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Most Effective Addiction Treatments, According to Science

Addiction is one of the largest medical conundrums in modern history. It continues to claim countless lives, and many treatment methods fail addicts who are desperately trying to get clean. In fact, of the 23.5 million Americans addicted to alcohol or drugs, only about 1 in 10 receives treatment. And the statistics for those who attend treatment are not so sunny either.

In a lauded study by Columbia University, researchers found that even though addiction is incredibly prevalent across the country, the availability of effective solutions is completely scarce. For the ten percent of addicts that receive care, only few receive anything that could be described as evidence-based treatment. Furthermore, medical professionals who are “treating” addiction across the country are largely unqualified. To add to it, misunderstandings and outdated traditions often dictate addiction treatment, which completely undermine any progress or evolution. The research proposes that addiction medicine be fully integrated into current healthcare systems. There must be more training for healthcare providers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists and social workers. Furthermore, they prescribe regulation of addiction treatment programs, and mandated accountability for treatment consistent with proven standards. The researchers went so far as to suggest that current addiction practices could be considered medical malpractice.

  1. Thomas McLellan, co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, echoes this sentiment by saying, “There are exceptions, but of the many thousands of treatment programs out there, most use exactly the same kind of treatment you would have received in 1950, not modern scientific approaches.”

However, there are some individuals who are working to make sure that addiction treatment moves into the future. One such is Dr. Mark Willenbring, a former director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who, among other things, is championing the use of medication-assisted treatment. This primarily entails the use of maintenance therapy with the drug suboxone for opioid addicts.

“We have some pretty good drugs to help people with addiction problems, but doctors don’t know how to use them,” he said. “The 12-step community doesn’t want to use relapse-prevention medication because they view it as a crutch.”

Among other medication-assisted treatment options, there lies the Sinclair Method. The Sinclair Method was discovered by Dr. David Sinclair. He hypothesized that alcohol produced reinforcement in the brain in a manner not dissimilar from opioids. Through years of research, he realized that alcohol did produce reinforcement via endorphins that bind with opioid receptors in one’s brain. He then concluded that an effective way to stop this dangerous reinforcement cycle would be to block the opioid receptors- after trying naltrexone, an opiate blocker, on rats, he decided it just may work for humans. The results in human trials have been very successful, and using extinction of the impulse to drink has had success with about 80 percent of those who have tried the method. Of course, the medication must be taken whenever one wants to drink.

If you are struggling with alcohol abuse disorder or substance abuse disorder, you will want to seek professionals who have a great knowledge of all current addiction treatment offerings. Truth Recovery Center has a large expertise on many evidence-based approaches and will create a treatment plan that is individualized and works for you.