Principles of treating drug addiction

Addiction, whether to alcohol or any other drug, is characterised by a mental obsession and a physical compulsion are by nature very destructive.

All addictions, whether it’s gambling, drink or drugs, eating disorders or even sex and love, it involves persistent use in spite of the negative consequences to all spheres of the person’s life – family, work, college or school and the larger community.

Due to the complexity of addiction, it’s origins, and its multiple negative consequences, effective treatment for drug addiction needs to be delivered by a multidisciplinary addictions team of professionals that can comprehensively address all associated issues.

Some aspects of drug addiction treatment need to focus on the addict’s drug use (detoxification) and the mental constructs that enable continued relapse (dismantling of Denial) while others address the restoration of functioning in family, work or study and healthier social interactions (changing playgrounds, playmates and playthings) allowing the addict to return to being a productive member of society and leading a happy drug-free life.

Treatment for drug abuse comes in many ways using different pharmacological and behavioural methods. Drug addiction treatment centres offer interventions, counselling, psychotherapy, supervised medication and other services to those who are trying to break free of their addictions. Treatment is available in outpatient, inpatient, and long term residential facilities.

The General Types of Treatment Programmes

There are several types of treatment programmes, although they continue to adapt and change regularly and there are some programs that no longer fit into the traditional treatment groups.

Medically Supervised Detoxification and Withdrawal

Detoxification is the process where the body cleans itself of substances and usually has unpleasant side effects which can, depending on the severity of the drug addiction, be fatal during withdrawal.

Detoxification only deals with physical withdrawal and does not attend to the psychological, social, and behavioural problems.

Drug or alcohol detox alone does not generally result in lasting behavioural changes, however it is the first step towards recovery and needs to be followed up with rehabilitation treatment. Detox is often managed with medications that are administered by a doctor in an inpatient or outpatient facility. The purpose of detoxification is to manage the severe and potentially hazardous physiological effects of no longer using drugs. Detoxification needs to be followed by a medical assessment and referral to further rehabilitation treatment.

Long-Term Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Long-term inpatient addiction treatment gives 24 hour care per day in a residential facility. A well-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community.

Therapeutic community has a planned duration of stay between 6 to 12 months that focuses on the “re-socialising” of the addict by using the programme’s community, including the residents and the staff. Treatment concentrates on developing personal accountability and responsibility of the addict leading to socially productive lifestyles. It is very structured and often confrontational.

Activities are intended to assist patients to assess their negative belief systems and unhealthy patterns of behaviour. They are encouraged to adopt constructive ways of interacting with others.

Some therapeutic communities offer additional services, such as training for employment and other support services. They can be specialised to treat people with certain needs, including teens, women, homeless people, those with mental disorders and those in prison.


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