Drug addiction is a complex but treatable brain disease. It is characterized by compulsive drug craving, seeking and use that persist even in the face of severe adverse consequences. For many people, drug addiction becomes chronic with relapses possible even after long periods of abstinence. In fact, relapse to drug abuse occurs at rates similar to those for other well-characterized, chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. As a chronic, recurring illness, addiction may require repeated treatments to increase the intervals between relapses and diminish their intensity until abstinence is achieved. Through treatment tailored to individual needs, people with drug addiction can recover and lead productive lives.
The ultimate goal of drug addiction treatment is to enable an individual to achieve lasting abstinence, but the immediate goals are to reduce drug abuse, improve the patient’s ability to function and minimize the medical and social complications of drug abuse and addiction. Like people with diabetes or heart disease, people in treatment for drug addiction will need to change behavior to adopt a more healthful lifestyle.
Scientific research since the mid-1970s shows that treatment can help many people change destructive behaviors, avoid relapse and successfully remove themselves from a life of substance abuse and addiction. Recovery from drug addiction is a long-term process and frequently requires multiple episodes of treatment. Based on this research, key principles have been identified that should form the basis of any effective treatment program:
As is the case with other chronic, relapsing diseases, recovery from drug addiction can be a long-term process and typically requires multiple episodes of treatment, including “booster” sessions and other forms of continuing care.
Information provided by the National Institutes of Health.