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Comparing Approaches to Drug Therapy: Which Is Right for You?

Overcoming alcohol or drug addiction is a challenge in and of itself. The transition becomes easier when choosing treatment options that more closely accommodate a specific addiction or personal circumstance. Professionals from the National Institute of Drug Abuse recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to drug therapy falls short in terms of extended recovery results. With individuality in mind, multiple types of facilities and treatment approaches have developed over the years.

Drug Therapy: Do Individuals Respond Differently to Varying Approaches?

Addiction can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, education level, socioeconomic background, ethnicity or religious belief. Rehabilitation facilities and teams of addiction specialists typically devise treatment plans based on the needs of each individual client. In addition, the wide selection of facility and treatment options available accommodate recovering addicts even further by offering services based on the many differences that exist from one person to the next.

Consider the differences between three different scenarios. A teen falls into the wrong crowd then abuses a designer drug. A middle-aged adult becomes addicted to a prescription pain medication that was provided secondary to an injury. A woman comes from an abusive childhood and turns to alcohol to alleviate the pain and stress of the past. Each has a problem with chemical dependency. However, the addictive habits developed for different reasons.

Having different backgrounds, the same type of therapy may not prove beneficial for each situation. The individuals would probably prefer being in rehab with people who match their age, gender and life experiences. While the teen may be available to stay in an inpatient center, the adults might be gainfully employed and need treatment that will readily accommodate their daily routines. Across the country, there are facilities that have age, gender and situational-appropriate populations, and treatment team members trained in helping each.

Various studies over the years have uncovered data that indicates up to half of all people becoming enmeshed in substance abuse suffer from some form of mental health issue. The problems may range from anxiety or depression to obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress. In an attempt to elevate mood or alleviate uncomfortable symptoms, many turn to various substances. However, statistics suggest that the mind-altering compounds found in alcohol or drugs generally only make matters worse. Unless these individuals get treatment for the dual diagnosis situation, they return to substances once released from a rehab facility.

Behavioral modification, cognitive therapy and holistic treatments are approaches to alcohol and drug therapy that practitioners might use alone. Practitioners might also take characteristics from each to create a different approach. Pharmaceutical treatment is another option that has grown in use in recent years. Physicians may prescribe medications to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and subsequent substance cravings.

Some facilities use pharmaceutical methods to sedate clients during detoxification or when desiring to hasten the cleansing process. Medications might also be necessary for the client dealing with an addiction along with an underlying mental health issue. Addiction therapy techniques act on addicts physically, mentally, physiologically and spiritually to help bring about sobriety and recovery.

Consider the Holistic Approach

Generally, holistic programs are designed to meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of clients. Addiction specialists offering this approach believe that treating the whole body enhances the chances of long-term recovery. Before addressing the addiction, clients receive nutritional support, and any necessary medical or dental care to address conditions that result from living a lifestyle revolved around alcohol, meth or other substances and neglect of personal health and well-being.

Once physical needs are met, therapy sessions are designed to delve into the root of why the addiction originated. Practitioners also believe that addiction breaks the connection between the body, mind and soul. Holistic approach facilities often strive to bring addicts out of their shell and encourage spiritual healing by introducing healthy diversions in the way of acupuncture, art therapy, meditation, yoga classes or other forms of activities. During the process of healing, someone may decide to return to the faith learned in earlier years and desire pastoral counseling.

Individuals must understand that a holistic approach doesn’t have the same definition at every facility. Only by performing research and asking questions can one determine whether a particular facility meets expectations and needs. Some holistic drug rehabilitation centers may combine eastern philosophies along with various healing arts. A variety of massage, meditation and eastern medicines are used to treat the client first and the addiction second.

Other types of holistic centers might additionally incorporate the basic ideas surrounding traditional 12-step programs. However, the philosophies behind the approach lean more toward eastern beliefs. Another type of holistic therapy features conventional treatment and therapy methods without using psychiatric medications for underlying mental health issues.

A Traditional Approach to Drug Therapy

A traditional approach to alcohol and drug therapy begins with admittance into a facility and undergoing thorough mental and physical assessments. Facilities may or may not provide medically supervised detoxification procedures. Clients may need to enter a local hospital or other type of medical center for the physical cleansing phase of treatment. Therapy is often a combination of group and individual sessions involving behavioral modification, cognitive therapy and pharmaceutical interventions.

Behavioral modification is typically accomplished by creating a highly structured environment that includes rules, regulations and rigid schedules. Cognitive therapy focuses on the mental aspects that are commonly associated with addiction. Clients learn how to replace negative, unhealthy and unproductive thought processes with ideas that promote health and healing. The training also serves to teach coping skills addicts may later draw upon when needing to deal with the normal challenges of life or the temptations the world presents, which may lead to relapse.

