Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment

What is Substance Abuse Treatment?

Addicted people may go on denying their alcohol and other drug problems, even when their lives are in shambles. It often takes serious trouble — with the law, at school, at work, or in the family — for them to make a move towards treatment. Where people go to end alcohol and other drug dependency.

An opportunity for people to start rebuilding their lives.

Varied from one program to another.

Always clearly structured, goal-oriented, and demanding.

A match between client and program to ensure success.

Consistent support and help for people on the road to recovery.

What Happens in Substance Abuse Treatment?

Treatment refers to the broad range of services, including identification, intervention, assessment, diagnosis, counseling, medical services, psychiatric services, psychological services, social services and follow-up for persons with substance abuse problems. The overall goal of treatment is to reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol and/or drugs as a contributing factor to physical, psychological, and social dysfunction and to arrest, retard, or reverse the progress of any associated problems.

Certain elements are basic to substance abuse treatment:

Detoxification: The process of getting alcohol and/or drugs out of the system — of getting “clean.” Some people need medical help and counseling to go through “detox.”

Assessment: No two substance abusers are alike in substance abuse histories or their related problems. At the start of the treatment process, these aspects of the client’s life need to be evaluated to determine the best course of treatment. During assessment, the client’s substance abuse behaviors are reviewed, as are current and previous medical and psychological conditions. Other factors, such as family relations and job history, are also explored.

Treatment Plan: Information gathered during assessment helps program staff work with incoming clients to develop an individualized treatment plan. The plan is like a contract — it spells out treatment objectives, the recommended therapeutic services, and other activities. The plan includes the client’s responsibilities, the program’s responsibilities, and how progress will be measured.

Therapeutic Activities and Services: Treatment programs often address all parts of a person’s life that have been disrupted by alcohol and other drugs: Clients diagnosed with substance abuse related health and nutritional problems receive or are referred to medical care, voluntary HIV testing and education, and Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B testing.

  • Counseling services help clients look at the patterns of their substance abuse. In individual therapy, they look at the underlying causes of their addiction. In group therapy, among other recovering people, clients are encouraged to confront their destructive behaviors and to explore new ways of dealing with people, with emotions, and with the craving for substances. Family counseling helps family members understand and participate in the recovery process.
  • Essential to recovery is learning how to spend leisure time. Through recreational activities clients are introduced to alcohol- and drug-free ways of enjoying themselves and contributing to the community.
  • Programs may provide services to meet specific clients’ needs: classroom instruction for students; literacy, remedial reading and math for clients who lack basic skills; job training for unemployed or underemployed adults; and assistance in finding housing for clients without a home.

Aftercare/Continuing Care: Aftercare is critical for a successful return to the community. It helps people continue to apply the lessons learned in treatment to their own lives:

Before clients leave treatment, they are usually introduced to outside peer support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA), which function like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These groups contribute to aftercare by allowing clients to maintain relationships with other recovering people who can help them stay alcohol- and drug-free. In addition, recovering people may return to the therapeutic program for regular group and individual counseling sessions. These aftercare services help people avoid relapse.

What Makes Substance Abuse Treatment Work?

Research has shown that substance abuse treatment programs that are effective have the following components:

  • Are at least three months to a year in duration.
  • Are intensive, comprehensive, and highly structured.
  • Require therapy focusing on all aspects of the patient’s life.
  • Include participation in support groups.
  • Provide access to educational, vocational, and employment
  • Foster a sense of belonging to a community.

Institute of Medicine Report (1990)