Evidence-Based Approaches to Addiction Treatment

Last Updated: April 10, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Do a quick online search of addiction treatment options, and you’ll find an overwhelming number of results. To make matters worse, there are numerous alternatives that promise to heal with the help of herbal tablets or special necklaces. Although some of these approaches may sound promising, more than likely, they won’t be effective addiction treatment options.

Choosing the right addiction treatment option is a critical step in recovery, as it may be the difference between quitting or relapsing. Unfortunately, there are too many stories of people trying to quit who are unable to do so because they end up with a treatment option that is not suited to their needs.

What Is Evidence-Based Treatment?

Understanding how different treatment options perform is often helpful in making a decision regarding the right addiction treatment program – which is the basis of evidence-based treatment for substance abuse.

Healthcare professionals use this information to offer the best possible advice to their clients. Instead of recommending treatment options based on their personal preferences, they are able to rely on quality research to decide what will work in a given scenario. This helps ensure those who are attempting to get sober have the best possible resources at their disposal.

There are a number of potential issues with addiction treatment programs that are not evidence-based:

  • With no real evidence to back up the claim that a treatment program works, there is no reason why it should work for an individual. This often leads to people wasting their time on a treatment option that is ineffective.
  • Some people only have one shot at recovery. If they choose an ineffective treatment option, they may have lost a valuable opportunity to get sober.
  • When people fail in treatment, it’s often discouraging and may be a huge setback. This frequently makes it difficult to quit in the future.
  • Choosing a program that is not evidence-based may mean wasting time and money.
  • Treatment programs that are not evidence-based may harm the reputation of proven recovery treatment programs.

Evidence-Based Approaches To Addiction Treatment

Each evidence-based approach to substance abuse treatment is designed to address certain aspects of addiction and its consequences for the individual, family and society. Some of these approaches are designed to supplement existing treatment programs while others are fairly comprehensive on their own.

1. Pharmacotherapies

Pharmacotherapy, in relation to substance abuse, refers to the replacement of a person’s drug of choice with a legally prescribed and dispensed substitute. Pharmacotherapy is frequently used with opioid, tobacco and alcohol addictions.

Pharmacotherapies used for different types of addictions include:

  • Opioid: Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone
  • Tobacco: Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), Bupropion (Zyban®) and Varenicline (Chantix®)
  • Alcohol: Naltrexone, Acamprosate, Disulfiram and Topiramate

Though not effective for everyone, many people find that pharmacotherapy has the ability to stabilize their condition, which allows them to focus on managing their lives, holding down a job and avoiding crime and violence. Once stabilized, many patients work to slowly reduce their dosage in order to live a drug-free life while others may opt for a maintenance program.

2. Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies help engage people in substance abuse treatment, provide incentives for them to stay clean, change their attitudes and behaviors related to substance abuse and increase their life skills to handle stressful circumstances that typically trigger the use of drugs or alcohol. Some behavioral therapies have shown to be effective in addressing substance abuse include:

3. Behavioral Therapies Primarily For Adolescents

Adolescents addicted to drugs or alcohol have unique treatment needs. Research has shown that treatments designed for and tested on adults need to be modified in order to be effective in adolescents. Additionally, family involvement is incredibly important for programs targeting youth.

Here are some examples of behavioral interventions that have been proven effective in treating adolescents:

  • Multisystemic Therapy (MST)
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy
  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy
  • Functional Family Therapy
  • Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA)
  • Assertive Continuing Care (ACC)

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for addiction treatment, and finding the right option for you may be overwhelming or stressful. By meeting with a trained and experienced addiction recovery professional, you will gain greater insights into evidence-based approaches that will work for your exact needs.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and is looking for help, contact the Orlando Recovery Center.