Principles of addiction treatment

Addiction is a medical disorder with many adverse consequences, which, without treatment, can cause significant damage.

Nonetheless, many people find it difficult to turn to treatment for various reasons, including emotional difficulties, conflicted feelings about stopping the behavior or substance use, fear of the stigma of treatment, and lack of access to treatment.

The first and most significant stage in the treatment of addiction is starting treatment. People tend to enter treatment when:

  • They feel increased motivation and confidence in their ability to make the needed change in their lives.
  • They encounter therapists who treat them with respect and empathy, and who encourage them to participate in setting the goals of their own rehabilitation. (Studies indicate that this approach is key in recruiting patients into treatment.)

The treatment of addiction usually involves two stages:


  • Detoxification (or withdrawal) – completely abstaining from the addictive substance or behavior.
  • Relapse prevention – preventing the return to the addictive substance or behavior.

  Nonetheless, it is not always possible to achieve complete abstinence from the addictive substance or behavior, because sometimes it is a goal that the patient cannot, or does not, want to meet. In these cases, there are many effective treatments designed to minimize the harmful effects of addiction, such as those that focus on reducing the frequency of the substance use or behavior, or on minimizing exposure to risky situations associated with the substance use or behavior.  

What are common comorbidities and how are they treated?

  People who suffer from addiction often have other concurrent illnesses and disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. Sometimes the use of addictive substances is an attempt to self-medicate these problems. The therapeutic approach to addiction, then, must take into account and address the underlying issues that affect the patient. Thus, the best treatment for addiction adheres to an integrative approach, provided by staff trained in dealing with mental health issues as well as addiction. The treatment of addiction is, ideally, multidisciplinary, integrative, and tailored to each patient with great consideration for his or her needs and objectives. Treatment should include three main components: medical care, psychological therapy and social support.