In a world where drug and alcohol addictions are common and seem to be growing in number each year, a variety of drug treatments for addiction have been researched and created in response. Some of these approaches have been used for decades while others remain relatively new. These approaches are used for drug and alcohol addictions, and they use a variety of techniques from psychology and biology in an attempt to help those struggling with addiction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) evolved from two fields of psychology, the behavioral sciences and the study of cognition. The goal of CBT is not only to change or modify a person's behavior but to also change the underlying thinking processes that lead to that behavior.
Studies have shown that CBT is effective for treating drug and alcohol addictions in a variety of forms and is commonly featured in most drug and rehabilitation centers. Addiction is a powerful force that affects the brain before the body, so it stands to reason that to change the person’s physical actions in the environment, one must first change the mind of that person.
Relapse Prevention Training
Within CBT, Relapse Prevention Training attempts to prevent relapse from occurring by training people to give different responses to drug cues when those cues show up in the environment. Drug cues can be any kind of object or location that were associated with previous drug use, and because they were associated with the drug, they become triggers to start using again.
The way Relapse Prevention works is by helping people identify these drug cues and figure out ways to prevent any future encounters of them. This approach also challenges the person’s thoughts of the positive effects they expect to experience from taking the drug in response to a drug cue. What this type of therapy ends up doing well is what it says in the name, relapse prevention, and is often combined with other approaches to address other aspects of addiction.
This particular approach, contingency management, also operates under CBT by using operant conditioning to change drug use behavior. Operant conditioning is a psychological theory which asserts that people learn how to behave a certain way to get a reward or to avoid punishment. Many argue that operant conditioning is responsible for most of our behavior. Therefore operant conditioning should be able to undo what has been learned by long-term drug use.
The way contingency management works is by positively reinforcing individuals with a reward when they maintain abstinence from a drug or alcohol. This is normally measured by taking urine samples, and rewards may consist of cash, privileges if they are in a drug and rehabilitation center, or other incentives. Getting these rewards remains contingent on staying drug-free.
What happens in the brain during this technique is a process of unlearning old habits by learning new behaviors that override those habits. The brain rewires and adapts as this new learning takes hold which can effectively extinguish drug-using urges.
The field of biology has worked with psychology in the past to create a variety of medicines that can counteract the effects of drugs or alcohol or create undesirable effects if an individual relapses. Antagonists are drugs that block receptor sites on neurons so that other drugs cannot bind to the receptor sites. What this does is block any effects of addictive substances like opioids or alcohol. It is expected that if the substance no longer produces pleasure, the individual will lose the motivation to take the substance.
There are other medicines that can help reduce withdrawal or be used as an aversion to a substance by inducing nausea when a substance is used.
Speaking of which, Aversion Therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that also uses operant conditioning principles, but instead of positive reinforcement and negative punishment, this type of drug treatment uses positive punishment. Positive punishment does not mean happy punishment, but rather, it means adding an aversive stimulus to change an individual’s behavior.
What aversion therapy used to do was to apply an electric shock to someone while they imagine or look at photos of whatever substance they are addicted to. This shock method has lost popularity due to ethical concerns, so current aversion therapy tends to use the visualization of an aversive experience or medications that induce nausea while looking at or imagining the addictive substance.
Psychodynamic Therapy is an old-school type of drug treatment that involves addressing underlying psychological problems that may have led the individual to start using drugs or alcohol to cope with life in the first place. By solving these issues before doing anything else, psychodynamic therapists believe that the addiction may end up resolving itself since there is no longer a foundation to stand on.
In other words, if the motivations to use a substance to cope with stress are resolved with therapy, then there should no longer be an incentive to use the substance. While psychodynamic therapy can be beneficial, this approach is not as effective if not combined with other drug treatments.
What to Do If You Are Addicted
At The Recover, we understand that facing addiction without help from others is not easy for anyone because the brain is bombarded with constant withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Please do not hesitate to take advantage of the dozens of treatments out there that are designed to help you escape addiction. We are here to help and work with you along the road to recovery by providing information and resources for addiction treatment.
The Recover is an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider that helps people who are looking for the right treatment programs in their area. We also provide information on West Virginia centers for addiction recovery. If you are struggling with an addiction, contact us at (888) 510-3898 to talk to a treatment specialist who will be able to help you find the right drug and rehabilitation centers for your needs.