In years past, we knew little about addiction and how it was treated. Addiction was viewed more as a bad habit that can be broken with willpower. With that said, treating the condition took a cookie-cutter approach. As science into the topic has progressed and evolved, we’ve learned that there is no single treatment approach that works for everyone. The best treatment centers must develop a tailored strategy for the client based on various options available.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to treating addiction. Everything from the experimental use of potent psychedelics to outdoor therapy remains in play for those looking to fight off this dominant condition. While many programs try to address addiction, there are only a few approaches that possess a proven track record in scientific studies. These approaches are known as evidence-based approaches or clinically based therapy. 

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies were created to assist clients through mental health issues and addiction. The various treatment types available primarily focus on motivating the person to persevere in modifying their attitudes and behaviors to avoid any triggers, abstinence, and delving into the root of the issues that led them to use drugs or alcohol in the first place. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was initially designed as a treatment for alcohol addiction. Due to its success, it was later applied to cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and even nicotine. The focal point of CBT is to change the behaviors and thoughts in anticipation of pitfalls during the recovery process. It means the therapist must identify potential triggers and help train the client’s mind to handle them. 

To deal with stress and cravings effectively, CBT helps individuals in recovery develop strong self-control. It will later help them either avoid or deal with “high-risk” situations and cope with cravings long after treatment has been completed. 

Family Behavior Therapy

Addiction affects more than just the user, and it has long been viewed as a family disease for the devastating effects it has on significant others and loved ones. Addiction has the power to hurt the entire family and beyond, and family behavior therapy is geared toward repairing the damage caused by addiction for the family unit. Family behavior therapy includes talk sessions with the individual in recovery and one or more family members. During these sessions, goals are identified and will be renewed in each session.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that utilizes the cognitive-behavioral approach. The treatment works to emphasize the psychosocial aspects of getting treatment. Some of the components of DBT include:

  • Cognitive-based: DBT works to identify beliefs, thoughts, and assumptions that make the client’s life more challenging. It aims to show the individual that these emotions we experience are healthy and that we don’t need to be perfect.
  • Support-oriented: It allows the individual to identify their strengths, which enables them to build confidence and feel better about their lives.
  • Collaborative: This approach requires constant attention between the client and the staff. During DBT, the individual is encouraged to discuss their relationship problems with therapists, and the therapists will do the same with them. DBT requires the person to complete homework assignments, role-play new ways of interacting with people, and practice skills that include calming yourself when upset.


Fortunately, pharmacotherapy options exist within the realms of addiction recovery, which is the use of certain pharmaceutical drugs that promote healing. Although prescription drugs are commonly used in detox to curb the effects of withdrawal, they are also used as substitutes for the client’s drug of choice. These replacement substances provide a safer path to weaning the client of their drug of choice. 

Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction has become the topic of conversation across the United States in addiction treatment. The reason it remains prevalent is due to the challenges users face when attempting to cease using the substance. Fortunately, opioid drugs like methadone are commonly used to treat opioid addiction and block withdrawal symptoms while reducing cravings. It’s widely implemented across the United States and is proven to be more effective when coupled with behavioral treatment. 

Tobacco Addiction

The most popular forms of pharmacotherapy for addiction involve treating tobacco addiction. We’ve all seen commercials for nicotine gum, patches, and sprays, which are called nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). The process is designed to curb withdrawal symptoms that might push a user into smoking. It also introduces nicotine in the system to help ease withdrawal symptoms while avoiding smoke and tar from entering the lungs. 

Another prescription used to aid in the cessation of smoking is bupropion, which is sold as Zyban. It was initially developed as an antidepressant but was found to eliminate cigarette cravings. Since tobacco is an appetite suppressant, many people who quit smoking will gain weight. Bupropion also contains appetite suppressing effects, which will help the individual quit smoking without gaining weight. 

Another drug called varenicline may also be used to treat tobacco addiction. The drug works by blocking the dopamine release of nicotine and stopping it from reinforcing addiction. 

Alcohol Addiction

Various drugs exist to treat alcohol dependence. One of the most successful treatments, Naltrexone, is used to block opioid receptors that cause the rewarding effects of alcohol. Another drug, acamprosate, is used to aid with withdrawal symptoms and promote abstinence. For those serious about stopping alcohol use, the drug Disulfiram prevents your body from breaking down the substance. It will lead to severe nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations if the person consumes alcohol.

Like methadone treatment for opioids, most pharmaceutical approaches are most effective when paired with behavioral therapies. In some cases, however, pharmacotherapies are effective by themself.

12-Step Programs

The 12-step program was created and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). As the program evolved, it was designed to accommodate opiate and stimulant use. The fundamentals are the same for all addictions, and will be practiced in 12 steps described in the following three principles: 

  • The individual accepts that drug or alcohol addiction is chronic, not controlled by willpower and that abstinence from drugs or alcohol is the only path to combat it.
  • The individual must surrender to a higher power and accept help from individuals in the recovery process through the structure of their community.
  • The individual must follow these 12 steps and get involved in regular activities and meetings.

The 12-step program is one of the most prevalent treatment models in addiction centers throughout the United States. These programs are considered to be some of the most effective low-cost aftercare programs and clinically based therapies.

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