What treatments are available for substance abuse?

Addiction can be treated with behavioral therapy, substance abuse programs, medications in some instances and often family support. These things can be offered on an outpatient basis as well as in inpatient facilities.

Fredrick Wade
Addiction Medicine Specialist

Substance abuse asks that a biopsychosocial approach be undertaken when treating the many forms of presenting substance use and abuse disorders. This approach considers the systemic underpinnings of the biological, psychological, and social factors associated with addiction. Since addiction touches almost every aspect of the user and their loved ones lives, the biopsychosocial approach considers the multifaceted and targeted host of manifestations in which addiction impacts one’s life. For this reason, this approach is multidisciplinary in nature and assures that all possible implications of the addictive lifestyle are ruled out or in as a part of the treatment episode. Thus, medical detoxification, dual diagnosis, a medical physical, exploration of medications designed to intervene with use and abuse, as well as various forms of counseling support for the addict and his or her family. These are all part and parcel of the biopsychosocial and multidisciplinary treatment approach of substance abuse.

Treatment options for substance abuse include outpatient detoxification, individual and group therapies and medication management. Self-help groups, support groups and counseling are among other treatment options.

Debra Dibartolo
Nursing Specialist

Treatment for substance abuse disorders, like every medical condition should be tailored to the needs of the client. Basically there are a few distinct treatment paths, and for many people a combination of treatments are necessary:

  • 12 Step Programs: Free and confidential with very flexible meeting schedules
  • Detoxification: Short term treatment to get past the medical issues that are associated with withdraw from some substances (the most worrisome being benzodiazepines and alcohol)
  • Inpatient Treatment: Residential care varying from a few days to several months to a year or more
  • Outpatient Treatment: Combinations of group treatment and individual treatment variable in length and intensity bases on the patients’ needs
  • Medication Assisted: Medication prescribed by a physician to assist in maintaining or achieving sobriety. Not intended as a standalone treatment modality.

There are several types of treatments available for substance abuse:

  • Inpatient treatment is recommended for people with other medical conditions or those in danger of withdrawal. These usually involve a three- to six-week inpatient treatment phase following detoxification.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment, which usually involves daily treatment in a controlled setting.
  • Outpatient treatment for shorter periods on a weekly basis.
  • Therapeutic communities, or TCs (also called inpatient long-term drug rehabs). These are highly structured programs in which people stay at a residence for six to 12 months or longer. Those in TCs include people with relatively long histories of drug dependence, involvement in serious criminal activities or seriously impaired social functioning. The focus of the TC is to help people transition to a drug-free, crime-free lifestyle.

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