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Addiction: Alternative Treatments

PSY 425

February 1, 2006


The initial exposure to any drug addiction treatment is an overwhelming experience. Whether one attends an Alcoholics Anonymous session, a Detox facility, or a Psychiatric in-patient center, one unavoidable conclusion manifests itself: Addiction is a horrible situation for any human being.

The following paper looks at several different elements of the addiction treatment environment, and from differing modalities to success rates, addiction treatment is examined, contrasted and compared.


There are many options for the treatment of alcohol and drug addition. These treatments are referred to as modalities. Treatment modalities are most often referred to as one or more of the following disciplines:

(1) Allopathic (2) Homeopathic/Alternative

(3) Inpatient/Residential (4) Outpatient/Self-help

Many treatment plans incorporate two or more of these modalities to successfully treat the addict, and often their families.

The Allopathic modality refers to the use of modern medicine to treat the physical addiction. The two most common medications used are methadone and LAAM (Levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol). These medications suppress the withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with Narcotic Addiction. The primary withdrawal method for this modality is to switch the user to a comparable drug that has milder withdrawal symptoms. Once the switch is made, the dose is gradually reduced thus alleviating the severity of the withdrawal and increasing the chance of recovery. Depending on the type of narcotic addiction, this method of treatment is often required for the addict to survive the withdrawal period (NIDA, 2006).

However, there are those addicts who begin using/abusing drugs again after going through the withdrawal process. For the Opiate addict who cannot refrain from using, Methadone maintenance therapy is an option. These addicts are given a higher dose than that which is used for medically assisted withdrawal treatments. This dose prevents the withdrawal symptoms and cravings and prevents addicts from getting a high from Heroin thus eliminating its use. Methadone clinics are the primary treatment facilities for Opiate addiction (NIDA, 2006).

In addition to Methadone, there are other drugs available for use in treating addicts. LAAM is used in the maintenance program. Unlike Methadone, which has to be administered daily, LAAM is administered three times a week. Naltrexone is also used to prevent relapse. It is similar to Methadone and LAAM in that it prevents the addict from getting a high from Heroin. However, it does not eliminate the cravings, thus is only used with highly motivated addicts seeking sobriety (NIDA, 2006).

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of cocaine, LSD, PCP, Marijuana, and Methamphetamine addiction. There are medications to treat the adverse health effects caused by the use of these substances. Medical supervision is advised during the withdrawal phase of recovery for any addict with a severe physical addiction (NIDA, 2006).

The Homeopathic/alternative modality refers to such forms of treatment as Herbal remedies, Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy. These treatments, while new to mainstream Western society, have been used for thousands of years in areas like China and India. While Homeopathic treatments use natural herbal remedies, Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy seek to adjust the life energies traveling through the body by using either pins manipulated at specific nerve sites (Acupuncture) or by using Microcurrent-stimulation at specific areas around the ear (Auriculotherapy) (Rueben, Chen, Blum, Braverman, Wiate, Miller, Sewell, Blum, Meshkin, and Mengucci, 2005).

The Inpatient/Residential modality is a type of treatment in which the patient is admitted to a facility for an extended stay. These facilities range from hospital settings to privately owned and operated facilities. The facility provides a structured environment, which eliminates outside pressures and influences for the addict. Treatment may include individual and group therapy, nutritional counseling, vocational training, relapse prevention support, educational services and 12-step substance abuse programs.

In addition to these services, many facilities provide medically supervised detoxification. Patients are immersed in the treatment routine of the facility and generally have limited access to the outside world. This enables the facility to reduce the incidence of patients using drugs or alcohol while in treatment. This type of treatment modality tends to be very expensive with the cost for a 28 day-program in a hospital-like setting amounting to over $15,000. The length of stay is not based on any research data, but is limited by the cost and insurance restraints (Alcohol and Drug, 2006).

After the 28-day program, patients may elect to go to a "half-way house." This enables the addicts to reintroduce themselves to mainstream society while still maintaining the structured living environment. After successfully completing the stay at the halfway house, patients move on to reestablishing themselves in society. These patients may continue to attend a 12-step program to maintain their hard won recovery.

Outpatient/Self-help treatment programs are designed so that the addict continues to live at home but attends treatment sessions or meetings. Many outpatient facilities offer the same type of services as the inpatient facilities, but on a limited basis. Instead of being totaling removed from societal pressures and influences, addicts remain exposed to them, but learn to deal with them through numerous sessions at the facility. Drug testing is used to ensure that addicts are not continuing to use while enrolled in an Outpatient facility.

The most commonly known program is the self-help 12-step program. Most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Currently, AA is the largest self-help group and has been the model for other self-help groups such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA). AA began in Akron, Ohio in 1935 and continues to thrive. The program is based on 12 steps, which addicts work through to recover from their addiction. These are the 12 steps:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol



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