Drug Addiction Treatment: 13 Principles for Achieving Sobriety

Drug Addiction Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comThe National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has recently published a guide based on research that provides the 13 principles of effective drug addiction treatment. NIDA’s publication is a significant one, outlining the factors that can facilitate drug and alcohol treatment regardless of the length and strength of an addiction.

  1. Drugs affect the brain’s structure and function. This can lead to changes in the brain that last even after drug use ends. This might explain why some users are prone to relapse even long after an addiction has come to an end.
  2. Treatment will not be the same for everyone. Because of this, drug and alcohol treatment must also be different. Drug treatment must match an individual’s particular problems. For instance, the treatment setting, interventions, and the mental health services must adequately address a person’s unique needs.
  3. Treatment needs to be readily available. Often, those with addiction have a high amount of ambivalence. They want to change but their physical craving for the drug keeps the addiction cycle going. Taking advantage of moments when a person is willing to enter drug treatment is critical. If services are not available so readily, the opportunity to treat might be lost.
  4. Drug and alcohol treatment that is effective addresses not just the addiction alone.; it must address the medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal issues as well.  Treatment must be holistic in nature.
  5. Staying in residential drug treatment for as long as it takes is essential. The length of treatment, however, varies depending on a person’s needs. Research indicates that addictions that were strong and ongoing require at least 3 months in treatment in order to significantly reduce or stop the addiction. Also, recovery will frequently require several episodes of various levels of treatment. Addiction is seen as a chronic illness, which requires ongoing treatment and significant life change.
  6. Behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, are the most common type of drug addiction therapy. They explore a person’s behavior, their choices, their ambivalence to make change in their life, and the motivation to sustain change. This kind of therapy also helps to develop new coping mechanisms and life skills to better manage their life.
  7. Medication is an important element of drug and alcohol treatment. In addition to therapy, recovering addicts can take medication that will help drug detox process. Medication can also provide psychological stability and reduce the need to use.
  8. As treatment continues, a treatment plan must be continually assessed. There might be a variety of needs that may not need to be addressed in the beginning of treatment, but as an individual continues to detoxify physically and emotionally, his or her needs may change. Drug and alcohol treatment should remain flexible in order to meet a person’s changing needs.
  9. It’s common for psychological illness to accompany addiction. For this reason, individuals should be assessed for co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
  10. Drug detox with the use of medication alone is not adequate to treat the full scope of addiction. Medication is only the first stage of drug addiction treatment, which only manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal. For this reason, individuals need to expect and be encouraged to continue to participate in drug and alcohol treatment long after drug detox.
  11. Drug and alcohol treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective. Even for those who don’t seek treatment by choice, research indicates that drug addiction treatment in these cases are also effective.
  12. Because relapse can occur even during treatment, individuals must be closely monitored. In fact, knowing that treatment is being monitored can be a powerful way to prevent recovering addicts from submitting to the urges of their withdrawal process.
  13. Treatment programs need to test for the presence of infectious diseases. Often, drug and alcohol treatment will include programs that address some of the drug related problems that put people at risk for infectious diseases. However, for safety, it needs to be an essential in treatment programs.

The above are principles of treating addiction. Based upon research, these 13 points indicate what is necessary for effective treatment and what will lead to healing the addiction in the lives of those in recovery.



(December 2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved on May 14, 2014 from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment


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