It’s no secret that psychoactive drugs have been used since the dawn of civilization. From extremely powerful hallucinogens to pure opioids, the use of drugs was apparent in more than one direction; religious, medical, and recreational. It may look like society’s condemnation of drug abuse is a modern social phenomenon but in reality, excessive drug use was frowned upon for thousands of years even before there was a specific term for it. 

Alcohol was considered the most popular form of psychoactive drugs since Ancient China. The industrial age saw such a huge rise in alcohol consumption as it became much easier and cheaper to produce that the USA prohibited the sale and manufacturing of alcohol for 13 years, known as the Prohibition Era. It took a lot of time for governments to realize that an iron-fist approach alone couldn’t curb drug abuse rates and its dangers. The modern approach—commonly known as an evidence-based or empirically supported treatment for substance use—has taken the healthcare world by storm as it encompasses clinical, scientific, and peer-reviewed practices. This article is a brief guide aiming to explain the mechanics of evidence-based treatment and how effective they are.

The Emergence of Evidence-Based Treatment

The term ‘evidence-based treatment’ is relatively new, as it entered the medical field in the late 90s. It was a new strategy of critical thinking that advocated the use of clinical and proven approaches to treat disorders, including substance abuse. ‘Evidence’ implies clinical studies that are strict and proven to support the claimed treatments or practices. Every day, more clinicians and therapists are being recommended to include evidence-based practices in their treatment. However, the significant addition of evidence-based treatment to the roster of available treatments doesn’t nullify other innovative practices that may not have been clinically-proven on a grand scale yet.

Experimental or less-researched methods of treatment are best used in combination with evidence-based treatment for the most favorable results. Substance use disorders are quite sophisticated and may require more than one approach to be resolved, depending on each patient. Some practitioners believe using evidence-based treatments alone is too standardized, and opt for the implementation of more individual-based practices that help tackle the issue in a faster and more focused manner.

Evidence-Based Approach to Substance Use

Substance use disorders are too varied to be grouped easily and resolved using a single treatment method. Factors like abused substances, personality traits, resources, and many others are in play. It’s quite common to treat other disorders that are also directly involved in substance abuse problems, which requires a careful and systematic approach. Different specialized and focused treatments are designed to isolate and target specific substance use, from alcohol to opiates, and each institution or expert adopts a particular approach in treatment methodology. No matter what the substance is, the general outline of treatment that the Costa Rica Treatment Center draws is to look beyond the obvious symptoms, identify the source problem, and continuously heal the body and the mind. It was found that in order to effectively attack the root of substance use and addiction, in general, treatments were to include tackling major issues that often accompany it like family, quality of life, relationships, and other variable issues. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Other Examples

The National Alliance on Mental Illness identifies and acknowledges evidence-based treatment as a treatment that has been academically researched. The results of the practice have to be replicated in at least more than one study. The most common substance use disorder treatments are cognitive-behavioral, exposure, functional, assertive community, dialectical behavior, and motivational interviewing therapies, and approved psychological drugs. While all the methods are proven to be useful, the foundation of any substance use disorder almost always includes CBT.

CBT is considered one of the most direct and effective treatments available on a wide scale. It revolves around guiding the patient toward the various processes that are involved in the augmentation of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that feed their substance abuse disorders. CBT focuses on ‘rewiring’ the brain chemistry by pushing patients to change the way they look at themselves and their life through interactive intervention. A lot of scientific studies and clinical trials have been conducted to prove CBT’s significantly high effectiveness. CBT can either be used solely or with the use of FDA-approved drugs.

While there is no such thing as a definitive cure for substance use disorder, that doesn’t mean that its sufferers are doomed. Effective and customized evidence-based treatment is the most hopeful direction towards beating addiction and dealing with its major roots. Practitioners and rehabilitation centers are becoming more equipped to deal with such disorders thanks to evidence-based treatment methods.

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