There are many different types of addiction which of course means there are many different types of treatment for it, but this does not mean that there are not extremely pertinent similarities in methods of treatment. While it should be patently obvious that there is no one way of treating everybody for addiction, this doesn’t mean that one can’t take a broad overview of what form one might expect both addiction and treatment to take generally.
The important thing to note is that addiction affects the brain – this is not in doubt – and this leads to two observations. Firstly, the changes to the brain will continue to affect the addict long after the source of the addiction is out of their system. Secondly, the addict’s treatment will require continued monitoring for several months at least, because of these long-term changes. It has been shown conclusively that the longer an addict receives treatment, the more likely they are to conquer their addiction.
Once you understand this, it also becomes easier to understand why the risk of a relapse is so strong for addicts. The brain has ‘learned’ behaviour and associations that led to the addiction and these must be avoided and defence mechanisms must be learned to compete with these damaging urges that can reoccur sporadically.
One common way of treating drug addiction is by behavioural therapy and group counselling. A patient must be kept motivated and sharing the journey with others helps reinforce positive activities, particularly when they can see others successfully fighting addiction by the same means.
Another treatment often used, particularly with drug addicts, is medication itself. There are few of us who don’t know that methadone is used in the treatment of heroin (and morphine) addiction. You may also have heard of disulfiram for alcohol addiction. This is obviously not to suggest that these drugs for treating addictions work in the same way at all. The way they act upon the body is markedly different, though the aim is the same – to rid the body of the desire for the drug in the first place. It should be remembered that it is exceedingly unusual for medication on its own to rid a patient of drug addiction and the medication should be continued even after the initial craving period has long passed.
Naturally, this is merely scratching the surface of the range of addiction treatment strategies, but hopefully it does give some idea why there can never be a quick fix.
James Wyeth has had family experience of addiction treatment and wrote this piece on behalf of http://www.themanorclinic.com