Are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

Yes, there are treatments to help manage addiction, but there is no cure. It is considered a chronic disease, meaning it lasts a long time and needs to be managed with regular treatment. If people follow treatment plans, they can go for many years leading healthy lives. It can be similar to other chronic conditions that people learn to manage, like diabetes or heart disease. Scientific research has shown that 13 basic principles are the foundation for effective drug addiction treatment. Find out more in Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.

Types of Treatment

Treatment will vary for each person, depending on the type of drugs used and the person’s specific circumstances. Generally, there are two types of treatment for drug addiction:

  • Behavior change--- helping people learn to change behaviors that trigger drug use
  • Medications--- helping people manage cravings for some drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, or other opioids

Length of Treatment

Most people who have become addicted to drugs need long term treatment and, many times, repeated treatments—much like a person who has asthma needs to constantly watch the effects of medication and exercise. Even when someone relapses and begins using drugs again, they should not give up hope--- they might need to change to a different treatment plan. In fact, setbacks are likely. Even people with diabetes may go off their diet or miss an insulin injection, and their symptoms will recur—that’s a cue to get back on track, not to view treatment as a failure.

Motivation for Treatment

Most people go into drug treatment either because a court ordered them to do so or because loved ones wanted them to seek treatment. Many people are tired of addiction and its problems, and chose to go into treatment. Others are ordered into treatment by a judge or under pressure from family members.