What is drug rehabilitation?

Drug rehabilitation aims to help addicts stop searching and using drugs. The treatment can have a variety of configurations, take many different forms, and be applied for different periods of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disease characterized by occasional, short-term relapses, one-time treatment is usually not enough. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular follow-up.

How drug rehabilitation is used to treat a drug addict:

There is a wide variety of addiction treatments based on specialty studies. Drug treatment may include:

  • Medicines
  • Behavior therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • Or a combination of the two

The specific type of treatment will vary depending on the individual needs of the patient and, often, the types of drugs they use.

Treatment with medications:

Treatment with medications, with methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone (including a new long-acting formulation), are available to people addicted to opiates, while nicotine preparations (patches, gum, pills, and nasal spray) the Varenicline and bupropion are medications available to people addicted to tobacco. Disulfiram, acamprosate and naltrexone are medications available to treat alcohol dependence, which commonly occurs in conjunction with other addictions, including prescription drug addiction.

Treatments for prescription drug abuse tend to be similar to those for illicit drugs that affect the same brain systems. For example, buprenorphine, which is used to treat heroin addiction, can also be used to treat opioid analgesic addiction. Addiction to prescription stimulants, which affect the same brain systems as illicit stimulants (cocaine), can be treated with behavioral therapies, since there are still no medications to treat addiction to these types of drugs.

Treatment with behavioral therapies:

Behavioral therapies can help motivate people to participate in drug treatment, because they offer strategies to deal with drug cravings, to avoid drugs and prevent relapse, they also help treat people if a relapse occurs. Behavioral therapies can also help improve communication, relationships and parental skills, and family dynamics.

Many drug rehabilitation programs employ individual and group therapies. Group therapy can provide social reinforcement and help enforce behavioral contingencies that promotes abstinence and a drug-free lifestyle. Some of the most established behavioral treatments, such as contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy, adapt the group’s configuration to improve efficiency and profitability. However, particularly for adolescents, different dangers may arise when using group treatment, sometimes group members (especially in groups of young offenders) can reinforce drug use and thereby fail the purpose of therapy. Therefore, trained counselors should take that into account and control those effects.

Because they work on different aspects of addiction, combinations of behavioral therapies and medications (if available) in general seem to be more effective than any treatment used alone.

Finally, people who are addicted to drugs often suffer from health problems (for example, depression, HIV), work, legal, family and social problems that must be addressed at the same time. The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet the needs of each patient. Psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants, anxiolytic agents, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications, can be critical to the success of treatment when patients have mental disorders such as depression, anxiety (including post-traumatic stress), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. In addition, most people with multiple drug addiction require treatment for all abused substances.

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