While most treatments follow a general path — from detox to residential or out-patient care, from counseling and individual therapy, to support groups — treatment for drug addiction depends mostly on the traits of the individual patient and drug. Many consider drug and alcohol addiction to be a symptom of another problem, a kind of self medication for another, larger problem, whether that problem is related to mental health, an occupation, or other social issues. Since these problems vary significantly, it can complicate treatment and means that each patient must be treated on a case-by-case basis for the best chance of success.
In most cases, treatment consists of a mix of behavioral therapy (such as psychotherapy, counseling, cognitive therapy), as well as medications, or a combination of the two. The medications are generally used to detox the patient from the destructive drugs in their lives, and the behavioral therapy is way to provide individuals the tools they need in order to deal with their cravings for drugs, to provide instruction about methods to avoid drugs and to prevent relapsing, but also to give them tools to deal with a relapse if it should occur, so that the relapse might be temporary and brief. Behavioral therapy may also reduce the risk of transmitting an infectious disease, especially if the drug-related behavior has placed the individual at risk for such diseases, such as AIDS and others. The treatment also includes case management and refers patients to other psychological, medical and social services, all of which are crucial in helping prevent relapse and to enable the patient to rebuild his or her life.
Some treatment programs are tailored to meet specific needs of a patient, placing people with similar backgrounds and issues, such as those formed by age, culture, race, sexual orientation, gender, housing, employment, in addition to physical or sexual abuse. The idea is that people with similar issues are best able to help each other, showing the individual that he or she is not alone in this problem.
Medication treatment for drug addiction may include such drugs as methadone, LAAM, naltrexone, for those addicted to opiates, for example. Other medications, such as mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, or neuroleptics, might be needed for someone with a dual diagnosis, such as those who have mental issues, such as depression, anxiety disorder, psychosis, or bipolar disorder.
The types of treatment are almost as numerous as the individuals who need them. Treatment may occur in a different settings, forms, and times. Usually, this is not a short-term or one-time treatment to the problem; drug addiction is usually a chronic disorder which may include relapses on occasion. For some, treatment is effective the first time around; but for many, treatment must be seen as a long-term process involving more than one intervention and more than one attempt at remaining drug-free.
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