The Treatment Approaches to Substance Abuse-Carly Danowitz

  1. Pharmacotherapy: Medications help to decrease cravings for drugs and help establish normal brain functioning. Drugs used to treat opiates addictions are methadone and buprenorphine. Drugs used to treat alcohol addiction are Disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprasate. (Straussner, 2012, p. 128-129)


  1. Behavioral therapies: Many of these therapies are used for the treatment of substance abuse. These help people engage in treatment and in their recovery process. They also provide incentives to remain off drugs, modify their substance behaviors, and improve skills to handle stress and environmental cues that triggers cravings. (Straussner, 2012, p. 129)


  1. Contingency Management: This form of behavioral therapy involves giving incentives to patients for meeting their behavioral goals. This is especially effective for people who are abusing marijuana, alcohol, narcotics, and stimulants. (Straussner, 2012, p. 129)


  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Another type of behavioral therapy, which attempts to decrease self-defeating behaviors by means of modifying maladaptive beliefs and teaching thought control techniques. Essentially tries to enhance patient’s self-control. This teaches the patient to weigh the costs and benefits of their continued substance use, and to specifically pay attention to their thinking as well as their cravings. The patient will learn to identify high-risk situations as to not ruin their recovery, and will learn effective strategies to prevent relapse. (Straussner, 2012, p. 129)


  1. Motivational Enhancement Therapy: This is associated with the Stages of Change model and the techniques of Motivational Interviewing. This therapy emphasizes techniques such as avoiding argumentation, expressing empathy, and developing discrepancies. MET is especially successful in engaging substance abusers into treatment, and some use MET as a preparation for other, more intensive therapy. (Straussner, 2012, p. 129-130)


  1. Twelve Step Facilitation Therapy: TWF is a structured approach to bring in early recovery from substance abuse. It stems from cognitive, behavioral, and spiritual principles from Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. Being able to accept that addiction is a chronic disease that the person is powerless over and which has become unmanageable, as well as active involvement in the 12 steps is a central principle in this type of therapy. (Straussner, 2012, p. 130)


  1. Harm Reduction: This treatment approach is a range of evidence-based public health policies that are created to decrease harmful consequences that are associated with drug use. This includes needle exchange programs and therapies of opioid substitution. This is in line with traditional social work values. (Straussner, 2012, p. 130)




Straussner, S. (2012). Clinical Treatment of Substance Abusers: Past, Present and Future. Clinical Social Work Journal Clin Soc Work J, 40, 127-133.


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