Behavioral Interventions for Drug Addicts

Lynsey Keep, RN
Counseling

For those people in society with addictions, sourcing external help is usually the only way to combat the addiction, and behavioral interventions for drug addicts is generally successful providing there is 100 percent compliance.

Drug Addiction

Drug addictions can relate to the addiction to either illegal substances, over the counter or prescription medications. The term 'addiction' corresponds to an inability to cease the use of a substance, and when attempts to stop are made this usually results in unpleasant physical and psychological effects. Often as a result of these undesirable effects, those wishing to cease the use of drugs fail to do so.

It does not take a particular type of person to become an 'addict' and it is often a common misconception that addiction is something that happens to the less well off, or those in a lower social class.

Treatments to combat drug addictions can be in the form of psychological therapy, medicinal therapy or for some a combination of both. The ultimate goal for treatment is to achieve an abstinence that is lasting. Relapse during therapy is common.

Treatments for Drug Addiction

It is common practice for drug addicts to be prescribed 'replacement' medication at the beginning of treatment. For those addicted to opiate type drugs such as Heroin or Codeine the prescription of a drug called Methadone is popular as it acts as a replacement therapy, yet gives the addict the sensation that they are still receiving the drug. Unfortunately, secondary addictions to the replacement drug can occur, and careful monitoring is required particularly in the initial stages of treatment as overdose of Methadone can be a risk.

Ideally, treatment for drug addiction will be voluntary as compliance is far more likely when this is the case. For addicts who become a danger to themselves, with the likelihood of death being a hazard, in-patient care is favorable to ensure that control of the addiction is achieved quickly under medical guidance.

Behavioral Interventions for Drug Addicts: A Preferred Method of Treatment

The effectiveness of medicinal addiction support drugs can be enhanced by the implementation of behavioral treatments. It is well documented that behavioral interventions for drug addicts offers long-term benefits for those trying to combat addiction. The 'detox' process is often enhanced by supportive behavioural interventions. The following behavioral interventions are popular in the field of drug addiction therapy:

  • Motivational Incentives - this works very much on the use of positive reinforcement. Motivational incentives can be given in the form of a prize or reward that the addict works toward.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - This popular mode of therapy focuses on supporting the addicted individual in coping with situations where they may be struggling to deal with not having their chosen drug. It allows the individual to think about themselves, their addiction and how their addiction affects their thoughts and feelings. By confronting their deep emotions the addict is then able to challenge the addiction because they have a deeper understanding of how their mind and body controls their actions. CBT aims to deal with the "vicious cycle" of thoughts, actions and feelings that contribute to addiction.
  • Group Therapy - Behavioral interventions for drug addicts do not always need to be individualized. Group therapy sessions are often favored for those who gain support by sharing their problems and fears. Group therapy can be motivational and comforting to the addict when they are able to discuss their addiction and share coping techniques.
  • Relapse Prevention - This intervention aims to help the addict develop strategies to limit their exposure to high-risk situations where they may be at risk of a relapse. The therapy also deals with how to cope with cravings and other difficult to cope with emotions during abstinence.
  • Psychotherapy - This aims to encourage the addict to express themselves freely. They too will be actively encouraged to discuss how their addiction makes them feel so that they can understand what they are actually battling against. Techniques are taught and practised to help the addict work through their issues. At times there may be deeper issues contributing to the addiction such as relationship problems, or a history of abuse. The psychotherapy aims to challenge the deeper issues also.
  • Family Therapy - Aims to offer a well structured family centred support for the addict. By involving those close to the individual, family members and loved ones can offer encouragement and reinforcement of values that are being taught in the therapy. Often addicts experience a sense of shame which can be dispelled when family therapy allows those involved to talk about feelings, both good and bad. Family therapy works both for the addict and those acting in a supporting role.

Making the Right Choice

Behavioral interventions for drug addicts are best chosen by those medically trained to select a therapy which best suits the needs of the addict. What may suit one person, may not necessarily suit another. Most importantly therapy needs to be delivered by a well-qualified and experienced practitioner, and attending an introductory session is usually a good way of gauging whether the chosen therapy will be suitable for the needs of the addict.Many addicts achieve success in beating their addiction when after they have received more than one type of therapy. Medical intervention is likely to have a more positive outcome if supported by a therapy with a behavioral approach.

Behavioral Interventions for Drug Addicts