How Has Modern Psychiatry Improved Addiction Treatment?

August 12, 2016

Modern Psychiatry

In the past, people who struggled with addiction received widely varying types of treatment. Some were prescribed powerful drugs that only worsened their addiction, and some were told that their addiction was completely their fault because they lacked will-power and self-control. Little consistency existed in the treatment of addictions, and not many scientists and healthcare professionals studied and fully understood the nature of addiction and rehabilitation. Because of this, many people found themselves alone in their struggle against their addiction. Over the past fifty years, however, modern psychiatry has contributed a large amount of important research related to addiction. Additionally, many healthcare professionals have used this newfound knowledge to create quality and effective addiction treatment programs that significantly improve a person’s likelihood of maintaining sobriety long-term.

Modern Definition of Addiction

Researchers and mental healthcare professionals have only recently begun to recognize the specific characteristics of addiction. As these characteristics have become clarified, addiction treatment has evolved to incorporate this knowledge into productive rehabilitation options for people struggling with addiction. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, the key principles of effective addiction treatment include:

  • Addiction should be viewed as a complex but treatable disease
  • Receiving treatment for an appropriate amount of time is essential
  • Every person must receive individualized treatment
  • Treatment must be accessible to anyone who needs it
  • Counseling and other forms of behavioral therapies are commonly-used and effective types of drug abuse treatment
  • A person can receive treatment involuntarily and still experience successful rehabilitation
  • Treatment should address the person as a whole, acknowledging and treating physical, mental and social health issues that affect his addiction
  • Medications, especially when combined with other therapies, can be an effective component of treatment for many people
  • Detoxification is the first stage of addiction treatment, and must be followed by a complete rehabilitation program to be fully effective
  • Drug use should be continuously monitored to avoid and manage any possible relapses
  • Treatment programs should include testing for and education about infectious diseases that can be transmitted through intravenous drug use, and should teach people how to avoid situations that increase their risk of acquiring or spreading these diseases

Modern Understanding of Co-occurring Disorders

Most modern psychiatrists view addiction not as a temporary or one-time occurrence, but instead as a chronic disease that must be acknowledged and managed throughout a person’s entire life. Additionally, the field of psychiatry have recently begun exploring the relationships between this disease and other mental health issues that people struggle with. When a person is dealing with both an addiction and one or more mental health concerns simultaneously, he is said to have co-occurring disorders. SAMHSA lists the following most common types of mental health conditions that occur alongside addictions:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Major depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Treatment Options for Co-occurring Disorders

For people who have co-occurring disorders, several treatment options have been developed to treat both disorders. Richard K. Ries explains that there are three types of treatment most often used to treat co-occurring disorders. These are:

  • Sequential treatment: the person receives treatment for both disorders separately and at different times.
  • Parallel treatment: the person receives treatment for both disorders at the same time, but in different and unconnected settings.
  • Integrated treatment: the person receives a combined treatment that addresses both disorders and treats them simultaneously.

Each of these types of treatment addresses all aspects of a person’s co-occurring disorders. While they are distinct, they each focus on ensuring that the person receives quality psychiatric treatment for both his addiction and his other mental health conditions.

More Information About Modern Psychiatry and Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment has changed greatly over the past few years. Thanks to extensive research into the nature of both addictions and co-occurring disorders, mental healthcare professionals are able to provide their patients with excellent and effective treatment for these conditions and can help them begin and maintain long-term recovery.

If you are seeking treatment for mental health or substance use disorders, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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