Can Drug Addiction Be Treated? - An Expert's Perspective

Drug addiction is a chronic disorder that requires long-term treatment to help people stop compulsively seeking and using drugs. Treatment can take many forms and occur in a variety of settings, and the best option for an individual depends on the substance they are using, the level of care they need, their mental health needs, and the health care options they can afford. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular treatment tool for many types of addiction, including food addiction, alcohol addiction, and prescription drug addiction. CBT helps people recognize their unhealthy behavior patterns and learn to identify triggers and develop coping skills.

It can also be combined with other therapeutic techniques. Medications are also used to treat drug addiction. Long-term use of medications helps reduce cravings and prevent relapse. Disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone are medications available to treat alcohol dependence, while methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are available for people addicted to opioids.

Nicotine preparations (patches, chewing gums, pills, and nasal sprays) and varenicline and bupropion medications are available for people addicted to tobacco. Drug addiction affects the entire family. Substance abuse treatment works by addressing underlying thoughts and feelings related to substance abuse, while family interventions can be a first step to recovery. It is important to help children from families affected by alcohol and drug abuse.

The SAMHSA national helpline is available for those seeking help with addiction. The referral service is free and does not require health insurance. Trained information specialists respond to calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate admissions centers in their states, and connect them to local assistance and support. Drug addiction is a chronic illness that requires individualized treatments and modalities that address the symptoms and underlying causes of the disease as well as the consequences that substance use has on different areas of a person's life.

Behavioral therapy is often used in addiction treatment, as well as counseling from a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine, or other laboratory tests are used to evaluate drug use but are not a diagnostic test for addiction.