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Addiction Treatments

Learn about a variety of addiction treatments utilised by residential and outpatient rehabs and other providers. Below, we outline a variety of holistic and evidence-based treatments. This helps you or your loved one build coping mechanisms and resiliance you will need to avoid relapse once you secure your recovery.

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    What Are My Addiction Treatment Options?

    Many people are unknowing living with an addiction of some form – a ticking time bomb that could rear its head at any moment. Others are painfully aware of the problem and regularly suffer from the negative consequences of a substance abuse disorder or behavioural addiction.

    It is possible to successfully recover from an addiction of any kind, and the chances are increased when recovery is undertaken in a professional rehabilitation centre.

    These clinics treat addictions to substances such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, prescription medications, as well as behavioural addictions such as gambling addiction.

    Most treatment programmes are highly personalised for drug addiction and alcohol addiction, taking into account factors such as the individual’s specific needs, medical history and motivation levels when designing a treatment plan.

    These programmes can be both inpatient rehab and outpatient depending on preference and severity of the addiction.

    Many people seek treatment for substance use disorders such as alcoholism (alcohol use disorder), opioid addiction or cannabis dependency. However, there is an increasing number of people requiring professional treatment for behavioural addictions such as gambling, internet and sex addiction.

    If not properly managed and treated, these disorders can have long-lasting detrimental effects on an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health.

    You do not have to live with the effects of addiction. There are a number of effective treatment options available that can assist you on your recovery journey and help you move towards a life free from addiction and substance abuse.

    How long does addiction treatment take?

    how-long addiction treatment last

    Before entering a treatment programme for addiction, many people question the level of disruption that rehabilitation may have on their daily lives. It can be helpful to learn how long the treatment process may take, allowing them to choose an option that best suits their lifestyle.

    However, this is not a question that can be answered in-depth without prior knowledge of the length and severity of the addiction. It’s also important to understand that addiction treatment will continue in some form for the remainder of your lifetime. Even once the individual successfully completes the initial detoxification and counselling process, they will still need to take steps to manage their addiction as they navigate through life.

    Some people successfully maintain abstinence for many years only to relapse later in life. Others may relapse shortly after the treatment ends, and then go on to live a life free from addictive substances. It is recommended that the door to therapy and counselling should be left open indefinitely when living with an addiction, even if the disorder seems to be under control.

    The shortest treatment programmes available may last for 7-10 days during which the individual will undergo a detoxification process. However, it is recommended that this approach is followed up with therapy which can increase the length of treatment time.

    Studies have shown that long-term rehabilitation programmes are generally the most successful. These can last for up to 90 days, while short-term programmes that include both detoxification and counselling may last for around 30 days.

    Is addiction treatment effective?

    is addiction treatment effective

    The primary goal of addiction treatment is to support individuals in entirely ceasing their use of addictive substances and/or engaging in self-destructive behaviours. It also aims to help them become productive members of society through employment, family responsibilities and/or volunteer work.

    Addiction treatment has been proven to be effective in ceasing substance use, decreasing criminal activity and increasing societal functioning. However, addiction is a chronic disease, meaning that there is a possibility of relapse even years after the initial treatment has ended

    It is important to keep in mind that the event of relapse does not mean that the treatment was unsuccessful or ineffective. Relapse is merely a bump in the road along the path to recovery – it does not signify the end of the path or a return to the beginning of the addiction.

    Instead, it may be a sign that a change in treatment may be needed to increase motivation or provide coping mechanisms to help the individual navigate certain life experiences.

    Research shows that 47% of people in the UK who left addiction treatment in 2020 had succeeded in stopping their use of substances. [1] This is not an indication that the remainder had failed treatment – many of them may have relapsed and eventually continued treatment, successfully managing to cease their substance use in the future.

    What types of addiction treatment are available?

    types of addiction treatment

    Just as there are many different forms of addiction, there is also a wide variety of treatments that can be used alone or in combination to effectively treat addiction and increase the chances of long-term recovery. [2]

    Note: This is not an exhaustive list, and it is recommended to discuss treatment options with a medical professional before committing to a specific method.

    Addiction is generally considered a symptom of co-occurring/dual diagnosis mental health issues. Thus, the below treatments aim to treat the underlying mental health issues that are causing you or your loved one to self-medicate with substances or other harmful behaviours. Common mental health issues that may accompany addiction include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar disorder.

    Rehabs generally make use of these various treatment modalities, so coping mechanisms can be built and the long-term healing process can begin. Furthermore, each person will benefit from a personalised treatment plan, given the circumstances surrounding addiction and mental health will vary from person to person.

    The aim of treatment will also be to help you or your loved one develop stress-management skills and resistance in your recovery, so you are better able to navigate relapse triggers without actually relapsing.

