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Professional addiction treatment is available for a variety of addictions. This includes treatment for alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs and behavioural addictions. The most effective form of addiction treatment is designed to consider sufferers’ personal characteristics.

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach must be avoided at all costs when it comes to addiction treatment. For this reason, all addiction rehab programmes we recommend offer highly personalised treatment options. This ensures the best possible outcomes are achievable in helping you or your loved-one attain long-term abstinence.

Many people seeking out help for addiction are addicted to alcohol and common ‘street’ drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis. However, a growing number of people are also finding themselves addicted to prescription medications. Over the last decade, it has become common for GPs and other medical professionals to over-prescribe prescription drugs. These drugs are often prescribed to treat chronic pain and psychiatric disorders.

Once an addiction has arisen, it’s unlikely you will be able to control or moderate your behaviour solely through sheer willpower. Instead, addiction treatment is needed to help you overcome powerful and uncontrollable cravings. It’s this uncontrollable characteristic that’s perhaps the key hallmark of all addictions. The good news is that a number of highly effective and evidence-based treatments exist to help you or your loved one overcome addiction for good.

What is addiction treatment?

Addiction treatment helps sufferers to overcome compulsive drug use or destructive behaviours. Addiction treatment may take place in numerous environments varying from residential rehab at one end of the spectrum and outpatient therapy at the other.

Addiction is a chronic brain disorder. Like other chronic disorders, addiction is characterised by relapse and so addiction treatment must be ongoing in order to be successful.

A number of evidence-based addiction treatments have been developed over the last few decades. The most common forms of treatment are behavioural therapies. Notable examples of behavioural therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy and contingency management. Behavioural therapies are often combined with medications for maximum effectiveness.

Medications may also be used to treat addiction. This is often termed ‘harm reduction’ measures. This is in contrast to the abstinence-based approach that’s enshrined in the 12 Step model. An example of addiction medication would be either methadone or buprenorphine given to those addicted to heroin or opioid pain medications.

Addiction medications are most effective when combined with behavioural therapies such as CBT and DBT. These behavioural therapies help to motivate people to participate in remain in a treatment programme. Behavioural therapies also arm these people with effective avoidance and coping strategies that serve to discourage relapse.

Is addiction treatment effective?

Whilst addiction treatment is not hailed as a ‘cure’ for addiction, it does serve to arrest the causes of addiction when correctly implemented. Addiction treatment allows sufferers to live out their lives as healthy and productive individuals. Whilst addiction treatment will not work for everyone, a significant number of people attending addiction treatment will overcome their addiction entirely.

Studies indicate that addiction treatment not only stops substance misuse but also reduces criminal activity and increases psychological, social and occupational functioning.

The relapse rate for addiction is similar to other forms of chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. Whilst addiction may be effectively managed, it is not curable. Addiction treatment works by disrupting the tendency to engage in addictive behaviours or use addictive substances. In order for addiction treatment to yield long-term benefits, those affected by addiction must be continuously monitored for the rest of their lives.

If relapse does occur, it’s important that you do not deem this as a failure. Treatment must be continuously tweaked and evaluated. Relapse is merely a sign that treatment must be redesigned to reflect your changing needs. This is the same approach that’s utilised when treating other chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Relapse signifies the need for treatment to be either reinstated, adjusted and alternated.

How long does it take to complete addiction treatment?

Because addiction is a chronic disorder, it follows that addiction treatment must never be considered ‘complete.’ Instead, addiction treatment is a pursuit you will have to undertake for the rest of your life.

Sufferers will progress through treatment at different rates. Some may suffer  an early relapse, but ultimately succeed over the long term, whilst others may excel at early recovery only to relapse in the future.

What’s clear is that there is no predetermined length for addiction treatment. The duration of addiction treatment is purely determined by your individual characteristics and social situation.

Generally, long-term treatment programmes are more successful than shorter-term programmes. We recommend you remain in a rehab clinic for at least 28-days. It’s generally believed that treatment programmes lasting for more than 90 days yield the most success in helping sufferers attain their long-term recovery goals.

Dropping out of treatment too soon is perhaps the single biggest cause of treatment failure. It’s thus essential for treatment providers to offer motivational techniques to prevent clients from discharging from their care too early.

How may I encourage a loved-one to enter treatment?

Those affected by addiction are renown for expressing denial about their addiction. It’s estimated that less than 10% of those affected by addiction will ever receive formal treatment. Denial is perhaps the single biggest reason for this tragedy.

Another reason why so few people receive additional treatment is due to poor access to treatment and an unwillingness to seek out treatment due to the stigma attached to addiction. Many people also do not seek out treatment because they are simply unaware of how to do so.

The most effective strategy to getting your loved one into treatment is to stage an intervention. This is when a professional interventionist travels to your home or to your loved one’s home to conduct an evaluation. This evaluation helps to convince your loved-one that addiction treatment is needed.

