In the United States, drug addiction has become a very serious health problem. In 2017, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), almost 20 million Americans ages 12 and above were suffering from drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder.
Aside from impacting people’s health, drug addiction has an economic cost. An estimated 740 billion dollars of losses are incurred every year due to rehab and healthcare expenses, law enforcement, damages from crime, and lost productivity. All of these are brought about by drug addictions.
With these, drug addiction treatment is a public health necessity. How successful are these treatments? Let’s find out more.
Why is drug addiction treatment important?
One common misconception about drug addiction is that it’s a moral failure, and nothing else. Some people believe it’s a result of making poor choices in life. While it is true that beginning to take drugs is a choice, there’s more to addiction than its moral aspect.
Modern medicine has shown that drug addiction is a chronic disease — a bit like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. As such, addiction can be treated, just like other chronic physical illnesses.
The main difference between addiction and other chronic illnesses is that addiction has mental, emotional, and social components. It does not just affect your brain and body, but also your behavior, lifestyle, and your relationships with other people.
Most people suffering from drug addiction have lost control of their lives. They spend most of their time and money on drugs. In turn, they set aside the more important things in life like work, family, and hobbies. Their behaviors become destructive both to themselves and to the people around them.
For these reasons, drug addiction treatment is crucial. People suffering from addiction need professional help to regain control of their lives once again.
How effective are drug addiction treatments?
Based on research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most patients who commit themselves to drug addiction treatments effectively stop abusing drugs soon after.
Additionally, they do not get involved in crimes as much, and they improve their performance at work. Moreover, their relationships with other people and their behaviors become much better.
Because drug addiction is a chronic condition, treatment often takes time. You can’t expect to get better overnight. Combating the effects of drug addiction on the brain and body takes time and effort. You need to be committed to following your treatment regimen; otherwise your chances of success become smaller.
But if you follow through with your therapies, you will be able to take back control of your life sooner.
How about those patients who experience relapse?
Relapse is actually a normal part of the recovery process. If chronic physical diseases like diabetes and hypertension have possibilities of relapse, so does drug addiction.
Based on statistics, 40 to 60 percent of drug addiction patients relapse some time after treatment. This is quite similar to the relapse rates for type I diabetes, asthma, and hypertension.
If your addiction relapses, this does not mean treatment has failed. Instead, it means that your treatment regimen needs to be adjusted, or that you need different therapies.
Relapse is also more likely if you are not consistent with attending therapy sessions and applying what you’ve learned from your therapists. In other words, relapse may be a sign of inconsistency with treatment.
To minimize the chances of relapse, mental health professionals often monitor you closely during your treatment program. If you encounter any problems, they can modify your treatment accordingly. This ensures that your treatment program is appropriate for your needs.
How is the effectiveness of drug addiction treatment measured?
A successful treatment must do more than just stop you from taking drugs. According to guidelines from NIDA, effective treatments must also achieve these three goals:
- Becoming a productive member of their family
- Contribute within the workplace
- Participate positively in society as a whole
More than abstaining from drugs, the NIDA guidelines look at your quality of life as a whole. If all of these aspects have improved, then you can say that your treatment was successful.
Based on research, drug addiction treatment generally reduces drug use and improves patients’ physical health and social lives. Treatments have led to significant drops in cases of DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) as well as partner violence.
Also, treatment saves the government a good amount of money in healthcare and law enforcement. Studies have shown that every dollar spent on drug addiction treatment saves $4 in healthcare costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.
What are the different options for drug addiction treatment?
A wide variety of treatments are available for drug addiction. These include medications, psychotherapies, and complementary therapies.
Medications are not always required in every kind of drug addiction treatment, but they are helpful in most cases. Medications are used to help minimize drug cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, or treat underlying conditions — like depression or anxiety — that may contribute to drug addiction.
For example, methadone is an approved medication for patients recovering from heroin and opioid abuse. Methadone is shown to be effective in reducing drug use and improving quality of life.
Psychotherapies, on the other hand, do not involve medications. Instead, they are different talk-based therapies that are done either in individual or group settings. A significant body of research proves the effectiveness of psychotherapies in drug addiction treatment.
Psychotherapies aim to help you identify unhealthy behaviors and replace them with healthy ones. When these are combined with the changes in your body brought about by medications, treatment is more effective.
There are also other therapies that help with the recover process, like:
- Art therapy
- Animal assisted therapy
These are known as complementary therapies. However, evidence for their effectiveness is not as clear-cut. They often show mixed results, depending on the patients who are given these complementary therapies.
These are still useful, though, in some cases. If your therapist or rehab facility recommends them, you will most likely benefit from them.