A Description of Some Different Approaches to Substance Abuse Treatment

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A Description of Some Different Approaches to Substance Abuse Treatment

What is addiction? Addiction is classified as a disease that affects both the brain and the behaviors of an individual. It causes the compulsive seeking and use of drugs even at the known peril of the user. The path to addiction starts with a person voluntarily choosing to use alcohol or drugs. But as time passes, the person’s ability to choose whether or not to use drugs and alcohol becomes jeopardized. This is when the formerly recreational hobby becomes a compulsive habit. A person can break denial and consider the different approaches to substance abuse treatment.

Addiction affects the reward center portion of the brain confusing and retraining the brain’s sensors. For instance, drug and alcohol use releases dopamine in the brain. They bring about pleasurable, happy feelings. These easy forms of pleasure confuse the brain as to what is acceptable and not. The no-work-for-pleasure way of thinking becomes what the brain and body crave. Addiction also affects motivation, control over one’s own behavior, memory, and the ability to learn. Because of the effects on these important areas of brain function, treating addiction can be difficult. Many groups have looked at how to help a drug addict stay clean and a myriad of treatment programs have been created.

Approaches to Substance Abuse Treatment

Clinical studies have resulted in improvements in the outcomes of addiction treatment. The different approaches to substance abuse treatment create innovative and modernized programs that provide help getting sober.

Several different types of evidence-based approaches to treatment are available. They range from behavioral therapies, pharmacotherapies, and behavioral therapies which are primarily for adolescents.

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Examples of evidenced-based approaches to recovery:

Behavioral Therapies:

Behavioral therapies give the individual incentive to stay clean.  Individuals learn the life skills needed to handle stressful situations that would otherwise lead to substance abuse.  Also, they learn to change their behaviors and pre-existing viewpoints on drugs and substance abuse.

Listed below are a few of the many researched therapies and a brief description.  Each approach focuses on a specific substance:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Most useful for treatment with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine. CBT was originally designed to help handle alcohol addiction and was later adjusted to help with cocaine addiction as well. The idea behind CBT is to prevent relapse by identifying negative patterns the individual has learned in the process of becoming addicted and apply a spectrum of new skills to replace the detrimental ones. Then the individual can learn self-control and effective coping skills.
  • Contingency Management Interventions/Motivational Incentives (CM) – Most useful with alcohol, stimulants, marijuana, opioids, and nicotine. This approach involves giving the patients rewards to bolster positive behaviors. The rewards are usually vouchers to be exchanged for food, goods, movie passes, or money.  Of course, the reward money increases over time with continued clean drug tests. This system could lead to other types of addictive behavior, but research has shown this to not be true.
  • 12-Step Facilitation Therapy – Most effective with alcohol, stimulants, and opiates. This program is aimed at promoting and increasing the chances of a substance abuser to join a 12-step group. Research shows this approach to be effective for treating alcoholism.  However, its effectiveness in the treatment of other drugs is still in the beginning stages but shows potential.


Pharmacotherapies are a method of treating drug and substance abuse with the use of prescribed medications that imitate the drug in a person’s system. This is a controversial subject in the approaches to substance abuse treatment as many believe that using drugs to handle drug addiction, is indeed just a substitution.  However, research shows that using drugs like Methadone does help get the substance abuser in support groups and functioning in society. However, it does not fully handle them getting clean, the addiction, or promote abstinence from drugs as the person is still addicted to drugs, just in a different form.

Behavioral Therapies Primarily for Adolescents:

Adolescents addicted to illicit or prescription drugs require different treatment than adults. Treatment plans that are designed for adults often need to be altered to fulfill the adolescents’ treatment needs. An adolescent is usually still living with their families until they are eighteen. The way the family operates and the actions of each family member also affects the way adolescents learn to handle life and interact with others. This is why a major component needed for handling addiction in youth is family involvement.

Here are a few examples of different types of effective treatments for the handling of juvenile addiction:

  • Multisystemic Therapy (MST) – Works with aspects corresponding to drug abuse in children and adolescents who are displaying antisocial behaviors. Specifically, the aspects addressed include:
    • The adolescent (their ideas on using drugs)
    • Family (parental drug use, family conflicts)
    • School and friends (peers promoting drug use, poor schoolwork)
    • Communities and neighborhoods (criminal or drug subculture)

Most families complete the MST course, which results in reduced drug use during treatment and drug abstinence for up to 6 months after treatment.

  • Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDST) – This type of therapy addresses different components of an adolescent’s life in an effort to bring about a complete recovery in all areas of their life. The counselor has meetings with the juvenile and family both together and independently in an attempt to better communication and agreements within the family.
  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) – This program focusing on handling family interactions that may exacerbate the drug abuse situation and cause further drug use in the adolescent. BSFT counselors are to identify these detrimental family problems and find a workable resolution for these so the youth does not have constant triggers for continued drug use.

Substance Abuse Treatment at A Forever Recovery

Clinical approaches to substance abuse treatment can be useful in the field of substance abuse recovery and rehabilitation.  Also, new rehab technologies and therapy techniques greatly aid in the quest to create a drug-free world. From tried and true methods to new techniques, clinical studies provide the devices needed in regard to helping to get sober and getting clean. So, are you wondering how to help a drug addict stay clean? Clinical approaches to substance abuse treatment may be a key component to finding permanent solutions. Contact A Forever Recovery today to learn more about our program.


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