As treatment of drug abuse should suit the specific needs of the individual concerned, there is no one treatment that can be used in all cases. The choice of treatment also depends on which drug is being abused. Psychological therapies, such as behavior therapy, and medication to help the individual with withdrawal symptoms are components of the treatment program. The areas that may deserve special attention during treatment include detoxification, i.e., the process of stopping the drug while coping with physical addiction, relapse prevention and long-term rehabilitation.
Behavior therapies generally include counseling, psychotherapy, support groups, or family therapy. Medications assist in suppressing the withdrawal symptoms and drug craving, and in blocking the effects of drugs.
Moreover, studies reveal that treatment for heroin addiction using methadone at an adequate dosage level combined with behavior therapy successfully reduces death rates and many health problems arising out of heroin abuse. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating the cravings that accompany cocaine withdrawal. The procedure is now being applied on pregnant drug abusers to improve the health of their babies.
Nonresidential programs serve the largest number of drug abusers. Among residential facilities are hospitals, group homes, halfway houses, and therapeutic communities, such as Phoenix House and Daytop Village, where most of the daily activities are treatment-related. Programs like Al-Anon, CoAnon, and Alateen, 12-step programs for family and friends of drug abusers, help them to break out of codependent cycles.
For every person undergoing drug treatment there are an estimated three or four people in dire need of it. There are many who try to get treatment, especially from public facilities, but are put off by waits of over a month to get in. Assessment of the effectiveness of treatment is difficult because of the chronic nature of drug abuse and alcoholism. And more so because the disease is generally made more complicated by personal, social, and legal factors.