Drug Addiction Treatment

According to the Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health 22.5 million people (8.5% of the U.S. population) aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit* drug (including marijuana according to federal law, and misuse of prescription medications) or alcohol use problem in 2014.

Addiction treatment must help the person do the following:

  • Stop using drugs
  • Stay drug-free
  • Be productive in the family, at work, and in society

Successful Treatment Steps

Successful treatment has several steps:

  • Detoxification
  • Behavioral counseling such as contingency management, motivational incentives, and/or 12-Step facilitation therapy
  • Medication (for opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction) can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions.
    • Methadone (Dolophine®, Methadose®), buprenorphine (Suboxone®, Subutex®), and naltrexone (Vivitrol®) are used to treat opioid addiction. Acting on the same targets in the brain as heroin and morphine, methadone and buprenorphine suppress withdrawal symptoms and relieve cravings.
    • Naltrexone (short- and long-acting forms) blocks the effects of opioids at their receptor sites in the brain and should be used only in patients who have already been detoxified. All medications help patients reduce drug seeking and related criminal behavior and help them become more open to behavioral treatments
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies help patients:

  • Modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use
  • Increase healthy life skills
  • Persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication