The Basics of Alcohol and Drug Treatment

The Basics of Alcohol and Drug Treatment – Alcohol and drug treatment is designed to help people who are addicted to a substance stop compulsive drug-seeking and use. Treatment can be rendered in a variety of settings, take on many different forms, and last for varying lengths of time.

But because drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by intermittent relapses, a brief, one-time treatment may not be sufficient. For many, that is, treatment is an extended process that involves several intervention strategies, regular supervision, and continual support.

Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program Features

Features of comprehensive alcohol or drug treatment program often include the following:

  • Assessment and treatment planning
  • Medical detox
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Psychoeducation on drug abuse and addiction
  • Alternative practices, such as art and music therapy, meditation, and yoga
  • Peer support group interactions, such as Narcotics Anonymous
  • Case management and aftercare planning

Several different evidence-based approaches have been found to be effective at addressing addiction. Comprehensive drug treatment programs are usually heavily based on a combination of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and pharmacotherapy. The specific combination of treatments employed will vary depending on the person’s individual needs and, often, on their drug(s) of choice.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medications, such as Suboxone and naltrexone have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are available for people who are dependent on opioids. Naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate are all pharmaceuticals that are available for the treatment of alcohol addiction.

Medication-based treatments for prescription drug misuse or abuse often resemble those for illegal drugs that affect the same mechanisms in the brain. For example, Suboxone can be administered to treat an addiction to either heroin or prescription opioid painkillers. Addiction to prescription and illicit stimulants such as Adderall and cocaine, respectively, can be treated with psychotherapies and counseling. However, medications approved by the FDA are not yet available for treating addiction to these substances.


Behavioral therapies can help motivate addicted persons to engage in drug treatment actively and offer strategies for managing drug cravings. Likewise, they can teach ways to avoid drug use, prevent relapse, and help individuals manage relapse if it occurs. Behavioral therapies can also help promote communication, as well as improve relationships, parenting skills, and family dynamics.

Many treatment programs make substantial use of both individual and group therapies. Group therapy offers social reinforcement and helps implement behaviors that foster abstinence and a clean and sober lifestyle. Some of the more well-established behavioral treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, have also been adapted for group environments to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Because they address different aspects of drug and alcohol addiction, combinations of behavioral therapies and medication, if appropriate, are frequently found to be more effective than either approach is when used alone.

The Basics of Alcohol and Drug Treatment

Addressing Health, Legal, Occupational, and Social Problems

Finally, people who abuse drugs or alcohol often experience other health, legal, occupational, and social problems that need to be addressed concurrently. The best programs offer a variety of therapies and other services in order to meet an individual patient’s needs.

Psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotic drugs, may be vital for treatment when patients have co-occurring mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, most people with particularly stubborn addiction problems use multiple drugs and require treatment for all substances of abuse.

Alcohol and Drug Treatment Formats

Treatment programs are usually customized based on each participant’s unique needs and circumstances. The most effective types of treatment programs, however, ensure that persons in recovery are actively engaged throughout the entire process.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehabs provide structured treatment programs meant to address all aspects of a person’s addiction. During inpatient treatment, participants reside in a secure facility and receive around-the-clock medical supervision and support.

Inpatient rehabs may be the best option for those struggling with severe and chronic addiction, as well as those who experience co-occurring mental health disorders.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) offer the most intensive level of non-inpatient care. People who suffer from substance abuse and addiction and mental health conditions may benefit from PHP services.

In order to enroll in PHP, clients must have achieved a degree of stability that allows them to participate in all therapeutic activities fully, and must not have psychological or physical needs that demand around-the-clock supervision. PHP doesn’t usually include a residential component, and because of this, participants must secure other living arrangements and be able to live on their own.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient programs are another form of comprehensive treatment. This flexible treatment format offers many of the same kinds of evidence-based approaches and therapies as inpatient and PHP programs.

Moreover, outpatient rehabs allow patients to stay at a private residence throughout the recovery process. Patients can resume working and attending to their families and other obligation while participating scheduled treatment sessions during the week.

It’s important to remember that outpatient rehabs may place patients at greater risk of encountering triggers that test their fortitude in sobriety. For this reason, outpatient rehabs are best suited for people who have already completed more intensive forms of treatment or have less severe substance abuse problems and are highly committed to their recovery.

Is Alcohol and Drug Treatment Effective?

In addition to the prevention of drug abuse, the objective of treatment is to restore positive interactions in the family and community. According to research that follows those in treatment over prolonged periods, most people who enter and remain in treatment discontinue drug or alcohol use, engage in less criminal activity and improve social and occupational functioning.

Addiction, however, is a very persistent disorder and relapse rates for addiction are similar to those of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. Nevertheless, like these other chronic conditions, addiction can be successfully managed. Treatment gives people the tools they need to thwart addiction’s powerful, potentially destructive impact on the brain and behavior and reclaim control of their lives.

The Basics of Alcohol and Drug Treatment

The persistent nature of addiction means that relapsing back into drug or alcohol abuse (even a different drug of choice) is not only plausible but perhaps expected. Unfortunately, when relapse does occur, many people tend to assume treatment has failed, but this is not necessarily the case. Successful addiction treatment often requires persistent re-evaluation and adjustment if relevant, not unlike approaches used for other chronic conditions.

For instance, when a patient is receiving treatment for high blood pressure and their symptoms improve, treatment is considered successful, even though symptoms can recur if treatment is suspended. For the addicted individual, relapses do not indicate failure, but instead imply that treatment needs to be reinstated or modified, or that alternate treatment is needed.

How We Can Help

Harmony Recovery employs caring addiction specialists who provide our clients with the education, tools, and support they so urgently need to achieve a full recovery and sustain long-term sobriety and wellness. Our comprehensive programs include essential, evidence-based services, such as medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, individual and group counseling, and peer support groups.

We can help you reclaim your life, free from drugs and alcohol! Contact us today to discuss treatment options and discover how, with our support, you can begin your journey to recovery!

Related: Drug and Alcohol Relapse: Three Stages

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