5 Evidence-Based Treatments For Addiction

5 Evidence-Based Treatments For Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol or drug addiction, it’s important to look for evidence-based treatments. These are treatments that have been proven successful by more than one scientific study.

An effective treatment plan likely offers multiple evidence-based treatment methods. Here are five.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Almost all substance abuse treatment facilities offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that can help people change unhealthy behaviors, including addictive behaviors.

Identify Triggers

During CBT for addiction, the therapist helps the patient identify triggers. Triggers are people, places, emotions, or other stimuli that make a person want to use drugs. Common triggers include:

  • old friends who still abuse drugs
  • parties, nightclubs, or other places where drug use occurs
  • stress, grief, or other unpleasant feelings

Develop Coping Skills

To help the patient manage these triggers without using drugs, the therapist teaches healthy coping skills, such as:

  • recognizing that thoughts and feelings aren’t always true
  • deep breathing
  • journaling
  • exercising
  • creative activities, such as drawing or painting

Evidence & Research

Studies show that most people retain the skills they learned in CBT long after treatment ends. In addition, CBT can help treat mental health issues that occur alongside addiction, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma.

2. Contingency Management (CM)

Contingency management (CM) is a treatment method that rewards people for staying sober and motivates them to continue their recovery journeys. There are two main types of contingency management: voucher-based reinforcement (VBR) and prize incentives CM.

Voucher-Based Reinforcement (VBR)

In VBR, a patient receives a voucher each time they produce a drug-free urine sample.

Each voucher has a monetary value that can be exchanged for food, movie tickets, gift cards, and other goods. The monetary value increases as the patient provide more drug-free urine samples. If they fail a urine test, the monetary value resets.

Prize Incentives CM

In prize incentives CM, the patient gets a chance to draw from a bowl and win a cash prize each time they provide a drug-free urine or breath sample, attend a therapy session or complete other goals defined by their treatment team. In most cases, the cash prize ranges between $1 and $100.

Evidence & Research

Research shows that both types of contingency management help people beat addiction, especially addictions to opioids (like heroin) and stimulants (like cocaine).

3. Twelve-Step Facilitation Therapy (TSF)

Twelve-step facilitation therapy (TSF) connects patients to 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

These programs promote recovery by teaching three key concepts: acceptance, surrender, and active involvement.

Acceptance, Surrender, & Active Involvement

Acceptance means realizing that drug addiction is a chronic disease that requires professional help.

Surrender means giving oneself over to a higher power (such as a religious deity, nature, or the universe) and receiving support from other people in recovery.

Active involvement means participating in twelve-step meetings and other recovery-related activities.

Evidence & Research

According to research, TSF encourages people to stay involved with twelve-step support groups long after professional treatment ends. Long-term involvement with these groups significantly reduces the risk of relapse.

4. Family Behavior Therapy (FBT)

Family behavior therapy (FBT) helps people manage addiction as well as co-occurring issues like family conflict, child maltreatment, and unemployment. The therapy sessions involve the person with addiction and at least one family member.

Behavioral Goals & Rewards

The therapist helps the person with addiction develop behavioral goals for preventing drug use and HIV infection (a disease that’s often linked to sharing drug injection equipment and having unprotected sex while intoxicated).

Then, the therapist teaches the family member(s) how to help their recovering loved one meet those goals.

FBT also involves contingency management. When the person in recovery meets a behavioral goal, the therapist instructs a family member to provide a reward.

Evidence & Research

Research shows that FBT works for both adults and adolescents. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, adolescents benefit more from FBT than they do from supportive counseling (a popular form of talk therapy).

5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Designed for people addicted to alcohol and opioids, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can make the addiction recovery process much easier. During MAT, patients take medications while receiving behavioral therapy and other forms of treatment.

Alcohol Addiction

Medications approved to treat alcohol addiction include:

  • acamprosate, which reduces alcohol cravings
  • disulfiram, which discourages alcohol use by causing unpleasant side effects (such as nausea, headache, and chest pain) when you drink alcohol
  • naltrexone, which blocks the pleasant effects of alcohol

Opioid Addiction

Medications approved to treat opioid addiction include:

  • buprenorphine, which reduces opioid cravings
  • naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioids
  • methadone, which blocks the effects of opioids and reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms

Evidence & Research

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT helps people stay in treatment, avoid criminal activity, maintain employment, and reduce the risk of overdose.

To learn more about alcohol and drug addiction treatment options, please contact us. We offer a variety of evidence-based treatments on an inpatient and outpatient basis.

Written by
Recovering Champions Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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