It’s recommended you seek out the services of an interventionist before your loved one’s addiction is allowed to develop. This is because addiction is considered to be a progressive disorder.

Initial evaluation for tailored addiction treatment

Before your addiction treatment begins, you will benefit from an initial evaluation. This evaluation allows your treatment provider to tailor your addiction treatment to your specific needs. This evaluation also ensures the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to addiction treatment is avoided.

The evaluation allows the treatment provider to better understand the issues you are struggling with in your life. The evaluation seeks to identify any co-occurring issues you may be experiencing, such as an addiction to other prescription medications or any possible co-occurring mental health problems.

In short, the evaluation allows treatment providers to formulate an addiction treatment programme that’s well-match in solving the specific issues you are facing.

The need for detox

A medically supervised detox is necessary when you are addicted to a drug that’s deemed to be physically addictive. Alcohol, opiates and a number of prescription medications fall within this category.

It’s impossible to stop using these drugs without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. some of these symptoms are potentially life-threatening. Fortunately, a number of medications exist to eliminate many of these dangerous symptoms.

If you are addicted to a non-physically addictive substance, you will not require a medically supervised detox. Drugs falling in this category include cannabis, amphetamines, and cocaine. However, these drugs are psychologically addictive, and so you will experience psychological withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, we advise that you undergo treatment from the safety of a residential rehab clinic where you will be physically prevented from re-engaging with drugs whilst you remain in the rehab clinic’s care.

Overcoming the mental causes of addiction

A detox merely involves treating the body and not the mind. Thus, it’s necessary that addiction treatment incorporates therapy and counselling so that the mind may also be fully healed. Therapy and counselling help you understand the mental causes of your addiction. This deep level of understanding helps you to overcome emotional pain that’s likely to be the root cause of your addiction.

Therapy and counselling also arm you with effective coping strategies to help you avoid relapse once you have left the rehab clinic’s care. It’s essential for you to be able to recognise your ‘addiction triggers’ so that you avoid or cope with these triggers as and when they arise.

Addiction treatment providers allow you to interact with highly qualified addiction therapists. These people are experts when it comes to offering highly effective and evidence-based treatments.

Below, we list some of the more common forms of evidence-based addiction treatments currently available to you:

  • Group therapy – this form of therapy takes advantage of peer learning. Positive behaviours and beliefs are reinforced via group settings. Group therapy makes use of evidence-based treatments such as holistic therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy, and psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) CBT helps to identify and alter negative thoughts that are the root cause of negative thinking. CBT is effective for treating addiction and a range of co-occurring mental health issues simultaneously
  • Psychodynamic therapy – this classical form of ‘talking therapy’ helps you identify and better understand events in your past that could be causing you to abuse substances or engage in addictive behaviours
  • Music and art therapy – both encourage self-expression and introspection which are believed to be effective in treating addiction. Music and art therapy help to prepare you for talking therapies
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) – DBT is similar to CBT in that it helps you to identify and alter negative thought patterns. DBT, unlike CBT, makes use of mindfulness meditation
  • Nutrition therapy – Many people who abuse substances also neglect their diet. A poor diet and negative thinking often go hand-in-hand. To combat this, addiction treatment clinics offer nutrition therapy

Please note that the above is not intended to be an exhaustive list of therapies offered at addiction treatment clinics. All of the above must be followed up with an extensive aftercare programme. This is because addiction is a chronic and often re-occurring illness that must be continuously monitored in the same manner as other chronic disorders such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension.

The cost of addiction treatment vs. the cost of prison

One alternative to addiction treatment is to punish drug users in prison. Sending drug users to prison rarely works in preventing future offending unless it is combined with addiction treatment.

To prevent drug users caught up in the prison system from re-offending upon release, it’s essential for these people to receive treatment whilst in prison. Requiring prisoners to undertake addiction treatment is proven to yield huge savings to society. The cost of addiction treatment is far outweighed by the costs incurred when drug users re-offend.

For prisoners addicted to opiates, it’s highly advantageous for these people to begin a methadone programme whilst in prison. Doing so yields the best possible outcomes compared to when users begin a methadone programme once they have completed their prison sentence.

Diverting nonviolent and first-time offenders to treatment clinics is also preferable to sending these people to prison. Courts are then able to mandate people attend an addiction treatment programme as an alternative to incarceration. This is an example where the criminal justice system may positively impact treatment outcomes.

How does addiction treatment differ for women?

Women-only addiction treatment clinics help foster an environment that’s best suited to the needs of female addicts. These clinics take into consideration the biological, social and environmental factors that cause addiction amongst women.

For instance, studies have illustrated the fact that women are more likely than men to experience a sexual and physical traumatic event followed by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Gender-specific addiction treatment allows clinics to focus in on these issues to produce the best possible outcomes.

