take care of your addiction over the long term. It could be the first step toward your recovery.