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Evidence Based Treatment for Addiction

A middle aged woman talks to her doctor.
Today’s methods of treating addiction are backed by science.

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Talk to 10 different people about how they changed their lives by getting clean and you’ll hear a lot of theories.

Some people might attribute their success to meditation. Others to therapy. And still others to the support of family and friends.

All of those are certainly helpful—and may have been the key ingredient for the person you spoke with. But, at the end of the day, it’s critical to take a look at what science says and begin from there.

The following treatments are based on a guide published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Evidence Based Drug Treatments

Medication can be very useful in certain circumstances, but it should always be combined with behavioral therapy. It is not a solution in and of itself and, in many cases, it’s not needed at all. With that said, here are a few commonly used drug therapies for opioid and alcohol addiction.

Drug Treatments for Opiate Addiction

  • 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 drug combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The big advantage of Suboxone is that it blocks the effect of other opioids, while also ensuring 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 as it does for opioid addiction—by blocking 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.

Evidence Based Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy serves a myriad of purposes. It can teach coping skills to deal with stressful circumstances, 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. Remember, too, that these therapies can be used in combination with each other.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A lot of people get down on therapy because they imagine endless hours of sitting on a couch and talking about their childhood. While that type of therapy certainly has its place (especially for those who experienced childhood trauma) that’s not what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is. Rather, CBT teaches you to recognize unhelpful patterns of thinking and reacting, and modify or replace these habits with more realistic or helpful ways of thinking. CBT is a skill you are able to develop in about 12 to 16 weeks, which you can then use for the rest of your life to deal with everything from a bad day to a painful divorce.

Family Behavior Therapy

We all know that family relationships can be a source of both great joy and great stress. After completing treatment for addiction, it’s so important to return to a living environment that is as supportive as possible. Family therapy can be very effective in making that happen by teaching new skills to all parties involved.

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

It used to be that, when people thought of addiction treatment, they thought of 12-step programs. Now, there are plenty of other options to use in conjunction with working the steps. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, “While the efficacy of 12-step programs in treating alcohol dependence has been established, the research on its usefulness for other forms of substance abuse is more preliminary, but the treatment appears promising for helping drug abusers sustain recovery.”

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This type of therapy is a type of counseling aimed 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, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “evoke rapid and internally motivated change.” Motivational Enhancement Therapy has been successfully used in the treatment of alcohol addiction. When combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it has also been used in the treatment of marijuana dependency. It has been less effective with drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Evidence Based Addiction Treatment in Colorado

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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