Treatment Options for Addiction

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease known for the compulsive abuse of substances even though using them leads to harmful, even catastrophic consequences. People with addiction problems use drugs or other substances even though their use completely consumes their lives. Drug addiction is treatable, and its progression can be completely halted with comprehensive addiction treatment.

How Does Effective Addiction Treatment Work?

It’s essential to find the addiction treatment that works best for you because no one method or approach works for everyone. Regardless of the approach or method, getting into recovery from addiction must address the complex psychological issues that provoked and sustained the addiction, as well as heal the body and teach essential skills for staying in recovery. Those skills include stress management, coping with anxiety and relationship skills.

Like all serious chronic diseases, addiction harms every part, every facet of a person’s life. Addiction treatment must always treat a person in their context, or the entirety of their lives and all aspects of a person’s life.

Effective addiction treatment involves all of the following:

Mental Health

Addiction often develops as a way of coping with a mental health issue, like anxiety or depression. People attempt to self-medicate their condition rather than seeking professional health, which leads to addiction. Treating mental health issues and helping nurture good mental health must be part of addiction treatment.


Addiction doesn’t come cheap. People lose everything they have to addiction, including their jobs and careers. Treatment that addresses the financial state of a recovering person helps relieve much of the stress that follows after rehabilitation

Physical Health

Drug abuse and addiction wreak havoc on the body. Most forms of substance addiction are fatal, either from an overdose or the damage done to the body. Addiction, unless arrested by treatment and recovery, is always lethal.

Interpersonal Relationships

Addiction destroys interpersonal relationships. When a person is in the grip of addiction, their drug of choice becomes their only relationship, and it’s disastrous. Oftentimes people with significant addiction problems have self-esteem issues and other troubles that get in the way of forming nurturing bonds with others. Effective addiction treatment always seeks to help people learn better ways of communicating with others openly and honestly.

People in recovery and addiction researchers have identified many basic concepts about addiction and recovery that are always applicable to good treatment. They include the following concepts:

  • Addiction involves a person’s behavior, brain, psychological overall health and environment.
  • There is no universal treatment that’s right for everyone.
  • Once a person decides to get into treatment, immediate access to treatment must follow.
  • A person suffering from addiction has physical, social and psychological issues that must be addressed. Addiction does not happen in a vacuum.
  • Behavioral therapy, coupled with counseling and medication-assisted therapy is one of the most effective general approaches.
  • Treatment plans are not set in concrete. Frequent review of treatment plans is essential because a person’s needs change over time, sometimes rapidly in addiction.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only one part of treatment. Recovery is much more than detox.

Types of Addiction Treatment

Behavioral Counseling

Behavioral counseling helps people learn to identify behaviors that are harmful and change them. Counseling is much more involved than that, of course. Behavioral counseling looks at the behaviors that led to addiction and kept it going. Drug addiction is usually only the tip of the iceberg for a person struggling with substance abuse and identifying behaviors that need to change is critical to long-lasting recovery.


Addiction may occur along with common mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Medication like antidepressants can address those issues, while medications like buprenorphine reduce cravings in people with opioid addiction.

Medically Supervised Detox

Medically supervised detox programs provide around the clock care delivered by doctors and nurses to make sure that a client detoxifies safely with a minimum of discomfort.

Community or Family-Based Support Systems

 It’s difficult for people to recover without a support group. A support system can be composed of family, friends or people in the community who are interested in helping people get stabilized into recovery. Recovery groups can include systems like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

How Medications and Medical Treatments are Used in Addiction Treatment

To get into recovery, a person must stop using drugs, but ironically, that can be dangerous. Abruptly discontinuing opioids, benzodiazepines or alcohol puts lots of stress on the body and can be fatal. To safely purge drugs and their active breakdown products from the body, it’s important to seek medically supervised detox programs.


Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction is a safe, effective way of helping opioid addicts cope with intense urges to use opioids. Cravings and urges are so powerful that many people relapse. Buprenorphine and naltrexone are two examples of medications that reduce or even eliminate the physical symptoms of cravings.


Physicians who specialize in addiction recovery prescribe naltrexone for the relief of cravings for alcohol that happen after detox is finished. Reducing cravings for a drink is an effective way to help prevent relapse. Naltrexone seems to be most effective in reducing cravings in the first weeks after alcohol detoxification.


Nicotine is one of the most powerfully addictive substances known. It’s very hard to quit all at once. Nicotine Replacement Therapy uses patches, chewing gum and lozenges to deliver increasingly smaller doses of nicotine into a person’s body, thus ‘weaning’ them off nicotine slowly. Prescription drugs like Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban) and varenicline tartrate (Chantix) affect the brain without introducing nicotine into the body.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment

  • Detox - Medically supervised detox provides medication and observation to make sure a person safely purges drugs from their system and can take place in a detox unit within a medical/surgical hospital, a detox clinic, or a detoxification unit within a behavioral health facility.

After the acute phase of detox has ended, may go for inpatient or outpatient treatment, depending on their needs.

  • Inpatient Rehabilitation - Also called residential rehabilitation, inpatient rehabilitation focuses on the total person and is typically holistic; that is, healing a person’s mind (patterns of thinking, beliefs, ideals, emotions), body (health issues) and spirit (religious beliefs, spiritual beliefs or values) are all treated as essential to lasting recovery from substance addiction.
  • Treatment Communities - Treatment communities are a long-term type of residential care that focus on long-term recovery, as opposed to abstinence alone.
  • Recovery House - Recovery houses, once called halfway houses, are sober living environments A recovery house helps a person transition from the highly structured environment of inpatient treatment back to life outside treatment.

Outpatient Treatment for Addiction Recovery

Outpatient addiction treatment can be carried out in several different ways. Intensive outpatient (IOP) takes several hours a day, two or three times a week over four to six weeks. Individual and group therapy takes place during these visits, although family therapy and couples therapy is usually separate from IOP. Outpatient care can be conducted while a person is living at home or living at a recovery house

Process Addictions

Behavioral addiction, also known as process addiction, doesn’t involve substances like drugs or alcohol. Rather, process addiction is characterized by a person performing behaviors that may be healthy in moderation, but become harmful when engaged in compulsively. Examples include:

  • Food
  • Gambling
  • Sex and love
  • Shopping
  • Exercise
  • Internet
  • Porn

Process addiction destroys a person’s life in as many ways as drug addiction, say for the physical harm caused by substance addiction. The hallmark of process addiction is identical to that of substance addiction: an inability to stop doing the harmful behavior no matter how destructive it is.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common and highly effective treatment approach to behavioral addiction. CBT can be carried out in an inpatient, residential or outpatient setting. Therapy helps a person learn about their personal triggers, how certain patterns of thought provoke and support their addiction, and how to manage and eliminate their addictive behaviors.