What Makes a Drug Addiction Treatment Effective?

Medically Reviewed on 4/6/2022
What Makes a Drug Addiction Treatment Effective?
A combination of various drug addiction therapies works hand in hand to make treatment effective, which is often tailored to a patient’s specific requirements.

Various types of drug addiction treatment programs are available. However, the patient may find it difficult to select the one that is beneficial for them.

In reality, not one type of treatment but a combination of various therapies will work hand in hand to make treatment effective and help the patient recover from drug and alcohol addiction.

The most successful therapy for a patient is a program that is tailored to their specific requirements and that provides everything needed to lay a solid foundation in recovery and then build on that foundation to establish a stable new life free of drugs and alcohol.

Effective drug addiction therapies

  • Medical care:
    • Medical detox is a crucial initial step in the treatment of drug addiction.
    • It is a vital phase of transition from active drug use to sobriety for people who experience withdrawal symptoms, physical symptoms, and mental health problems.
  • Individualized therapy:
    • Each person’s experience before the addiction and throughout the active drug and alcohol use phase is unique.
    • Treatment should be personalized to address obstacles and demands that occurred as a result of that unique experience.
    • With the assistance of a team of drug addiction treatment specialists, each client in recovery may develop a personalized treatment plan that includes both medications and psychiatric counseling to help them get back on track.
  • Frequent checkups:
    • It is the responsibility of the patient to invest time and effort toward treatment. With their involvement, the treatment goals will be met.
    • It is crucial that when this occurs, new treatment goals are established, and new therapies are chosen, or that existing therapies are modified, to prevent treatment stagnation.
    • Furthermore, if any concerns are impeding progress in therapy, they should be identified early, and modifications must be made to kickstart the healing process.
  • Family support:
    • Not only the patient but also the people close to them are affected by their addiction.
    • Because of this, family members have a unique potential to play a particularly beneficial role in their rehabilitation.
  • Prolonged aftercare:
    • Aftercare therapy is equally important as the initial therapy.
    • This helps the patient remain relapse-free.
    • Recovery can rapidly become boring if there is no continuous commitment to regular mental health therapy and engagement with others who are living clean and sober lives.
    • Remaining free of drugs or alcohol and transitioning into independent living establish new living for the patient if they continue to participate in treatment programs and support groups.


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13 principles of effective drug addiction treatment

Research done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has produced a set of core principles that define effective drug abuse treatment.

Here are 13 principles of effective drug addiction treatment:

  1. No single treatment is appropriate for all individuals:
    • It is vital to match therapy settings, methods, and services with the issues and requirements of each patient.
  2. Treatment needs to be readily available:
    • Therapy should be available immediately or else the applicants will be lost.
  3. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the person:
    • Treatment must address the individual's drug use and physical, psychological, social, occupational, and legal issues that have arisen as a result of it.
  4. Treatment needs to be flexible:
    • Treatment must be adaptable and give continual evaluations of patient requirements, which may vary during treatment.
  5. Remaining in treatment for an adequate period is critical for treatment effectiveness:
    • Time is determined by the needs of the person. The threshold of meaningful improvement is attained for the majority of patients after about three months of therapy.
    • Programs should include attempts to keep patients from discontinuing therapy too soon.
  6. Individual and/or group counseling and other behavioral therapies are critical components of effective treatment of addiction:
    • Patients in treatment work on motivation and developing skills to resist drug use, replacing drug-using activities with productive and gratifying nondrug-using ones, and improving problem-solving abilities.
    • Interpersonal interactions are improved through behavioral treatment.
  7. Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients:
    • For many patients, medications are a crucial part of their therapy, especially when paired with counseling and other behavioral treatments.
    • Methadone and levo-alpha-acetylmethadol assist people with opiate addiction stabilize their life and reducing their drug use.
    • Some people with opiate addiction and those with co-occurring alcohol dependency benefit from naltrexone.
    • Nicotine patches or gum, as well as oral medications such as bupropion, can assist those who are addicted to nicotine.
  8. Addicted or drug-abusing individuals with coexisting mental disorders should have both disorders treated in an integrated way:
    • Because both illnesses frequently coexist in the same person, patients who come with one should be evaluated and treated for the other.
  9. Medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment:
    • Medical detoxification is simply the initial step in addiction therapy.
    • Medical detoxification treats the withdrawal's acute physical effects. It is a step toward effective drug addiction therapy.
  10. Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective:
    • Sanctions or enticements in the family, workplace, or criminal justice system can greatly boost treatment enrollment, retention, and success.
  11. Possible drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously:
    • Monitoring a patient's drug and alcohol use during treatment, such as by urinalysis, might assist the patient to resist drug cravings.
    • Such monitoring can reveal early signs of drug usage, allowing therapy to be altered.
  12. Treatment programs should provide assessment for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases:
    • Treatment programs should include testing for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious illnesses, as well as counseling to assist patients to change or modify behaviors that put them or others at risk of infection.
    • Counseling can assist patients to avoid high-risk behaviors and manage their condition if they are already sick.
  13. Recovery from drug addiction can be a long-term process:
    • Recovery from drug addiction may be a lengthy process that typically necessitates many therapy sessions.
    • Relapses to drug use, such as other chronic disorders, can occur during or after successful treatment cycles.
    • Participation in self-help support programs during and after treatment can frequently aid in the maintenance of abstinence.

How effective is drug addiction therapy?

The effectiveness of behavioral therapy for addiction treatment is determined by the following:

  • Individual undergoing treatment
  • Their degree of treatment involvement
  • Therapist and other members of the treatment team
  • Style of therapy delivered

Studies report that the skills patients gain in cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions “stick” with them even after the treatment is over. In other words, what is taught in cognitive-behavioral therapy appears to have a long-term favorable influence on people with substance misuse.

Contingency management has been demonstrated to be successful in the treatment of various drug use disorders, including those involving:

Giving patients concrete rewards, such as vouchers or cash awards, may aid in recovery by encouraging abstinence and other beneficial behaviors.

According to one clinical investigation, incentive-based therapy may help with treatment retention.

Medically Reviewed on 4/6/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Thirteen Principles of Effective Drug Addiction Treatment: https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/1999/12/thirteen-principles-effective-drug-addiction-treatment

CEU Part II: Treatment Effectiveness, Treatment Efficacy, and Clinical Trials: https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/nnsld11.1.6