A drug addiction can be the hardest challenge that an individual has to face. Fortunately there are an array of different treatments that can help them to break the cycle of addiction, recover their health and heal their minds.
The exact type of treatments that are required will depend very much on what drug is being abused, the extent and length of the addiction and the individual themselves. Some drugs create a powerful physical dependency within the individual that results in a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. In some cases the chemical dependency can build to such an extent that to quit ‘cold turkey’ would be potentially life threatening.
With some other substance addictions there is little or no physical dependency that takes place, but the user may have developed a very strong psychological addiction that compels them to seek more of the drug despite obvious detrimental effects to their health and relationships. In many cases where a physical dependency exists, so too does a psychological addiction, making the habit even harder to break.
All addiction treatments have a number of components. Detox is the initial period in which the individual ceases use of the drug. The severity of this can vary widely depending on the type of drug, and in some instances it may be necessary to taper off usage first, or use a substitute medication as a an interim measure. They will also often need psychological and emotional support to help them through this initial detox phase.
Equally as important, and generally longer in duration, is the process of using a variety of therapeutic and support methods to help the individual beat their cravings, prevent relapse and foster new healthy replacement behaviours.
With some addictions, a stay as an in-patient in a specialised residential drug rehabilitation centre is the best course of action.
This is most often the case with drugs that create a strong physical addiction and chemical dependency such as Cocaine, Heroin and other opiates. With drugs such as these, the body may have adjusted so much to the presence of the substance over time that they physically need them to function ‘normally’.
In these instances, a residential stay in a drug treatment centre makes it possible to monitor the patient’s progress and administer medications to provide relief from the withdrawal symptoms where necessary. Sometimes this will involve a rapid detox and abrupt cessation of the drug, while for some drugs and individuals a more gradual ‘tapered’ detox will be used to minimise risk and withdrawal effects.
As well as monitoring and supporting the individual on a physical level during the detox phase, residential treatment centres work with them on a psychological and emotional level. This can help the patient to come to terms with their addiction and aid the restoration of mental balance to their lives.
Even those whose addictions do not have a strong physical dependency may benefit greatly from the round the clock support offered by residential treatment in a specialised centre. A typical in-patient treatment programme may incorporate a variety of therapeutic sessions, activities and support groups. These are all designed to help the individual through the rehabilitation process and enable them to develop the coping skills and healthy habits they need to stay drug free.
While in some cases a stay in a residential treatment centre may be the best course of action, depending on the drug and the individual, this is not always the case. Not all drug addictions require a high level of monitoring or constant professional support, and in these instances an out-patient treatment programme can be the right course of action to help the individual beat the addiction and get back on their feet.
Out-patient treatment offers many of the same therapeutic and support measures as residential programmes, but they enable the patient to remain in their home environment and go about their lives much as they would normally. The one important difference of course is that they will be drug free, and that is what out-patient treatment aims to preserve.
The exact nature of any out-patient drug rehabilitation programme will depend on the specific substance that has been abused. A typical treatment plan will provide a mix of one-to-one therapy and counselling sessions, support groups and monitoring.
One of the major attractions of out-patient therapy is that it enables the individual to be treated for their addiction without the need to enter a hospital-like environment or be separated from their friends and families for extended periods. These programmes can usually be tailored to suit, with scheduled treatment sessions on pre-agreed days or evenings.
While methods can differ, one of the main aims of out-patient treatment is to help the individual identify and eliminate the reasons that they take drugs. However for individuals with particularly strong addictions, and who have drug-taking peer groups, a residential stay in a treatment centre may be more successful.
Beating a drug addiction is not only about simply ceasing use of the drugs in question. To be successful, any rehabilitation treatment needs to identify why the individual is compelled to take drugs in the first place and what behaviours reinforce the addiction. It should then seek to address and change these behavioural patterns for the better. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be a highly effective method of doing just that.
CBT is effective for treating drug addiction because it focuses on the thoughts of the individual (hence the cognitive part) and how they affect their behaviour. But where other therapies seek to dig deep and analyse root causes and past events, CBT instead aims to change the thoughts, and thus alter the resulting behaviour.
CBT will usually be carried out one-to-one with a therapist, and may be part of a more extensive residential or out-patient treatment programme, or it may be a standalone treatment. In CBT, the qualified practitioner will help the patient to illuminate the thoughts and behaviour that are key to the persistence of the drug problem, and they will help them to identify healthy alternative behaviours.
It can be incredibly powerful, but it is not a ‘magic cure’ for addiction or any other condition, and it is down to the motivation and determination of the patient to implement what is learned through CBT and maintain it.
As well as helping the patient to replace their drug-seeking behaviours, CBT can also help them to find better ways of dealing with wider life issues that potentially lead to drug use. For example, someone with an underlying social anxiety might have a history of turning to drugs to increase their confidence and make them feel more at ease. CBT would try to identify the reasons behind that anxiety and find a way to reduce it naturally through alternative thinking.
In many cases there are a series of complex issues that underlie a drug addiction. Sometimes these may be quite clear and apparent, while in some instances they may be buried deeper down, or even repressed completely. In addition to this, the drug addiction itself may have led to the development or exacerbation of a variety of mental issues and disturbances.
Counselling sessions and support groups are two important treatment methods which can be used alongside a wider addiction treatment programme, to address these issues and to help the patient deal with them.
The level of counselling will depend largely on the individual, their problems, and the extent of their addiction. In some cases, a course of simple ‘talking therapy’ may be sufficient to help the individual to better cope with their addiction and subsequent rehabilitation. However with people who have more serious and complex problems, professional specialised psychiatric counselling may be more suitable. This latter option may be particularly relevant to long-term heavy drug users with multiple drug habits, particularly those who regularly use hallucinogenic drugs.
Regular support groups can be very useful alongside counselling and other rehabilitation treatments. Being able to discuss their difficulties and their progress with individuals with similar addictions can be highly therapeutic for recovering drug users, and offer an avenue for much needed emotional support. Listening to the rehabilitation stories of others can also provide inspiration and boost motivation.
By addressing and dealing with the issues that lead to drug seeking behaviour, counselling and support groups can help individuals to quit their addictions and stay quit.