Methods of Treatment of Drug Addiction


            Drug addiction is one of the major challenges that face the world today, as it is estimated that around 208 million people consume illegal drugs globally. In addition, 13.5 million people across the globe are using opium-like substances with 9.2 million people addicted to heroin. Drug addiction is not only associated with the physical illness, but also the billions of shillings that are spent to treat and rehabilitate the addicts. Therefore, the drug addiction has health, social, economic effects on the addicts and the society at large. Unfortunately, drug addiction treatment is a complex process with no clear treatment prescription. The paper, therefore, discusses the drug addiction treatment methods with specific focus on the heroin addiction. It also looks at the ways of improving the success rate of drug rehabilitations.

Drug Addiction treatment Methods

            One of the complex questions being asked by many people, especially those who have been directly or indirectly affected by drugs is whether the drug addiction can be effectively treated. Studies have shown that drug addiction can be treated, but it is a complex process because it is associated with chronic diseases, which require long-term treatment procedures (Rapaka & Sadee, 2008). There are two main methods of drug addiction treatment and they include pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapy. Pharmacotherapy is further sub-divided into methadone maintenance therapy (MMT), buprenorphine maintenance (BM), and detoxification. Behavioral therapy, on the other hand, is sub-divided into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive management (CM), and motivational interventions (MI). Therefore, the main methods of treating drug addiction include detoxification, medication, and behavioral counseling.


            Pharmacotherapy, in drug addiction, refers to the process of replacing a person’s drug of choice with the legally prescribed drugs (Rapaka & Sadee, 2008). It is mainly used to treat opium-related drug addictions such as heroin addiction. The treatment method may not be effective for everyone, but is has been found to be helpful in stabilizing the condition of the addicts, which enable them to effectively manage their lives.

            MMT is the most common type of pharmacotherapy that is used in treating drug addiction, and it is one of the most research methods (McDuffie, 2012). There is divided opinion on the effectiveness of MMT with regard to treating drug addiction with some people supporting it while other opposing it. MMT is used in treating drug addiction, such as heroine because it acts as synthetic agent and it helps in blocking the euphoric and sedating effects among people addicted to heroin (Libby, 2011). Effective use of methadone has been found to be helpful in reducing craving and withdrawal signs that are found among drug addicts. Therefore, studies have shown that it is one of the effective methods of treating opiate addictions.

            MMT has a number of advantages that make many people to prefer it over other drug addiction treatment methods. First, it is safe and effective in treating drug opiate addictions and it has the ability of keeping the addicts in treatment for a long period of time (McDuffie, 2012). It has been found to be more effective because of its ability to block the opiate receptors in the brain, which makes it difficult to get high from heroin. It is cost-effective, as it is relatively cheaper compared to other treatments such as buprenorphine. The treatment method is also advantageous because it significantly reduces the risk of abuse or overdose, as it is always administered in a strictly monitored clinical environment. Besides, it includes doses that last for more than twenty four hours. MMT, therefore, is the commonly used pharmacotherapy method of treating heroin addiction and any other opiate addiction.

            However, MMT method also has some drawbacks that interfere with its effectiveness. A study that was carried out by Langleben et al in 2008 found that methadone enhances craving for heroine, which is a disadvantage because it increases the addict’s vulnerability to drug cues (McDuffie, 2012). Other researchers have also shown that addicts recovering from drug addiction are still vulnerable to learned brain response despite the argument that MMT helps in blocking the opiate receptor in the brain. Another limitation of the use of the method that the methadone clinics are not many, a factor that encourages the addicts to illegally obtain the drug leading to further addiction due to overdose or overuse. Hence, MMT also has some disadvantages that need to be checked to enhance its effectiveness.

            Buprenorphine maintenance (BM) is another common pharmacotherapy method that is used to treat drug addiction, especially the opiate addiction. The treatment method is used relieves a patient from withdrawal symptoms and cravings while at the same time decreasing the risk of overdose. The treatment method was developed after MMT, and it has been found to be effective even though it has some limitations and effects. The treatment method has been found to have some advantages over the MMT, as it has limited frequent dosing and less severe gastrointestinal side effects, which is always experienced by the addicts using MMT. A study that was carried out by Centre for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) in 2004 revealed that buprenorphine dosing take place on a less frequent basis in comparison to other treatment method such as methadone (McDuffie, 2012). Therefore, it can be a better substitute to the MMT when properly used.

            However, just like MMT, BC also has some disadvantages that affect its effectiveness. Both MMT and BC have similar side effects such as constipation and vomiting, even though they are not severe. Buprenorphine also has a strong and pungent taste when it is sublingually administered, which may make the addict to cease from taking drugs and go back to the use of heroine or any other opiate drug-like substances.