    Below are some of the most common types of addiction treatment utilised by addiction treatment centres:

    1. Cognitive behavioural therapy

    CBT is a form of therapy based on the idea that our thought processes, past experiences and the way we speak to ourselves all contribute to our behaviours and the way we see the world. A trained therapist will work with the patient to challenge their pre-existing ideas and help them become more aware of their thoughts and reactions.

    Cognitive behavioural therapy sessions are effective when treating substance use disorder and other addictions as it provides the skills required to make positive behavioural changes and empower patients to live a life free from addiction.

    2. Dialectical behavioural therapy

    A variant of CBT, dialectical behaviour therapy focuses on the belief that certain people are predisposed to more extreme emotional reactions that can trigger substance use and make it difficult for them to recover from an addiction.

    DBT works to give individuals the skills needed to process these emotions and make healthier, more rational decisions in moments of stress and upset.

    3. Contingency management

    Contingency management offers rewards in the form of cash prizes and vouchers if the participant can successfully refrain from using addictive substances and/or demonstrate positive behaviour choices.

    This can be an effective form of treatment, particularly for individuals who struggle to maintain the motivation levels required for abstinence in the early stages of treatment.

    4. Motivational enhancement therapy/Motivational Interviewing

    This form of treatment focuses on improving and maintaining the levels of motivation required to successfully begin or complete addiction treatment. Rather than using tangible rewards, motivational enhancement therapy works to build internal motivation by helping the individual identify problems, understand the actions required and build confidence in their abilities.

    5. Acceptance and commitment therapy

    The belief behind acceptance and commitment therapy is that by avoiding or attempting to escape our problems, painful memories or negative experiences, we actually make them worse. Instead, participants are encouraged to accept their emotions and focus on self-reflection, identifying their personal values and committing to actions that allow them to embrace and enjoy their life as it is in the current moment.

    6. Group therapy

    Group therapy is a popular form of treatment in which a number of participants with similar experiences and difficulties meet together with one or more therapists to discuss their emotions and work to identify and change their self-destructive behaviours.

    This form of treatment is particularly effective when also combined with individual therapy, as it allows the individual to feel part of a wider support network while also focusing on their own individual recovery. Group therapy is also made to good use during NA or AA meetings, utilising the 12-step approach. Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous groups operate across the country. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are also available to assist family members of those experiencing issues with substance misuse.

    An alternative to the 12-step approach that also makes use of group therapy sessions is SMART Recovery. Unlike AA and NA, SMART is not spiritual in nature. Instead, it makes use of evidence-based treatments, such as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.

    7. Family therapy

    Addiction is an intensely personal experience, but it also has the potential to affect the wider family unit. Addiction is often described as a ‘family illness’. Group therapy allows families to come together and discuss the impact that the addiction has had on each family member, and develop strategies to support each other and the individual throughout the recovery process.

    8. Holistic therapies/alternative therapies

    Holistic therapies aim to help you relax and control your urges to use drugs and alcohol.  Common forms of holistic therapy include art therapy, music therapy, massage, mindfulness meditation, yoga, acupuncture and equine therapy.

    The importance of detoxification within the addiction treatment

    addiction detoxificaiton-importance

    The above forms of treatment cannot be performed successfully without the individual first undergoing a detoxification process, in which the body is cleansed of the addictive substance. This usually involves gradually tapering off the dosage over a period of time until no trace of the substance remains.

    During this process, the individual is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms as the body begins to learn how to function again without the drug in their system. Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening, so it is always recommended that patients undergo detoxification under the care of an experienced medical professional.

    Can medications treat addiction?

    While medications alone cannot effectively treat addiction, they can be prescribed as part of a treatment programme. Certain medications can reduce cravings, block the pleasurable effects of substances and assist in managing some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms.  Examples include disulfiram, acamprosate and Librium used during an alcohol withdrawal, [3]

    Other medications can be used as a substitute for more dangerous and addictive substances, such as the use of methadone in heroin addiction treatment or Subutex during opioid detox. When prescribed by a medical professional as part of a long-term recovery programme, methadone can be a highly effective form of treatment.

    How can I convince someone to begin addiction treatment?

    Many people struggling with an addiction or substance dependency may refuse to admit that they have a problem, and as a result, they are less likely to seek out treatment.

    They may also avoid reaching out for help due to a sense of guilt and shame, or they simply may not know where to look.

    In these cases, it is recommended to contact an intervention specialist who will be able to assist in organising and staging an intervention. While an intervention may feel uncomfortable and painful at the moment, hearing from loved ones who have been affected by the addiction can play a key role in the individual’s decision to begin addiction treatment in your local area.






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