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Drug addiction is a complex brain disease brought on by the prolonged effect of drugs on brain functioning. It starts out of a person’s free will, but with time, the individual is no longer able to control their desire and drug craving. Many of the brain circuits are affected by addiction, like those associated with motivation, learning, memory and control, and since drug abuse has an impact on many aspects of person’s life, the treatment is quite complex. It is focused on getting the individual’s life back on track, which includes the discontinuation of drug abuse and reintegration into family and social life.

Fundamentals of Effective Treatment

There are some principles that must be taken into consideration regarding the effective treatment. First, addiction is a complex curable brain disease, affecting the functioning of the brain and individual’s behavior, and there is no universal treatment applicable to everyone, what is why individual approach is essential. Furthermore, effective treatment does not imply the consent of the person being treated. Drug abuse is not the only need the treatment has to address, and the therapists should keep in mind that people abusing drugs may also suffer from other mental disorders. Individual and/or group counseling combined with medication is the most effective approach. Detoxification is just the first step, and the person treated should stay in treatment for the required period. Relapses are possible so monitoring and modifying of the individual treatment plan are necessary. Finally, patients should be tested for infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and others, followed by counseling aiding the person to change their risk behavior.


Successful treatment implies the use of medications in the initial stages. They are used for detoxification, making withdrawal symptoms less severe and relapse prevention, but this should be accompanied with behavioral therapy that would change the acquired habits and lead to long-term results. Not providing further treatment after detoxification has the same effects as not treating the person at all. Medication is used to recover normal brain function and control craving. Medication is available for different substance abuse like nicotine, alcohol and different opioids, and since most people with drug addiction use more than one substance they are required to receive treatment for all these substances.

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral therapy focuses on the involvement of patient in the process of treatment, changes of their behavior and attitudes associated with drug abuse and promotion of healthy lifestyle. Different behavioral approaches are available to patients treated for drug addiction, and they include family therapy, especially in the case of adolescent drug abusers, where the treatment focuses on identifying the causes of addiction and improving family functioning. Another approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy, aiding the patient to identify, avoid and deal with circumstances which would prompt them to take drugs. The technique of motivational interviewing relies on the willingness of the person to change their behavior and start the treatment, while motivational incentive techniques are based on the encouragement of individual to abstain from drugs. Outpatient and residential treatment are possible, the latter being aimed at those faced with more severe problems.

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