Twelve Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment

The job of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is establishing policies, priorities, and objectives for drug control programs of the United States. Sometime ago, this agency came up with a list of principles of drug addiction treatment.  This list of principles can be a useful way for you to evaluate a drug treatment program before you enroll.

1.  The treatment program must match the individual

A program that might work for one person may not necessarily work for you.  You have to consider factors such as your age, gender, ethnicity, culture, geographic location, insurance options, ability to take time from work or school, and special needs such as physical disabilities or mental health problems.  The severity of your drug problem will be a factor in how long you have to be in treatment and how intensive your program needs to be.  It’s a good idea to visit the campus of a treatment center and figure out how comfortable you feel with the professional staff, their philosophy of treatment, and the physical environment of the place itself.

2.  You should be able to enroll in treatment immediately

People with drug addictions need to enter treatment as soon as they feel ready.  Often the perfect “teachable” moment passes if the person faces too many delays.

3.  You have to plan to be in treatment until you complete your program

The length of time you need to stay in treatment depends upon your individual case.  However, most studies show that you have to remain in treatment at least three months before you achieve significant improvement.

4.   Drug addiction treatment must address the needs of the whole person.

Your drug treatment center should not only address your physical addiction to drugs through chemical withdrawal, but also any legal, vocational, social, and psychological problems associated with drug abuse.  You are a person, not a body.

5. Chemical withdrawal from drugs is only a first step

Your drug treatment program should help you be as comfortable and symptom-free as possible while undergoing the detoxification process. However, detoxification is only the first step in any drug treatment program.

6.  You should receive group and individual counseling as well as behavioral therapy as part of your drug treatment program

Getting off drugs permanently involves changing your lifestyle. In order to do this, you have to understand why you took drugs in the first place and how to replace drug-using behaviors with more constructive activities. You also need to learn skills that will enable you to resist drug cravings and a return to your old lifestyle. This requires behavioral therapy and counseling.

7.   Drug addiction professionals should be constantly reassessing each person in their programs

Drug addiction treatments usually last for months, sometimes years.  During that time, you undergo many changes.  Your counselors should be continuously reassessing your case, and making sure that you acquire any medical services or medications, family counseling, parenting classes, legal services, or whatever else you require based on your current situation.

8.  If you have a mental health problem, you should receive treatment for it along with your drug addiction in an integrated way

Some addicts have coexisting mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, depression, anti-social personality, etc.  The medical professionals treating you for drug addiction should be able to treat comorbidities as separate but integrated issues.  If you need medication for such a problem, it should be available to you at your drug treatment center.

9.  You should have access to any necessary medications

This includes medicines for comorbidities (see above) or those that will make you comfortable as you withdraw from drugs.

10.  You should be screened and counseled about diseases associated with drug abuse such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis

This protects everyone else in the program and can help you avoid high-risk behaviors.

11.  People who enter drug treatment programs involuntarily can succeed in them

The police, criminal justice systems, family members or even employers force people into treatment programs.  These involuntary clients can and do succeed in recovering from drug addictions.

12.  Recovery from drug addiction often involves setbacks and relapses until you achieve permanent drug-free lifestyle

Drug treatment is a long process that can take some people many years to complete.  Most people have setbacks and relapses, and many have to enter treatment programs more than one time.  This is a predictable part of recovery.