In-house or in-patient facilities generally offer short- or long-term programs. Traditional approach facilities offering short-term programs are usually based on the 12-step regimen that was founded by Alcoholics Anonymous. Though initially for alcoholics, the methods prove successful in treating other addictions. Generally spanning 28 days, the program is intense in nature and must be followed by adequate aftercare and support services to achieve the best results.

Not unlike short-term programs, long-term facilities provide care and treatment 24-hours a day for six to 18 months. Therapy involves learning to get and stay sober using traditional approach methods, which are sometimes confrontational in respect to owning the addiction and any consequences experienced while living the lifestyle. Counseling and therapy sessions are designed to assist the client in remodeling destructive behaviors and thought patterns.

Outpatient care often appeals to someone with a mild to moderate dependency who needs to attend school or work daily. These individuals typically have strong support systems in the form of family, friends, sponsors and others who ensure the individual remains sober during the hours of not receiving addiction assistance. The level of care and assistance provided greatly varies. Some programs offer intense treatment and others provide little more than educational classes concerning substances and addiction. Individual and group counseling may be part of the requirements. The philosophy behind outpatient care largely involves peer pressure to remain sober.

Public or Private Facilities: A Personal Choice?

Public facilities are financed by the state, local philanthropists or other non-profit contributors. All work together to help individuals overcome substance addictions. The programs generally provide low- or no-cost services. These centers don’t feature luxurious accommodations or a wide range of activities. Therapy usually involves one-on-one counseling and adherence to 12-step programs.

Private rehabilitation centers require payment for services rendered, which vary greatly. These facilities offer more treatment options, which means more diversity toward meeting individual needs. While either type of facility may offer quality care, there exists many additional basic differences between public and private programs.

The affordability of public facilities means that centers have extensive waiting lists for both detoxification and rehabilitation care. Sleeping arrangements in state-funded centers may include rooms housing up to six individuals and basic furnishings. Private facilities tend to offer semi-private or private accommodations with varying levels of amenities. However, due to the nature of an addict’s personality, privacy is an issue regardless of where one decides to receive treatment.

Group therapy sessions in public facilities involve many more people compared to privately funded centers. The majority of counselors and therapists, though trained and experienced, may not possess graduate degrees. Thus, anyone requiring prescriptions for detoxification and medical or mental health conditions won’t receive the same level of care in public facilities compared to private rehabs. A large percentage of addicts require mental health treatment in addition to addiction problems. Unfortunately, the number of facilities offering dual diagnosis treatment remains limited in both the public and private sectors.

The budget limitations of state-operated centers often restricts the type of therapy provided. Many don’t offer family counseling, which is often a feature found in private treatment centers. The population in public rehabs also tends to consist of homeless individuals or those who were court-ordered to receive treatment. As such, the thought patterns motivating these people often involve staying off of the streets or out of jail. Someone paying for treatment at a private institution is more likely to take the work needed to get and stay sober more seriously.

Many individuals prefer to attend a private care facility, but don’t have monetary resources at their disposal. In this case, there are a few options. Both types of treatment centers offer scholarship programs that accept a designated number of clients at no cost. Admission office personnel typically have the details concerning this possibility. Certain health insurance companies and policies provide partial payment to rehab centers. However, the balance of the cost remains the responsibility of the client.

Starting the Road to Recovery

For many addicts, the first step on the road to recovery involves admitting that a problem exists. When faced with the overwhelming decision to seek treatment, some need time to mentally make the adjustment. Long-term recovery only succeeds when an addict makes a conscious decision to willingly enter into treatment and has the determination to do the work needed to stay sober.

Once accepting the reality of the addiction, individuals must decide upon the solution that best fits their situation while providing the level of care they need. Visiting with addiction specialists or medical professionals to determine the type of treatment needed and the possible options available in the immediate area is extremely beneficial, as is getting assessed and receiving a professional opinion on the level of care that would offer the best chances of success. Depending on the type of chemical dependency, moderate to severe addictions generally require admittance into facilities that offer medically monitored detoxification as the first step in the treatment process.

When ready to get on the right track and battle the addiction, start by calling the 844-806-6511 helpline to receive guidance and more information concerning facility options. Operators are available 24-hours a day to offer assistance and answer questions.


Our articles are written by individuals who have seen addiction up close. They may have watched addiction take a toll on someone they loved or had their own battles with substances, and they write for us to spare others some of that pain and confusion. If you find these writings useful and would like to speak to someone who gets addiction, call us at (844) 826-1700.

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