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The American Psychological Association defines addiction as a chronic disorder that can be the result of biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. It’s characterized by compulsive and continued misuse of substances and/or behaviors despite harmful or negative consequences, with a loss of control to effect change.
Generally, psychologists recognize two addiction models: the brain disease model and the behavioral model.
The brain disease model of addiction classifies addiction as a disease that’s the result of altered brain structure and functions. Because of these abnormalities in the brain, the person becomes more easily addicted to substances or behaviors once they’ve been exposed to them. According to the brain disease model, addiction is incurable.
The behavioral model of addiction considers addiction a compulsive disorder that’s the result of learned behavior. According to this model, addiction is preventable and curable with the right therapies.
There are two types of addiction: chemical and behavioral. As their names imply, chemical addiction involves substances, while behavioral addiction encompasses activities or behaviors.
Addiction myths distress the family and friends of addicts and may block the path to recovery. Strangers and even friends may offer blanket statements about addiction that are untrue. Don’t just believe whatever you hear; take the time to research and find out the real story. Some examples of common addiction myths include:
Addiction treatment is designed to help addicts stop using harmful, addictive substances or to avoid addictive behaviors. Depending on the addiction, treatment may involve group or one-on-one counseling and therapy, prescription medications, or a combination of the two.
There are various types of behavioral and group therapies that are used in addiction treatment. Abstinence-based treatment assumes total sobriety, while harm-reduction treatment allows for continued use with steps taken to mitigate the problems caused by the addiction.
While some addiction therapists may require an individual to attend sessions in person, others may be able to offer treatment online. Being able to reach a counselor via text, video chat, or phone is a great option for addicts who need a little extra support.
Therapy in addiction treatment can help your loved one gain a better understanding of their addiction. In one-on-one therapy and group counseling sessions, they may discuss triggers that cause them to turn to their chosen substances or behaviors, as well as the root cause of their addiction. Approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy and contingency management can provide people with new ways to cope with those triggers and help them learn new, healthy behaviors to replace their addiction.
|Therapy type||Addiction types treated||How it works||How it helps|
|12-Step facilitation||Alcohol, stimulants, opiates||Clients navigate a 12-Step program, which involves accepting their addictions, surrendering to a higher power, and actively involving themselves in long-term group counseling and treatment.||12-Step facilitation provides its participants with ongoing support and accountability for their actions. It requires sponsorship from another member who oversees the participant’s journey and offers mentorship and encouragement.|
|Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)||Alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, nicotine, behavioral addictions||Psychologists or counselors work with clients to anticipate problems they may encounter throughout their recovery. They analyze early warning signs that these problems may occur and work to develop effective coping strategies and ways to avoid such situations.||When used along with medications, CBT has been shown to leave clients with lasting habits that can effectively help them avoid triggers that would normally lead to addictive behaviors and substance abuse.|
|Contingency management (CM)||Alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, nicotine, behavioral addictions||CM focuses on rewards-based behavior management. It consists of offering tangible rewards to clients who abstain from addictive behaviors.||CM encourages clients to remain free from substances or addictive behaviors by offering prizes or cash rewards. While this is effective in providing encouragement, it doesn’t necessarily help those with more advanced cases in which withdrawal symptoms are a factor.|
|Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)||Alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, nicotine, behavioral addictions||DBT is a form of CBT that encourages addicts to focus on the present. It teaches the addict to be accepting of themselves and embrace positive change.||DBT is most effective for addicts with borderline personality disorder and other co-occurring disorders. It helps them understand that change is inevitable and teaches them ways to accept improvements in themselves and their lifestyle.|
|Matrix Model||Stimulants||The Matrix Model involves teaching stimulant users about their addiction and related issues, such as relapse prevention and self-help. They work with a therapist to obtain direction and support and are monitored regularly for drug use throughout the program.||Studies show that the Matrix Model helps addicts prevent relapse and avoid further addictive behaviors by arming them with knowledge and ongoing support. It’s often combined with other types of therapy, including 12-Step programs and relapse prevention. While the Matrix Model works well for stimulant users, results are varied with those who use other substances or experience behavioral addictions.|
|Motivational interviewing (MI)||Alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, nicotine, behavioral addictions||Psychologists and counselors use MI sessions to help clients uncover motivations to correct their addictive behaviors and substance abuse issues.||While MI doesn’t promote recovery on its own, it helps counselors determine the best course of treatment for their patients and keeps addicts motivated throughout their recovery.|
Therapy is an important part of the recovery process for a lot of clients, but in some cases, it’s only a part of the complete picture. Medication management, especially during the beginning stages, and complementary therapies can provide extra support to your loved one during their journey.
Medications that are often used in addiction treatment include those that treat symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea, anxiety, depression, seizures, and pain. Other medications, such as naltrexone, can help people who have been abusing alcohol overcome their addiction by blocking receptors in the brain that produce pleasurable feelings after drinking. Disulfiram may also be used for alcohol users. This medication causes severe side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, when combined with alcohol. Additionally, methadone is often used to treat severe opiate addictions. It helps suppress cravings and withdrawal symptoms by binding to the same brain receptors as opiates without causing a high.
Complementary therapies that may be used in combination with medications and traditional therapies include exercise, yoga, meditation, art, and music therapy. Removing the person from their home setting is often a recommended strategy. Providing them with a supportive environment gives them time to learn new coping techniques without being bombarded with their old lifestyle. Being with others going through the same struggles can help as well.
When speaking about addiction with a loved one, it’s important to tread lightly. Safety is an utmost priority, for oneself as well as the loved one struggling with an addiction. Choose the right time and place for a conversation to occur. Some terminology may be associated with increased stigma and, ultimately, may feel accusatory or offend your loved one.
Your support should go beyond talking about their addiction with them and extend into all phases of the recovery process. Provide them with help as they search for resources to treat their addiction and offer love and encouragement both during and after addiction treatment.
Learn more about addiction and how you can help by visiting some of these sources used in this article