What Is Addiction?
In broad terms, addiction is a disorder of brain and behavior, characterized by the compulsive pursuit of rewarding stimuli (for instance, drugs, food, sex, etc.) despite the negative consequences which routinely result from it (that is, the systematic collapse of functioning in work, relationships, self-maintenance, etc.) You might feel compelled to keep drinking, say, even as you know it is causing harm to everything around you.
When you’re caught in the grip of addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), life becomes unmanageable, often leaving you feeling frightened, angry and alone. At the same time, it can also feel extremely difficult to let go because of how deep the disease runs in your life—not to mention the fear of withdrawal.
The good news is that addiction is a treatable disorder. Through a variety of proven medical and therapeutic measures, you can break free of drugs and alcohol and live a life of recovery.
What are the Best Addiction Treatments?
With all the advertised options out there, choosing the best addiction treatment could very well feel overwhelming, leaving you not knowing where to start or who to trust.
Here we assemble the most important considerations that will lead you to effective treatment options, so you or your loved one isn’t left taking shots in the dark but can act immediately to get the help you need.
- Detoxification. Medically monitored detoxification, or simply detox, is the process of managing withdrawal symptoms under the guidance of expert, compassionate care. Detox allows you to remove the substances from your body safely and comfortably, easing you out of the pain of physical and mental withdrawal and onto the next stage of treatment.
- Evidence-Based Therapies. While medically monitored detox is proven to be the most effective way of handling withdrawal symptoms, it is merely the beginning of addiction treatment overall. The next phase of treatment centers on the underlying patterns in thought and behavior that are active in your addiction, and includes individual, group and family counseling. A number of evidence-based therapeutic methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) will help you identify and overcome distorted patterns of thinking and behaving, as well as develop coping mechanisms to manage your emotions, thoughts and actions.
- 12-Step Facilitation. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two of the most noted 12-step programs used to treat substance abuse. While recognizing that addiction is a disease, these programs promise a path to recovery. Through a process beginning with acceptance followed by surrender to a Higher Power, you will grow morally and spiritually, living an emotionally richer and stronger life, all within a supportive recovery community which fosters relationships through regular meetings, sponsorship and more.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). When combined with ongoing behavioral counseling, medications have proven to be a valuable form of addiction treatment. Among its many benefits, MAT helps individuals dealing with opioid addiction in particular stabilize their brain chemistry, reduce cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms, lower the rate of relapse and boost their chances of lasting recovery. Other forms of MAT have proven successful in surmounting addiction to alcohol and nicotine.
- Individualized Treatment. Like every patient, you are a complex individual with your own unique background and needs. Not only will the best addiction treatments recognize variation in treatment depending on type of substance as well as the physical and mental make-up of the individual, it will also offer specialized programming attuned to the particular needs of young adults, older adults, first responders, members of a faith-based community, those dealing with trauma, returning after a relapse or members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Immediate Access to Treatment. Given the reluctance many have in seeking treatment, it is crucially important that treatment options be immediately accessible once you are ready to receive them. Ideally, an inpatient treatment facility should be located in your neighborhood—sparing you the burden of travel and keeping you close to your home support—and transportation should also be readily available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Holistic Treatment. Rather than treat your addiction in isolation, comprehensive care involves treating you, the individual, as a whole—caring for mind, body and spirit together. This includes, in addition to the other features mentioned above, an emphasis on wellness through exercise, nutrition and sleep.
- Treating Co-occurring Disorders. A significant number of individuals who struggle with addiction also have other mental health disorders. The co-occurrence of substance use disorders with anxiety, depression, mood and personality disorders, among others, is common, and effective, lasting treatment of both need to be undertaken in tandem.
- Family Participation. Studies have shown that family involvement in your treatment, through family therapy, education and support services, promotes better outcomes for long-term recovery, while healing old wounds and developing new ways of communicating and coping with life together.
- Long-term Support Network. Recovery is a lifelong process, requiring continued vigilance and mutual support.After you first break free of the grip of drugs and alcohol, your involvement in a support network, like a 12-step program above or Recovery Centers of America’s Alumni Association, will help you stay committed and connected for a lifetime of recovery.
The bottom line is that the best addiction treatments today are those driven by their proven efficacy over time and delivered with compassion on an individual basis.