What is drug addiction?
There can be long-term effects of drug addiction, which is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain. People who use drugs can develop these harmful behaviors as a result of these changes in the brain. The disease of drug addiction is also relapsing. When someone attempts to quit drug use, they relapse.
Taking drugs voluntarily is the first step on the path to addiction. It is possible to choose not to do so over time, but the ability to do so slowly diminishes. Substance abuse becomes a compulsion. Several factors contribute to this, including long-term drug exposure and the effects on brain function. In addition to affecting reward and motivation areas of the brain, addiction also affects learning and memory, as well as behavior control.
Brain and behavior are both affected by addiction.
Can drug addiction be treated?
It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. The disease of addiction cannot be cured by simply stopping using drugs for a few days. In order to stop using completely and get their lives back, patients need long-term or repeated treatment.
The person receiving addiction treatment must be able to:
- quit using drugs
- and remain drug-free
- so that you can be productive in your family, at work, and in society
Many treatment options have been successful in treating drug addiction, including:
- psychological counseling
- treatment of withdrawal symptoms or teaching of skills using medical devices and applications
- Depression and anxiety can co-occur with evaluations and treatment for mental health issues
- requiring long-term follow-up
How are behavioral therapies used to treat drug addiction?
Behavioral therapies provide patients with the following benefits:
- Change their attitude and behavior towards drugs
- to promote healthy living
- in combination with other treatments, such as medication
There are many settings in which treatment can be provided, using different methods.
Outpatient behavioral treatment includes a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a behavioral health counselor on a regular schedule. Most of the programs involve individual or group drug counseling, or both. These programs typically offer forms of behavioral therapy such as:
- cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs
- multidimensional family therapy—developed for adolescents with drug abuse problems as well as their families—which addresses a range of influences on their drug abuse patterns and is designed to improve overall family functioning
- motivational interviewing, which makes the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment
- motivational incentives (contingency management), which uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs
Inpatient or residential treatment can also be very effective, especially for those with more severe problems (including co-occurring disorders). Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24-hour structured and intensive care, including safe housing and medical attention. Residential treatment facilities may use a variety of therapeutic approaches, and they are generally aimed at helping the patient live a drug-free, crime-free lifestyle after treatment. Examples of residential treatment settings include:
- Therapeutic communities, which are highly structured programs in which patients remain at a residence, typically for 6 to 12 months. The entire community, including treatment staff and those in recovery, act as key agents of change, influencing the patient’s attitudes, understanding, and behaviors associated with drug use. Read more about therapeutic communities in the Therapeutic Communities Research Report.
- Shorter-term residential treatment, which typically focuses on detoxification as well as providing initial intensive counseling and preparation for treatment in a community-based setting.
- Recovery housing, which provides supervised, short-term housing for patients, often following other types of inpatient or residential treatment. Recovery housing can help people make the transition to an independent life—for example, helping them learn how to manage finances or seek employment, as well as connecting them to support services in the community.