When you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, treatment is essential. Interventions for substance use and alcohol abuse are effective and life-changing, but only when they’re evidence-based. Evidence-based treatment practices follow the science and research that we have available about addiction. An evidence-based drug treatment program looks holistically at each person and combines this with results from studies from well-known researchers.
These programs deliver care not just for the symptoms of the drugs or alcohol but the underlying factors in their addiction such as bipolar disorder. The concept of evidence as part of treatment separates the best rehab programs from less effective options.
Below, we discuss addiction from a scientific perspective and highlight seven key things to know about evidence-based clinical interventions for addictive behaviors. We’ll also talk about how different interventions impact the effectiveness of opioid detox, treatment of alcohol addiction, and other substance use disorders.
What Is Addiction?
Any substance use disorder is characterized by out-of-control use of a substance, despite adverse effects and consequences.
- When you’re struggling with active addiction to alcohol or drugs, you experience impairment in your daily functionality.
- Addiction can affect every part of your life, including your work and relationships.
- When you have a substance use disorder or addiction, you experience changes in the function and structure of your brain. The effects of these changes include intense cravings, personality changes, and effects on behavior.
- We have evidence of brain imaging studies showing that areas affected relate to learning, judgment, decision-making, memory, and behavioral control.
- Addiction symptoms fall into four general categories: impaired control, social problems, risky use, and drug effects according to the Mental Health Services Administration.
At the core, addiction is a chronic disease.
- Any chronic illness is one that we can treat and successfully manage but not necessarily cure.
- Type 2 diabetes is a comparative example. When you have type 2 diabetes, you can take steps to keep your symptoms in check and improve your quality of life.
- Your condition may even go into remission so that it’s not affecting your life. It’s still an underlying chronic disease, but it’s under control.
In addiction and evidence-based practice, addiction management is the crucial goal, often beginning with addiction treatment services. When you’re in recovery, it’s like remission from the disease of addiction.
While evidence-based treatment is effective for many people, addiction treatment, in general, is complex. There are mental, physical, and lifestyle components that must be addressed when following best practices in addiction treatment.
The first step in treating addiction is recognizing a problem exists, which can be difficult in and of itself. Recovery delays may happen because people with a substance use disorder might not be aware that it’s a problem, or they may not know the extent of the problem.
Once there’s recognition of a problem, a medical professional can use criteria to make a formal diagnosis of addiction and its severity and begin to recommend appropriate psychosocial treatments.
The following are seven things to know about implementing evidence-based treatment for alcohol use disorders, opioid addiction, and other types of addiction.
1.) Evidence-Based Drug Addiction Treatment is Science-Based
What is an evidence-based practice for the treatment of addiction? Ultimately, it’s rooted in a range of evidence from researchers, observational studies, and clinical settings.
Any behavioral health services program using evidence-based treatment relies on strategies previously proven effective for substance use disorders.
In clinical practice, health care providers and counselors use science-support approaches with each patient.
The evidence-based intervention takes the approach that addiction is complex but treatable and affects behavior and the brain. An evidence-based practice center tends to have the best clinical outcomes in the addiction field, using sophisticated knowledge and understanding.
While we use evidence-based practice interchangeably with evidence-based treatment, evidence-based practice is a three-tier therapeutic approach. Evidence-based practice is also known as the concept of EBP.
- One tier of EBP dissemination includes scientific evidence for a particular treatment type.
- The second tier is a personal and clinical experience for the practitioner and their level of evidence-based skills.
- The third tier is the individual receiving treatment. This final tier takes into consideration the preferences and personal values of the individual in the treatment of substance use and in behavioral healthcare.
2.) Treatment Can Include a Combination of Medications and Therapies
Evidence-based programs often include a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral treatments.
FDA-approved treatments in the addiction treatment field help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings for better patient care.
- Medication-assisted treatment can be used for long-term maintenance therapy as well, depending on the situation.
- Mediation-assisted treatment has a large body of evidence including observational studies and clinical studies showing it improves success rates.
- Methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone are examples of pharmacological, evidence-based addiction treatments that have come about during the opioid crisis. Specifically, they’re for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
- For alcohol addiction and alcohol use disorders, there are medications like Campral and Vivitrol, along with Antabuse.
These medications improve treatment effectiveness for many patients.
3.) Evidence-Based Treatment (EBT) Can Include Multiple Types of Therapy
There is a wide range of therapies and psychosocial interventions found to be effective in the addictions field.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most frequently used in evidence-based medicine and mental health care, according to researchers on addiction treatment.
- Facilitation of CBT is one of the core evidence-based skills that treatment providers should have.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, can help in the treatment of patients with varying mental health disorders as well as addiction.
Along with CBT guided by a clinical psychologist, other evidence-based behavioral therapies used in the addiction treatment industry include:
- Motivational interviewing
- Contingency management
- Dialectal behavior therapy
Regardless of the particular type, behavioral therapy focuses on addressing your motivation to change.
- Many types of therapy will also help you build skills to resist cravings and drug and alcohol use.
- You can learn through behavioral therapy how to problem solve and develop stronger relationships.
- You can also learn how to deal with difficult situations more effectively.
A therapist should have a substantial body of skillsets when it comes to providing behavioral therapy.
4.) Treatment Must Be Individual
No two people are the same, nor are their addictions or their experiences. For addiction treatment to be effective and fall into the category of being evidence-based, it has to be highly individualized.
- There’s not one single treatment that’s right for every patient in addiction treatment settings.
- Treatment needs depend on the characteristics of the patient, co-occurring disorders and health conditions, and the specific substance addiction.
- If you or a loved one have ever gone to treatment and relapsed, it could be due to a lack of individualized treatment.
5.) The Rehab Program Should Be Multi-Faceted
Whether you’re personally struggling with addiction or someone you care about is, you’ve likely seen how it affects every part of a person and daily life.
- Evidence-based treatment methods and treatment practices rely on proven evidence and scientific literature and the many different aspects of drug addiction.
- Multi-faceted might mean research-based practice in addiction treatment will include a broad range of services. These services might be medical care, vocational training, and resources to help with financial or legal problems.
- Comprehensive programs help with treatment retention and patient outcomes as well as longer-term abstinence rates.
6.) Treatment Should Be Readily Available
The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights their principles of effective treatment, a research-based guide serving as the basis of interventions. As part of that, the NIDA says that treatment and the implementation process, to be most effective, needs to be readily available.
- When you’re struggling with an addiction, you may feel nervous and uncertain about going to treatment.
- There need to be opportunities for you to utilize available services right away.
- If you’re trying to help a loved one, it’s essential to know that they may be lost if treatment isn’t available readily and right away, according to medical literature.
As is the case with other chronic illnesses, the earlier you can receive treatment in your disease process, the better the chances of a positive outcome, based on clinical evidence.
The duration of treatment is important, but this is also one of the major implementation challenges. When people have drug use disorders or alcoholic addictions, they may want to leave treatment earlier than recommended.
Practitioners have to use clinical research to overcome similar barriers to the implementation of treatment.
7.) Evidence-Based Approaches Can Change As Needed
Finally, we’re constantly evolving, and with addiction treatment programs, your plan may need to change with your needs. Good, effective treatment based on research and different types of evidence will include continual assessment and modification.
The intensity of a treatment program may change as your needs do too.
If you’re seeking evidence-based treatment to meet your needs, please reach out to the Silicon Valley Recovery team by calling 408-547-4089 to learn more about our addiction treatment providers and practices.