Effective Treatments for Addiction That Work

Treatments for addiction and substance use disorder that works for you may not work for anyone else. The reason is that every person has a different reason for having an addiction, or misusing drugs or alcohol. They also have a different drug of choice, method, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and motivation for recovery.

When you enter treatment, you will receive a customized treatment plan of action that includes various activities and techniques that give you the best chance of maintaining recovery for the rest of your life.

The programs and therapies you receive have been proven effective through multiple research studies. The most common treatments for addiction are discussed below.


How long you have been dependent on a substance and the severity of your withdrawal symptoms will influence where you begin the recovery process. For many, detoxification is the first step because medical supervision or medication-assisted treatment can ease withdrawal symptoms and curb cravings.

Detox can occur on an inpatient or outpatient basis if your symptoms are mild. You get around-the-clock access to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who can address your symptoms. Medication has been shown to lengthen the time someone stays in treatment, increase participation in therapy, and the number of days you stay abstinent.

The Food and Drug Administration has only approved medications for alcohol and opioid use disorders. However, doctors can treat your symptoms individually if you have a stimulant or hallucinogen use disorder. For example, they can prescribe headache medicine if you have a headache.

Behavioral Therapies

Inpatient and outpatient programs use behavioral therapies to teach you how to avoid relapse. You learn to recognize triggers and substitute cravings or negative thoughts with healthy ones. When you misuse drugs or alcohol, your mind and body get used to performing every function while intoxicated. Walking, talking, eating, driving, working, and other behaviors are done under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

When you enter recovery treatment, you must relearn how to do all these and more but sober. It’s as if your brain experienced trauma and now must heal so you can function without substances. Behavioral therapies aid this process.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is supported by years of research for its use in recovery treatment. It is like talk therapy but can be adapted using sub-CBTs to meet your individual needs. CBT is based on the theory that your thoughts (cognitive) are connected to your actions (behavioral). If you learn to change your thoughts, you can also change your behaviors.

A sub-CBT example is dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) which also teaches you mindfulness and emotional regulation so you can be aware and present of what is happening around you and within you at the moment. Doing so helps you recognize and avoid relapse temptations.

  • Contingency Management (CM)

Contingency management is the use of money, rewards, or prizes as an incentive to stay in recovery treatment and stay sober. Incentives will be personalized for you since what you find rewarding will likely be different than others. An example of CM is someone receiving a gift card to a local restaurant when they reach thirty days of sobriety.

Other examples may include receiving money for attending a set number of 12 Step groups, extra free time for completing all assignments, or extra time with family after a family therapy session.

  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET helps those who are not entirely committed to recovery and are undecided about whether they want to continue in recovery or not. MET shows you the benefits of recovery and increases your desire for change.

The five motivational principles of motivational enhancement therapy include recognizing that your substance use disorder affects other people. Empathy can often lead to a motivation to change. MET helps you discover your strengths and start believing in yourself and your ability to stay in recovery. This type of self-efficacy can get you excited to make changes.

Other principles are minimizing resistance to recovery, helping you find intrinsic motivation, and showing you how it is possible to reach your goals.

  • Trauma-Focused Therapies

Many people with substance use disorders have experienced trauma at some point. Some may have experienced multiple traumas. Until the traumas are processed, maintaining recovery won’t be easy. Trauma-focused therapies speed up development.

Trauma-focused therapies include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) by a certified EMDR specialist. This technique rewires the brain to function without the trauma. The trauma resilience model (TRM) helps you control your emotions during times of distress by processing the trauma as it relates to the nervous system.

Trauma-focused CBT involves working on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated explicitly with the trauma. You learn skills to process your thoughts and cope appropriately.

12 Step Facilitation Groups

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are 12 Step facilitation groups that offer peer support and specific actions to help you transform your recovery. The 12 Steps have a long history of success, and groups are established online and in-person for almost every type of addiction and mental health disorder.

Aftercare Planning

One of the most important treatments for addiction is aftercare planning. When transitioning from treatment discharge to your home environment, you must develop a plan that sets you up for success in all areas of your life.

Aftercare plans are incredibly personalized to meet your needs, but common examples include the following:

  • Receiving vocational training and searching for employment
  • Finding childcare
  • Studying for the GED or furthering your education
  • Making and meeting mental health medication and therapy appointments
  • Finding and attending local support groups and recovery activities
  • Obtaining transitional housing or sober living
  • Meeting legal and judicial obligations

Finding Treatments for Addiction

Whether you are just starting to misuse alcohol or drugs or have been struggling with a substance use disorder for years, effective treatments for addiction work. To find out which ones will be effective for you, contact the Mental Health Center for an assessment. Detox, behavioral therapies, trauma, and peer support groups are a few of many treatments that can help you reach your goals.