            The last pharmacotherapy method is detoxification, which is always the first step in any drug addiction treatment process. The method is effective in initiating abstinence while lowering withdrawal symptoms (McDuffie, 2012). The detoxification process is designed in a way that it helps in treating the immediate bodily effects by removing the drug toxins in the body while helping the addict to stop using the drug. It can be used to treat both inpatient and outpatient drug addicts. However, many people prefer outpatient detoxification because it is less expensive and it does not disrupt the patient’s life.

            Therefore, one of the main advantages of detoxification is that it rapidly helps in reducing the severity of the withdrawing symptoms (McDuffie, 2012). Consequently, the addicts become less dependent on the addictive drug, which helps in lowering the level of addiction. However, the detoxification has been found to be less effective in treating drug addiction, as it always leads to swapping from one addiction to another. At the same time, it does not address the psychological aspect of drug addictions. Therefore, it should be accompanied by other drug addiction methods such as behavioral therapy.

Behavioral Therapies

             Behavioral therapy is a drug addiction treatment that is aimed at changing the self-destructive behaviors (Drummond & Perryman, 2007). CBT is the most common behavioral therapy method that is used to treat opiate addiction and it is based on the perception that irrational thoughts initiate problematic behaviors (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). Studies have revealed that CBT is effective in treating drug addiction when it is combined with other treatment methods. It is effective in solving the psychological problems associated with drug addiction.

            CM is another behavioral therapy that is used to treat drug addiction and it is based on the fact that people use drugs in order to get some reinforcement such as getting high. Therefore, many people abuse drugs in order to get immediate gratification. Hence, the treatment method suggests should be given some resources such as good housing and food to motivate them to stop abusing the drug. However, studies have found that this method is not effective unless it is combined with other treatment methods (McDuffie, 2012). The main disadvantage of MC is that it is costly, as it involves the purchase of items that can be expensive.

            In addition, MI is a behavioral therapy method that is used to treat patients who are suffering from drug abuse. MI is based on the principle that drug addicts can be motivated to change his or her behavior by offering direct counseling (McDuffie, 2012). Studies have shown that counseling helps in reducing maladaptive behaviors while encouraging the drug addicts to adapt to positive changes. However, like any other behavioral therapy, MI must be combined with other drug addiction treatment methods to enhance its effectiveness.

Improving Success Rate of Drug Rehabilitation

            There are a number of measures that can be used to improve the success rate of drug rehabilitation. Rehabilitation centers can improve their success rate by providing holistic treatment to the addicts. First, rehabilitation centers should encourage drug addicts to attend treatments for longer periods. Previous studies have shown that the longer an addict stays in the rehabilitation center the more effective the treatment becomes (Lessenger & Roper, 2008). Therefore, the drug addicts should be encouraged to stay longer in rehabilitation to enhance their chances of full recovery.

            Secondly, rehabilitation centers should facilitate aftercare support apart from offering formalized treatment. Therefore, a follow up on how the patient is copping helps in enhancing the success rate of drug addiction. It is also important to offer education and resources to the family of the addict, which will help in reducing stigmatization and helping the family to take care of the addict (Lessenger & Roper, 2008). In addition, the rehabilitation process should not focus on one treatment method, but other treatment dynamics such as therapies and medications. Therefore, provision of holistic helps in enhancing the success rate of drug rehabilitation.


            There are a number of treatment methods that can be used to treat drug addiction. However, none of the treatment method is perfect, as they have both advantages and disadvantages that limit their effectiveness. The above discussion also shows that the methods are less effective if they are used independently. Therefore, the best way to treat opiate addiction is to combine the treatment methods. The treatment should involve detoxification, pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapies. At the same time, it is important to provide holistic services to improve the success rate of drug rehabilitation.



Drummond, D. C., & Perryman, K. (2007). Psychosocial interventions in pharmacotherapy of opioid dependence: a literature review. London, St George’s University of London, Division of Mental Health, Section of Addictive Behaviour.

Johnsen, T. J., & Friborg, O. (2015). The effects of cognitive behavioral therapy as an anti-depressive treatment is falling: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 141(4), 747.

Lessenger, J. E., & Roper, G. F. (Eds.). (2008). Drug courts: A new approach to treatment and rehabilitation. Springer Science & Business Media.

Libby, T. A. F. H. (2011). Heroin. Hazelden Publishing.

McDuffie, A. K. (2012). Treatment For Persons With Heroin Addiction. Southern Illinois University Carbon

Rapaka, R. & Sadee, F. (2008). Drug Addiction: From Basic to Research Theory. Springer


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