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Addiction Treatment Definitions
Navigating substance abuse and treatment options can be overwhelming. Understanding these basic definitions about addiction and recovery can help you get a better handle on words and phrases you might not already be familiar with.
AddictionAddiction is a chronic mental health disorder whereby a person compulsively uses a substance even when it is detrimental to their own life and wellbeing. The disease involves complex interactions between the brain, genetics, and a person’s environment. Despite its complexity, addiction is treatable, with a heavy emphasis on relapse prevention.
DependenceDependence is a physical change that occurs when an individual’s body becomes accustomed to having a certain substance, preventing them from functioning normally without that substance. Dependence is one of the key elements of addiction.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD)Substance use disorder (SUD) is used to diagnose addiction and substance abuse according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The disorder is characterized by a pattern of physical dependence, risky use, social impairment, and impulse control related to substance use.
ToleranceTolerance occurs when a person’s body has become accustomed to a specific dose of a substance so it no longer has the same effect. As a result of tolerance, individuals begin to take higher and higher doses.
WithdrawalWithdrawal is a condition that occurs when a person is physically dependent on a substance. When they stop using or drastically cut back on use, the body experiences a series of withdrawal symptoms that may be unpleasant or dangerous as the body re-adjusts to not having the substance.
Treatment & recovery definitions
Evidence-based treatmentEvidence-based treatments are therapeutic modalities or techniques that have been scientifically tested to ensure they are effective. These treatments are backed by rigorous research that can identify the ideal population or conditions for their efficacy.
Individualized treatmentIndividualized treatment is designed according to your history of substance abuse, mental health issues, and other needs. Since addiction can be so complex, addiction treatment centers design an individualized treatment plan for each person, which can be adjusted as needed throughout the course of treatment.
RecoveryRecovery in addiction is not an end-point but rather a process. It requires a continuous effort to improve one’s own health and wellness while actively abstaining from substance use. To successfully avoid relapse, recovery involves continuously managing stressful or negative situations without turning to substance use as a coping mechanism.
Specialized treatmentSpecialized treatment is designed to accommodate specific types of individuals. For example, people suffering from co-occurring mental illness or LGBTQ individuals.
Types of addiction treatmentsThough addiction treatment is individualized according to the needs of the individual, levels of care for treating substance abuse generally progress as follows.
Medical detoxMedical detox is typically the first intervention in addiction treatment. This treatment helps individuals safely eliminate a substance from their system. With round-the-clock medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms, a person is kept safe and comfortable through the difficult detoxification process.
Inpatient treatmentFor severe addiction and substance abuse, inpatient addiction treatment is often recommended, typically following medical detox. This is one of the most intensive forms of rehab. During inpatient treatment, a person stays for a period of time at a recovery facility where they can remain under the close supervision of doctors and other medical professionals while undergoing therapy.
Residential treatmentThough residential and inpatient treatment are often used interchangeably, residential treatment is a lower level of care that does not have the same focus on medical intervention. The person in residential rehab still resides at the treatment center, and their days are structured with individual and group therapy, wellness activities, and personal time.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are the highest level of care for outpatient programs. It’s designed to provide intensive treatment for up to 8 hours per day, 7 days a week while allowing the individual to sleep at home.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) require less of a time commitment, allowing individuals to sleep at home and even work while attending treatment. Treatment schedules range from 3-6 hours per day for 3 to 7 days a week.
Standard outpatient treatmentOutpatient treatment is the least intense level of care in addiction treatment. It involves a light schedule of treatment that is usually a step down for people who have completed inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment.
Treatment approachesThere are many effective therapy and treatment options for addiction and substance abuse. Not all treatment approaches are appropriate for every individual or every situation. Sometimes addiction treatment involves a combination of these approaches to maximize their effectiveness. These are many of the interventions that have been shown as effective for treating addiction.
Biofeedback therapyBiofeedback therapy is a technique that helps individuals gain control over certain physical processes like heart rate. Through subtle changes like muscle relaxation, a person can improve their mental and physical functioning.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy that helps individuals change maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving. By identifying negative patterns, a person can create positive change in their lives.
Contingency managementContingency management is a therapy that makes use of incentives or rewards to maintain desired behaviors such as sobriety. Rewards can be vouchers or tokens that can be accumulated for larger rewards.
Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT)Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) is designed to provide important skills to manage emotions and social relationships. It emphasizes the contradictory need to change certain things while accepting that some situations are the way they are.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)EMDR was designed to treat trauma. Using therapist-directed eye movements, a person can desensitize themselves to emotionally disturbing material as a way to process their distressing emotions. This treatment can be used concurrently with other therapies to treat substance abuse for people who have a history of trauma.
Family therapyFamily therapy is designed to treat the family unit. According to the principles of family therapy, addiction affects everyone in a family unit, so the therapy is designed to heal wounds and improve relationships that have been strained by substance use.
Group therapyGroup therapy is used in conjunction with individual therapy in many addiction treatment programs. In groups ranging from around 5 to 15 people, individuals can share their experiences and help others process their substance abuse. An important component of group therapy is the support system that helps individuals feel less alone and can lead to lasting improvement.
Holistic therapiesHolistic therapies focus on treating the whole person rather than specific mental health issues like addiction. These treatments often supplement other types of therapy to increase general wellbeing. Holistic therapies include mindfulness, meditation, yoga, massage therapy, art and music therapy.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)In some cases, addiction treatment requires the use of medication to treat substance use or withdrawal symptoms. These are known as medication-assisted treatments (MATs). These medications may reverse the effect of certain substances to prevent deadly overdose. They may also be safer alternatives to help a person taper off use of a drug. Some examples of MATs include methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine for opioid use; or acamprosate and disulfiram for alcohol use disorder.
Motivational interviewingMotivational interviewing (MI) is a therapeutic intervention designed to improve a patient’s personal motivation to quit using. During MI, individuals are guided to resolve feelings of ambivalence about addiction treatment and create a plan for change.
PharmacogeneticsPharmacogenetics is a field that studies how a person’s genetic makeup influences how they will respond to medications. This can help specialize drug treatment to increase the likelihood that a drug will be effective while reducing the likelihood of adverse effects.
PharmacotherapyPharmacotherapy is the use of prescribed pharmaceuticals to treat certain disorders. In addiction treatment, pharmacotherapy is used to replace the drug of dependence with a safer prescribed alternative that reduces withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.
PsychoeducationPsychoeducation is an important component of many addiction treatment programs as it can educate individuals to better understand their addiction and the course of recovery. Psychoeducation can involve skill-building, relapse-prevention, and stress management.
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) helps directly challenge a person’s maladaptive or irrational thoughts and emotions to help them build healthier ways of thinking and behaving.
Seeking SafetySeeking Safety therapy is designed to help trauma victims and those with substance abuse issues achieve a sense of safety. This treatment doesn’t require individuals to delve deep into their trauma, rather it treats future safety and security as the main goal.
Recovery support groups
12-Step facilitation therapy12-Step facilitation therapies encourage participation and engagement with 12-Step programs. By motivating a person to have better involvement in these programs, facilitation therapy promotes long-term recovery.
12-Step programs are group therapy programs that teach individuals how to support their long-term recovery by engaging with 12 steps seen as crucial to abstinence. One of the cornerstones of 12-Step programs is the concept of a sponsor, which is another group member who can support recovery and who they can turn to if there is a risk of relapse.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the most well-known 12-Step programs, but many other programs exist based on these principles including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Codependents Anonymous (CODA), and Al-Anon.