Research-Based Basic Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment

Research-Based Basic Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment

The following are the basic principles utilized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to describe substance abuse disorders and what an effective treatment should include.

  1. Drug addiction is a brain disease that affects behavior. It affects individuals both physically and mentally. Legal or illegal drugs can alter the brain and body chemistry for months or even years after an individual stops using, thus relapse is often part of the recovery process. Drug addiction should be treated like any other disease.
  2. Recovery from drug addiction requires effective treatment, followed by management of the problem over time. Drug users cannot alter their behavior without taking care of their addiction. Treatment and recovery is hard work that must continue throughout a user’s life.
  3. Treatment must last long enough to produce stable behavioral change. Without the right treatment, most drug users will use again once they return to their neighborhoods. Treatment should last long enough to help drug users learn to manage their own drug problems.
  4. Assessment is the first step in treatment. Drug users need to be examined by a qualified healthcare professional. A qualified healthcare professional will look for other possible problems, such as depression and anxiety, or other medical conditions, and might refer the individual to additional treatments approaches and/or facilities.
  5. Tailoring services to fit the needs of the individual is an important part of effective drug use treatment. Each drug user has different needs regarding addiction counseling and treatment. The best approaches take each person’s age, gender, ethnicity, culture, and needs into account.
  6. Drug use during treatment should be carefully monitored. Individuals recovering from drug addiction sometimes return to drug use. This is called relapse. Testing for continued drug use is an important part of treatment.
  7. Treatment should target factors that are associated with addictive behavior. Drug users often have patterns of behavior, attitudes, and beliefs that support a “drug-addiction” lifestyle. Treatment that helps individuals avoid negative thinking patterns can be effective.
  8. For Criminal Justice System Drug Offenders, criminal justice supervision should incorporate treatment planning for drug using offenders, and treatment providers should be aware of correctional supervision requirements. It is important that corrections personnel work with treatment providers to make sure the individual treatment plan meets the needs of both the offender and the institution.
  9. Continuity of care is essential for drug users re-entering the community. People who start receiving treatment need to continue to receive prevention and/or follow-up treatment to prevent relapse.
  10. A balance of rewards and sanctions encourages pro-social behavior and treatment participation. During treatment, it is important that both positive and negative behaviors are recognized.
  11. Users with co-occurring drug use and mental health problems often require an integrated treatment management approach. Drug treatment can sometimes help people who have depression or other mental health problems. It is important that these issues are addressed in treatment programs.
  12. Medications are an important part of treatment for many drug using individuals. Medicines like methadone have been shown to help reduce heroin use. Medicines for mental health issues can also be used as part of treatment.
  13. Treatment planning for drug users who are living in or re-entering the community after being incarcerated should include strategies to prevent and treat serious, chronic medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis. Drug users are more likely to have infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. People seeking treatment should be tested for these diseases and receive counseling on risky behaviors and seeking medical advice.


REFERENCES: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIH publication No. 11-5316, revised 2012.

DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to substitute nor replace the advice of legal counsel. This is intended to provide you with information about how obtaining Substance Abuse Treatment may be able to help you reduce or avoid judicial charges but does not guarantee you will avoid civil and/or criminal charges in its entirety.

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