How does addiction treatment differ for pregnant women?

If you abuse substances and you are pregnant, then know that doing so may result in many long-term health effects for your unborn child. For instance, if you smoke cigarettes during your pregnancy, there is a greater chance of stillbirth and premature birth.

If you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, your baby could develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This causes lifelong cognitive and behavioural problems. If you suffer from alcoholism, then you will need to be admitted into a treatment programme as soon as possible.

Abusing opiates during your pregnancy means your baby will experience opiate withdrawal symptoms. Your baby will need to be given a tapered dose of opiates to avoid seizures and respiratory problems.

If you are addicted to opiates, you may be offered buprenorphine during your pregnancy. Buprenorphine is superior to methadone when it comes to treating pregnant women who are opiate dependent. However, your baby will still experience opiate withdrawal symptoms following the birth even if you substitute other opiates for buprenorphine.

How does addiction treatment differ for adolescents?

Adolescents have special treatment needs because their brain is not fully developed. The brain is particularly vulnerable to the negative long-term effects of drugs when it is still within the developmental phase.

Since the adolescent brain is not fully developed, drug use during this period is likely to weaken adolescents’ ability to exercise sound judgment and control over their actions. This is why adolescents who are addicted to drugs are likely to engage in reckless behaviour.

Adolescents who abuse substances are highly likely to experience a co-occurring mental health problem. Perhaps this mental health problem arose when the adolescent experienced a traumatic event. The adolescent may suffer from a genetic condition such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or oppositional defiant disorder.

It’s vitally important for addiction treatment to diagnose these co-existing disorders before the treatment programme begins. It’s then possible for the addiction and the underlying mental health problem to be treated simultaneously. It’s also beneficial if adolescent addiction treatment includes family therapy. This encourages positive parental involvement in the treatment process.

How does addiction treatment differ for the elderly?

The number of people over the age of 65 in the UK is growing each year as the baby boomer generation continues to age. Unfortunately, the number of elderly people addicted to alcohol and drugs continues to increase year-on-year despite an overall decrease amongst younger people.

If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs and you are elderly, then it’s likely your system will have suffered due to a lifetime of substance abuse. This means it’s particularly important to seek out treatment before you experience further damage to your physical and mental health.

Addiction treatment for those addicted to prescription medications

The number of people addicted to prescription medications in the UK increases year-on-year. At some point, it’s likely this will be declared an epidemic akin to the situation in America. The over-prescribing of benzodiazepines and opiates are thought to be driving this increase in addiction to prescription medications.

Addiction treatment for prescription medications must include a medically assisted detox. This is because the vast majority of prescription medications are physically addictive. This detox is then followed by a robust rehabilitation that will require between 28-90 days to complete.

Addiction treatment and co-occurring mental disorders

It’s relatively rare for addiction to arise without also experiencing a co-occurring mental health disorder. Many addicts began abusing substances to ‘self-medicate’ the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Abusing substances, however, only provide short-term relief. In fact, abusing substances ultimately only serves to further aggravate the symptoms of a mental health disorder.

Because addiction and mental health disorders are commonly intertwined, it’s important for addiction treatment to address both issues simultaneously in an integrated fashion. Doing so produces the most favourable outcome for patients.

Before treatment begins, patients must be fully assessed so that potential mental health disorders are diagnosed. This allows the treatment provider to offer treatment that’s tailored to the particular mental health disorder you are experiencing.

Are medications effective for treating addiction?

Addiction treatment is often improved with the use of medications. This is particularly the case if you are addicted to opiates. For instance, if you are addicted to heroin, it’s possible for you to begin a methadone or buprenorphine programme. Both of these opiates are effective when it comes to beating heroin addiction.

Both methadone and buprenorphine are consumed orally. This contrasts with heroin that’s commonly inhaled or injected. Because methadone and buprenorphine are consumed orally, you will not experience the ‘rush’ and intense euphoria that’s experienced when you inject or inhale heroin. This means you will not experience intensive cravings for methadone or buprenorphine.

The cycle of cravings, euphoria, and crash is the hallmark of a heroin addiction. It’s this cycle that prevents you from engaging with normality. Substituting heroin for methadone or buprenorphine allows you to break free from this cycle, thereby allowing you to live a productive and orderly life.

How may the 12-step model and self-help groups assist with addiction treatment?

The 12-step programme may form part of your core addiction treatment. Alternatively, the 12-steps may support your recovery efforts once your addiction treatment programme has concluded.

Both Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are founded upon the 12-step model. Attending AA and NA meetings offer a powerful peer support network that helps you sustain your recovery once your addiction treatment programme concludes.

How can I better understand my treatment options?

Choosing the most suitable form of addiction treatment is never easy. Due to the many competing offers, it may become overwhelming. To assist in your search for effective addiction treatment, you may contact our free helpline on 0800 140 4690.

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