Why Are Successful Addiction Treatment Programs Successful?

Those Who Heal


How successfully a person is able to kick off his addiction depends on completing a treatment and rehab program, keeping up with medications and therapy, and attending support group meetings regularly. However, some addiction treatment programs are more geared towards success than others. Almost everyone who checks into these programs find it easy to progress through the stages. Almost all of them return to their earlier healthier lives, resume relationships or form new and more meaningful ones, be active and productive, and remain addiction-free.

The success is due to the comprehensive evidence-based and holistic treatments these programs provide. These treatments are easy to stick to and bring lasting benefits.

Detoxification by Specialists

As the moniker suggest, detoxification is the process to rid the body of the toxins that accumulate after a prolonged period of substance misuse. Sometimes, the addicted person is weaned off the substance. Others may be administered medicines to help them break their addiction. Different drugs are used for different types of addiction—Benzodiazepines for alcohol addiction, methadone for heroin addiction, etc. Clearly, a medical practitioner should administer these drugs.

But the detoxification process is more complicated than it sounds. Prolonged substance misuse or addiction takes over the brain and alters its chemistry. The result is that when an addicted person goes cold turkey, his brain goes out of whack and reacts by exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms range from mild anxiety and niggling headaches to life-threatening strokes and seizures. Again, a physician should be around to manage these symptoms.

Detoxification has to be carried out under the supervision of specialists who are trained to manage the process and the complications that may arise during the procedure. A successful addiction treatment program provides detoxification by specialists. They monitor you 24×7 during this critical stage to ensure that the detox period is safe, painless, and comfortable, and you are ready to advance to the next stage of your rehabilitation program, totally cleansed.

Dual Diagnosis and Integrated Treatment

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 50 percent of all people with severe psychiatric illnesses also have substance use disorders. On the other hand, 37 percent of alcohol-addicted people and 53 percent of those who misuse drugs have at least one form of severe mental disorder.

Substance use disorder and one or more mental illnesses often co-occur because of the complex interplay of genetic and neurological factors and the peculiar ways in which these interact with the environment. For instance, the presence of certain genes increases the risk of a person developing both substance use and psychiatric disorders. The presence of certain genes makes a person more vulnerable to environmental stress, so he is more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol.

Sometimes, people with psychiatric disorders take to drugs or alcohol to numb their turbulent emotions or feelings of low, or to escape from their dark, brooding thoughts. Alcohol consumed in moderate quantities can decrease depression, and what starts off as a means to get on a high or get back the feeling of being in control progresses to full-blown addiction. Sometimes, addiction can cause a psychiatric disorder or worsen the symptoms of an already-existing mental illness. For instance, alcoholism triggers depressive thoughts.

A complete recovery is not possible and chances of relapse increase if one condition remains untreated. It is also imperative that co-occurring conditions are treated simultaneously. An integrated treatment approach is the most effective, as proven by multiple studies (Wüsthoff et al, 2014; Mangrum et al, 2006). This methodology overcomes the drawbacks of the sequential and parallel treatment methods. However, its success depends on the expertise of the substance use and mental disorder specialists and the degree of coordination among them.

Counseling Sessions

Knowledge is power. With knowledge comes understanding, and understanding empowers you to take charge of your life. Counseling is an integral part of an addiction treatment program. A counselor educates the addicted person on his condition, so he understands it and knows that he has the power to reclaim his life.

During these sessions, counselors try to understand the personality of the addicted person—his patterns of behavior, thought processes, belief systems, and typical responses—and the world he works, plays, and lives in to analyze his condition and identify the stressors in his life that may have triggered the addiction. He is then taught coping mechanisms like problem-solving strategies and mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help him tackle problems and manage stress. These efforts are part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that aims to reorient the addicted person’s perspective and make him realize that he can deal with the curveballs that life throws at him without resorting to drugs.

Successful addiction treatment programs include both individual and group counseling sessions. Here’s a note: one method is not better than the other. It is just that one may be more effective than the other in a specific situation.

Many persons undergoing rehab feel supported and motivated when they interact with their peers and share stories during group counseling sessions. But some people may feel more comfortable opening up and talking about themselves and their conditions when they are alone with the counselor. These people should undergo individual counseling sessions. Besides addiction counseling, individual psychotherapy sessions are also advised for people with dual diagnosis.

Addiction is more than the body’s dependence on the addictive substance. The mind reacts to these substances as well. For instance, a person who was once addicted to cocaine may still believe that the substance will cure his unhappiness. So he will reach out for it when he is stressed. Just walking past a pub can trigger urges in a person recovering from alcoholism, and if he has not learned to control his mind, he ends up yielding to the cravings. The objective of counseling is to alter thought patterns, shift attitudes, modify behavioral responses, increase self-esteem, and instill a sense of being in control in the addicted person. Eventually, the addicted person learns to control his mind and say no to drugs and alcohol.

Comprehensive Aftercare Programs

Addiction is a chronic disorder, so relapse is not uncommon. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 60% of people recovering from some form of addiction relapse. The rate of addiction relapse is similar to what it is for common chronic ailments like diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure when patients fail to keep up with their treatments. But addiction relapse is not inevitable either.

Addictive substances rewire the brain, so even after the drugs are washed out of the body, their effects persist. It takes some time for the brain to unlearn the responses it had learned during a prolonged period of misuse. So psychological and social cues like stress and being around people from the addiction days can trigger cravings that the brain has not yet learned to ignore.

Cravings usually peak within 30 and 90 days after quitting drugs or alcohol. Incidentally, this period coincides with the end of the standard 30-day addiction treatment program when the person returns to his world outside the safe haven of the rehab facility. It is also the world that contains the stressors that had triggered his addiction. During this period, it is critical that a professional helps him identify addiction triggers, learn coping mechanisms relevant to the world he is now supposed to function in, boost his self-esteem, and make him realize the repercussions of a relapse. A comprehensive addiction aftercare program prevents a relapse or a lapse from progressing into a relapse by providing support, guidance, and motivation to tide through a challenging phase.


Addiction treatment is a multi-stage, multi-pronged approach. Every aspect of the treatment program should be handled by professionals who should, in turn, coordinate their efforts with the practitioners from other disciplines to provide integrated treatment. A successful addiction treatment program not only weans an individual off the addictive substance but also empowers him to take back control of his life and recreate it without resorting to drugs or alcohol.

Why Are Successful Addiction Treatment Programs Successful?