- Treatment and Recovery | National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Can addiction be cured?
- Does relapse to drug use mean treatment has failed?
- What are the principles of effective treatment?
- What medications and devices help treat drug addiction?
- How do behavioral therapies treat drug addiction?
- How do the best treatment programs help patients recover from addiction?
- Top 10 Tips to Prevent Relapse
- 1. Lay the groundwork with a comprehensive addiction treatment program
- 2. Attend your treatment program all the way through
- 3. Develop and follow through on your aftercare plan
- 4. Build a support network to keep in touch with after treatment
- 5. Find a therapist for ongoing individual therapy
- 6. Attend 12-step meetings or other recovery support groups
- 7. Discover some new hobbies or reconnect with old ones
- 8. Get your body moving
- 9. Make use of a journal
- 10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Treatment and Recovery | National Institute on Drug Abuse
Yes, addiction is a treatable disorder. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people to stop using drugs and resume productive lives, also known as being in recovery.
Can addiction be cured?
other chronic diseases such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction usually isn't a cure. But addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction's disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.
These images showing the density of dopamine transporters in the brain illustrate the brain's remarkable ability to recover, at least in part, after a long abstinence from drugs—in this case, methamphetamine.51
Does relapse to drug use mean treatment has failed?
The chronic nature of addiction means that for some people relapse, or a return to drug use after an attempt to stop, can be part of the process, but newer treatments are designed to help with relapse prevention. Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are ly to relapse.
Relapse rates for people treated for substance use disorders are compared with those for people treated for high blood pressure and asthma. Relapse is common and similar across these illnesses. Therefore, substance use disorders should be treated any other chronic illness. Relapse serves as a sign for resumed, modified, or new treatment.
Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment.52
While relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some drugs, it can be very dangerous—even deadly.
If a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure.
An overdose happens when the person uses enough of a drug to produce uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death.
What are the principles of effective treatment?
Research shows that when treating addictions to opioids (prescription pain relievers or drugs heroin or fentanyl), medication should be the first line of treatment, usually combined with some form of behavioral therapy or counseling. Medications are also available to help treat addiction to alcohol and nicotine.
Additionally, medications are used to help people detoxify from drugs, although detoxification is not the same as treatment and is not sufficient to help a person recover. Detoxification alone without subsequent treatment generally leads to resumption of drug use.
For people with addictions to drugs stimulants or cannabis, no medications are currently available to assist in treatment, so treatment consists of behavioral therapies. Treatment should be tailored to address each patient's drug use patterns and drug-related medical, mental, and social problems.
Discoveries in science lead to breakthroughs in drug use treatment.
What medications and devices help treat drug addiction?
Different types of medications may be useful at different stages of treatment to help a patient stop abusing drugs, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse.
- Treating withdrawal. When patients first stop using drugs, they can experience various physical and emotional symptoms, including restlessness or sleeplessness, as well as depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Certain treatment medications and devices reduce these symptoms, which makes it easier to stop the drug use.
- Staying in treatment. Some treatment medications and mobile applications are used to help the brain adapt gradually to the absence of the drug. These treatments act slowly to help prevent drug cravings and have a calming effect on body systems. They can help patients focus on counseling and other psychotherapies related to their drug treatment.
- Preventing relapse. Science has taught us that stress cues linked to the drug use (such as people, places, things, and moods), and contact with drugs are the most common triggers for relapse. Scientists have been developing therapies to interfere with these triggers to help patients stay in recovery.
- Extended-release naltrexone
- Nicotine replacement therapies (available as a patch, inhaler, or gum)
How do behavioral therapies treat drug addiction?
Behavioral therapies help people in drug addiction treatment modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. As a result, patients are able to handle stressful situations and various triggers that might cause another relapse. Behavioral therapies can also enhance the effectiveness of medications and help people remain in treatment longer.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they're most ly to use drugs.
- Contingency management uses positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drugfree, for attending and participating in counseling sessions, or for taking treatment medications as prescribed.
- Motivational enhancement therapy uses strategies to make the most of people's readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment.
- Family therapy helps people (especially young people) with drug use problems, as well as their families, address influences on drug use patterns and improve overall family functioning.
- Twelve-step facilitation (TSF) is an individual therapy typically delivered in 12 weekly session to prepare people to become engaged in 12-step mutual support programs. 12-step programs, Alcoholic Anonymous, are not medical treatments, but provide social and complementary support to those treatments. TSF follows the 12-step themes of acceptance, surrender, and active involvement in recovery.
Treatment must address the whole person.
How do the best treatment programs help patients recover from addiction?
Stopping drug use is just one part of a long and complex recovery process. When people enter treatment, addiction has often caused serious consequences in their lives, possibly disrupting their health and how they function in their family lives, at work, and in the community.
Because addiction can affect so many aspects of a person's life, treatment should address the needs of the whole person to be successful. Counselors may select from a menu of services that meet the specific medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal needs of their patients to help in their recovery.
For more information on drug treatment, see Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, and Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
NIDA. 2020, July 10. Treatment and Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
NIDA. «Treatment and Recovery.» National Institute on Drug Abuse, 10 Jul. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
NIDA. Treatment and Recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery. July 10, 2020
Top 10 Tips to Prevent Relapse
Every person in recovery from drug addiction is at risk for relapse, no matter how much time it’s been since they last used a substance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a disorder indicated by compulsive drug use, often despite any consequences, that leads to long-lasting changes in the brain.
