In addition to stopping drug abuse, the goal of drug abuse treatment is to return people to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community. According to research that tracks individuals in treatment over extended periods, most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning.
Drug abuse treatment requires expert help from professionals in the field of drug addiction recovery. Any treatment plan must involve modifying behaviors so that the patient can live a healthy, productive life. No particular drug abuse treatment plan will suit every addict. Each drug abuse case must be assessed independently so a program can be tailor-made for each patient.
Drug abuse treatment options need to address other existing issues that may have contributed to the dependency. For example, someone who has experienced grief may resort to alcohol or prescription drugs to numb their emotional pain. Social ties may need to broken, if friends are encouraging or facilitating the addiction.
In some cases, a pre-existing mental disorder needs to be treated in addition to the addict’s drug abuse problem. Occasionally, mental disorders are undiagnosed, misunderstood or drugs meant to treat the disorder have been misused, resulting in chronic dependency.
Easing the withdrawal symptoms that occur when a person stops using drugs is not always possible. Many who enter in the drug abuse treatment using replacement drugs find that they have simply traded one addiction for another. Drug abuse treatment programs that use substitute drugs have many drawbacks. The primary one being that the drug abuser will eventually need to quit the “replacement” substance. Successful drug abuse treatment integrates behavior modification therapy as well as the ultimate withdrawal of all medications.
Individuals progress through drug abuse treatment at various rates, so there is no pre-determined length of treatment. However, research has shown unequivocally that good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length. Generally, for residential or outpatient treatment, participation for less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, and treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended for maintaining positive outcomes.
Some drug abuse treatment programs are inpatient programs; others rely on regular attendance of an outpatient care facility. Some patients also attend Multidimensional Family Therapy. Entire families participate in these programs, which seek to minimize myriad environmental factors that contribute to drug abuse.
Outpatient drug abuse treatment consists of regular, scheduled visits with a doctor or a treatment counselor. Most programs also include support groups, and some have 24-hour hotlines that patients can call for emergency counseling. These programs work best for patients who are abusing drugs that don't cause physical addiction and who genuinely want to recover.
In chronic drug abuse cases, or cases where the drugs cause a physical addiction, residential drug abuse treatment programs are often necessary. The patient may be in care for a lengthy period, learning how to interact with others, while at the same time withdrawing from drug dependency and receiving treatment for any drug-related illnesses. Hepatitis or HIV/AIDS are often contracted as a direct result of drug abuse. Other diseases can be contracted, too; some are contagious without sharing drug paraphernalia.
Like other chronic health problems, addiction can be managed successfully. Drug abuse treatment enables people to counteract addiction's powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives. The chronic nature of drug addiction means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely, with relapse rates similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical problems—such as diabetes, hypertension, and others that also have both physiological and behavioral components.
Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem drug abuse treatment a failure. This is not the case: successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate. For the addicted patient, lapses to drug abuse do not indicate failure—rather, they signify that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate drug abuse treatment is needed.