Medications and Behavioral Treatments Used to Treat Drug Addiction

behavior treatments


Medications are often used throughout the drug addiction treatment process. Of course the first step to drug addiction treatment is the actual withdrawal from the drug, whether it’s opioids, stimulants or alcohol. Several studies show that treatment facilities that use medications during the detoxification process have a higher success rate at preventing relapse. These drugs make it much more comfortable for a patient to withdrawal from a drug without intensely painful symptoms, some of which can actually harm a person long-term or even kill them.

Preventing Relapse

Once a person’s body has become detoxified from the drug, his or her brain still sends ”craving” signals that can make a person want to use again. A person’s brain and body become severely dependent on these drugs and will continue to crave the drugs for many years. There are medications that can help in the treatment of opioids and alcohol. There are legal and safe drugs that doctors can prescribe that mimic the effects of a drug (such as heroin), so the addict’s body and brain think they are actually receiving the drug. Methadone is the most common medication prescribed to opioid abusers, but there are also buprenorphine and naltrexone. Unfortunately, current laws in the United States only allow doctors that have a license to prescribe these drugs to have a maximum of 100 patients. This can often mean that addicts in small communities need to drive several hours to get their medications. For patients that have severe alcohol addiction, Acamprosate is a highly effective drug that reduces symptoms of withdrawal such as insomnia, restlessness, dysphoria and anxiety.

Behavioral Therapies for treating drug addiction

Behavioral therapies are widely used in addition to medications during the drug addiction recovery process. The therapist’s aim is to help modify behaviors and attitudes related to the user’s drug use and overall outlook on life.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

This is a cornerstone of many treatment programs, including SMART and Women for Sobriety that focuses on a person’s response to situations.  It teaches an addict that he or she cannot control what happens to them or in their environment, but rather can only control how they respond to those things.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the triggers that affect drug addicts and what makes them want to use drugs again. It helps them recognize and avoid those situations as well as teaches them coping mechanisms in case they find themselves in a situation where they can abuse again.

Aversion Therapy

This is a less commonly used type of behavioral therapy, but has a good success rate for those that end up using it. The principle of this process creates undesirable effects for a person who is behaving as he or she shouldn’t. The most common type of aversion therapy is prescribing an alcohol a certain drug that makes them very nauseous and causes severe headaches when mixed with alcohol. If a person drinks while on this medication, they experience these awful side effects and it trains their brain and body to not enjoy alcohol anymore. This therapy works to “avert” the person away from the drug or behavior they are fixated on.

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