Addiction is both a chronic and relapsing disease. This means, similar to other diseases hypertension and asthma, that it has no cure. Relapse is a common part of all chronic diseases and addiction is no different. Studies place the rates of relapse for substance use disorders anywhere between 40 and 60 percent.
If you’re in recovery from a substance use disorder and relapsed, it does not mean that you failed. It doesn’t negate your previous efforts to stay drug-free and it doesn’t mean that any treatment program you attended wasn’t successful. But it doesn’t mean that you should use it as an excuse to continue using drugs, either.
Although there is no cure for addiction, there are things you can do to prevent relapse. It takes proactive and ongoing effort to counter addiction’s disruptive effects on your brain. You have plenty of resources available to support your long-term recovery journey. These tips can give you some ideas to incorporate into your recovery in order to stay clean and sober.
1. Lay the groundwork with a comprehensive addiction treatment program
It isn’t easy to stop the cycle of addiction on your own. You aren’t alone if you’ve had a hard time trying to quit using by yourself. Addiction treatment is a great place to start when you’re looking to get clean. It places you in an environment where you can focus all your energy on laying the groundwork to prevent relapse and live a life of long-term recovery.
There are many different options for addiction treatment programs available depending on your needs. From detox to inpatient facilities to outpatient programs, there is a program for you. The combination of individual and group therapy, educational classes, and experiential therapy options help you learn to live free from drugs.
2. Attend your treatment program all the way through
It might seem obvious to some, but an important part of preventing relapse includes attending your treatment program the entire way through. People who choose to leave treatment early against clinical advice hinder their recovery. Even if there are aspects of addiction treatment that you don’t fully enjoy, there’s always something to learn and take away from them.
The effort you put into treatment sets the pace for your recovery journey. If you only put in a minimal amount of effort or leave your program early, you aren’t giving yourself the best chance to remain sober. If you get the opportunity to attend treatment, take advantage of it and make the most of the program available to you.
3. Develop and follow through on your aftercare plan
Toward the end of your time in treatment, you’ll sit with your counselor or case manager and develop an aftercare plan. Aftercare refers to the support plan you’ll follow after graduating your program and leaving the treatment facility. Adhering to your outlined program is one of the best ways to prevent relapse.
The majority of aftercare plans include some form of outpatient program or drug and alcohol counseling. Some include 12-step meetings or living in a sober living. The details of your specific aftercare plan will depend on the requirements and offerings available at your facility.
4. Build a support network to keep in touch with after treatment
Trying to stay away from drugs and prevent relapse on your own is a difficult challenge. It’s more tempting to turn back to drugs when you don’t have a support group to hold you accountable. It’s helpful to have a group you can turn to when you’re feeling alone and challenged by the pressures of living drug-free.
Your aftercare plan may include group therapy which is a great place to start. Find a few people from your group who you’d to spend time with while outside of treatment. Exchange numbers and reach out to one another when you’re having a difficult time outside of group hours.
5. Find a therapist for ongoing individual therapy
If your aftercare plan doesn’t include ongoing therapy, you might want to find a therapist on your own. It’s helpful to maintain regular contact with a counselor or therapist who understands the added difficulty of living a life in recovery.
Therapy gives you a safe place to work through challenges in the present moment, as well as issues from your past that you didn’t get to work through in treatment. If you can continue seeing a therapist after treatment it will be a great way to prevent relapse.
6. Attend 12-step meetings or other recovery support groups
12-step meetings or other recovery support groups give you access to a room of people who understand your struggles. There are groups for any problem you might have, from drugs and alcohol to gambling and overeating. Some people don’t appreciate the 12-step approach to recovery, so groups SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery may be helpful to prevent relapse.
7. Discover some new hobbies or reconnect with old ones
Only after getting clean do you realize how time-consuming it is to maintain a life of active drug addiction. Most of your time is spent either under the influence of drugs or coming up with the money you need to buy more drugs. Once you remove substances from the equation you’re left with a lot of free time.
Idle time isn’t the safest thing in early recovery. If you want to prevent relapse, use your time to find some new activities you enjoy or rediscover those that addiction took away from you. Try out a new recipe in the kitchen, go to a concert with some sober friends, or join a slow pitch softball league. There are countless ways to occupy your time that don’t include drugs.
8. Get your body moving
Depression and anxiety are common struggles in the first few weeks and months of recovery. It takes time to adjust to your new life without using drugs as a bandage to cover your emotions.
Exercise is a great way to release endorphins in your brain that boost your energy and regulate your mood.
Whether it’s walking, jogging, yoga, biking, swimming, lifting weights, or something else, there’s bound to be a way to get your body moving that you’ll enjoy.
9. Make use of a journal
Journaling is a great multipurpose way to prevent relapse. Use your journal as a way to track your moods, things that tempt you to use, and ways to spend your time that you find enjoyable. Journaling is a great way to reflect on where you came from, assess your goals, and set up a plan to pursue your dreams in recovery.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for help doesn’t always come easy but if you want to prevent relapse you have to learn how to ask for help. This could mean reaching out to your case manager or therapist, your recovery support group, or another set group of friends. Maybe you need to try out a self-help recovery program or a 12-step program.
It might be difficult at first but it gets easier as you practice. You don’t have to deal with a drug-free life on your own. The more you reach out to others and ask for help along the way, the better your chance of maintaining long-term recovery.