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Part Three: Evidence Based Treatment for Addiction

A group of doctors works in a lab.
There is a clear research-backed path to recovery from addiction.

Addiction used to be thought of as a vice, not a disease.

As our understanding of addiction has evolved, so have our treatment options. Today’s therapies aren’t based on any one person’s beliefs or past experiences (or at least they shouldn’t be). Rather, they’re based on what research and science tells us works.

Drug Treatments for Opiate Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends these evidence-backed treatments for opiate addiction, which included both heroin and painkillers like Vidodin and Oxycontin.

  • Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid that acts as a partial agonist at opioid receptors. It doesn’t produce the same euphoria or sedation that other opioids do, but it does reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and carries a low risk of overdose.
  • Methadone, an opioid agonist, has been used since the 1960s to treat opioid addiction. It can prevent withdrawal symptoms and block the effect of illicit opioids.
  • Suboxone is the name given to the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The big advantage of Suboxone is that it blocks the effects of other opioids. It also ensures that you won’t feel the emotional distress that usually makes recovery so difficult.
  • Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid antagonist that is also used to reverse opioid overdoses. Because it blocks opioids from binding, the theory is that it will diminish cravings over time.

Drug Treatments for Alcohol Addiction

  • Naltrexone is also used for alcohol addiction and works the same way for opioid addiction. It blocks the “rewards” of drinking.
  • Acamprosate is thought to block withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and restlessness. Research shows that it may be more effective for those with severe dependence.
  • Disulfiram interferes with the way alcohol is processed, resulting in the accumulation of acetaldehyde. That causes a “very unpleasant” reaction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, including feelings of nausea, flushing and heart palpitations. It’s effective with “highly motivated” patients and can also be useful in high-risk social settings, such as weddings.

Mental Health Treatment

In certain circumstances, medication can be useful. It’s critical that it is always given in conjunction with behavioral therapy, which is the cornerstone of any good rehab program for any type of addiction.

Behavioral therapy covers a lot of bases. It can teach coping skills to deal with stress, modify attitudes toward drug and alcohol use and provide incentives to stay off of drugs or alcohol.
Let’s take a look at the specific therapies recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches you to recognize unhelpful patterns of thinking and reacting. It also helps modify or replace your current mindset with more realistic or helpful ways of thinking. CBT is a skill you learn, usually in about 12 to 16 weeks. Once you learn it, you can use your new skills for the rest of your life to deal with everything from a bad day at work to a painful divorce.

Family Behavior Therapy

Family relationships can be a source of both great joy and stress. After completing treatment for addiction, it’s so important to return to a living environment that is as supportive—and stress-free—as possible. Family therapy can help make that happen by teaching new skills to all parties involved.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This type of therapy is a type of counseling geared toward those who don’t really think their alcohol or drug use is a problem. There is an initial assessment followed by two to four therapy sessions. The goal is to help people recognize their problems and become motivated to change. Motivational Enhancement Therapy has been successfully used in the treatment of alcohol addiction. It has been less effective with drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Evidence-Based Practice and The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Our master’s level trained therapists get to the root cause of addiction and will help you develop a strategy to manage and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our 90-day drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

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