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Evidence-Based Treatment

Evidence-based treatment for drug and alcohol addiction
What is evidenced based drug treatment?
Understanding evidenced based care

Evidence-Based Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Life starts feeling overwhelming, especially when you are close to a loved one battling addiction. Feelings range from sadness to worry, blame to shame, uncertainty to fear. As tricky as this scenario is, you still have to worry about finding the right program and center for the loved one.

Choosing a treatment program is not as easy as picking clothes from the hanging lines and returning those that do not fit. It is about finding the one that will work for your loved one and offers the best results. Well, let’s find out what options you have.

What is Evidence-Based Drug Treatment?

EBT- Evidence-Based Treatment is any treatment backed by scientific studies and evidence with proven results. Psychology uses various methods of EBT to come up with the best results for patients undergoing treatment. APA- American Psychological Association considers the scientific research peer-reviewed with the clinical expertise of a professional. APA also considers an individual’s moral, cultural values, and personal views.


ABCT-Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies further explains that EBP is a three-tiered approach:


• Tier 1- Evaluates scientific review and evidence of a particular treatment.

• Tier 2- Considers the practitioner’s clinical expertise and personal experience.

• Tier 3- Treating the patient while acknowledging personal preferences and values.


Symptoms of addiction and any other mental illness do not manifest the same way in every person. Therefore, the treatment therapies and programs must reflect individuality, where the doctor tailors treatment to fit each person’s unique conditions.


Evidence-based treatment options play an important role in behavioral healthcare. These options form part of a comprehensive program that benefits each individual in their unique settings.

Understanding Evidence-Based Care

Let’s put several scenarios into consideration to understand an evidence-based care approach better:

An opioid rehab center chooses to gather recent and relevant studies on opioid use disorders. The center applies the results to their practice; this is considered evidence-based.

Similarly, a drug treatment facility basing its programs on tangible and meaningful results, such as previous clients who achieved abstinence, might also be considered evidence-based.


However, the EBP substance abuse states that a drug treatment program will only be considered evidence-based if published research cites their evidence or if other reputable organizations recognize them as evidence-based.

Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Types of Evidence-Based Treatment

Types of evidenced based treatments

Several types of evidence-based treatment techniques are used to tackle substance use disorders. While some processes work to supplement treatment programs, others are relatively comprehensive in themselves. The National Institute of Drug Abuse notes that every part of the approach touches on one aspect and consequences of drug abuse to the family, individual, and society.


On the other hand, evidence-based pharmacotherapies refer to the medical treatments tailored to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings in addicted individuals. For instance, most hospitals use Methadone, an evidence-based agonist medication, to help reduce cravings for opioid abuse treatment settings.


Studies show that some highly-effective behavioral methods incentivize patients to maintain sobriety. More so, evidence-based behavioral therapies are uniquely and creatively woven to help engage clients during their recovery journey by assisting them to stay focused on their long-term sobriety goals. These therapies work to change clients’ drug-use-related attitudes and behaviors. These therapies increase patient life skills and abilities to handle difficult future situations and trigger cravings to abuse drugs or alcohol.


Often, doctors recommend evidence-based pharmacotherapy treatments with evidence-based behavioral therapies. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse- NIDS, addiction treatment can begin with medication-assisted therapies. However, medication-assisted medicines are insufficient to help individuals achieve long-term sobriety. Instead, commendable outcomes are from continuously using evidence-based behavioral therapies to help improve patient engagement.


Let’s look at some evidence-based behavioral therapies, which include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a commonly used evidence-based treatment for addiction. Today, CBT can treat many substance use disorders and mental illnesses. NIDA- National Institute on Drug Abuse reports on initially implementing CBT to minimize alcohol consumption relapses.


The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences publishes that CBT positively changes your nervous system dysfunctions, improving the regulation of negative emotions in your brain. CBT helps retrain a person’s thinking, thus, impacting future actions. The way you feel and think is directly related to your activities. Modifying emotional responses and moods also affects your behaviors.


During CBT, a trained practitioner attempts to determine why and how you think the way you do. For instance, the doctor looks at what triggers your drug abuse and how your thoughts influence negative behaviors. The doctor accesses the root cause of substance abuse and teaches new tools and coping mechanisms for managing stress.


CBT sessions include both individual and group sessions. CBT sessions usually include homework between sessions to allow patients to practice the new life skills learned. Upon learning new ways, patients often recognize potential stressors and develop better stress management habits.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

High drug and alcohol abuse rates co-occur with other mental conditions such as bipolar disorder. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a form of CBT treating bipolar disorder. Look at DBT as an evidence-based treatment part of an integrated care model for dually diagnosed disorders.

Behavioral Tech says that DBT has four main key areas:


Mindfulness: Become more aware of yourself and your surrounding environment.

Distress tolerance: Be able to tolerate and accept difficult situations and emotions as they are.

Interpersonal effectiveness: Learn how to become self-reliant and assertive, including asking for your need and saying “no,” when needed.

Emotional regulation: Modify emotions that you need to change.


DBT is highly structured, intense, and a short-term intervention, including individual and group therapies. Therapists offer phone consultations, diffuse the potential crisis and offer guidance and support.


First, DBT tackles life-threatening behaviors, then focuses on behaviors interfering with treatment. Lastly, it focuses on recovery and moves on to quality-of-life behaviors. Finally, it teaches new healthy life skills meant for healing.

Motivational Interviewing

As such, Motivational Interviewing- MI addresses your lack of motivation and helps you restructure it. However, this is not the case with addiction. Individuals battling addiction constantly fight with change and cannot recognize the problem's existence and, therefore, the need to change.


The American Journal of Nursing states that MI is a unique form of evidence-based treatment working on a patient-centered basis. MI helps resolve your ambivalence and promotes positive behavior and life changes. This approach paves the way for individuals to realize and recognize thoughts and actions in detrimental ways, make decisions on their own and implement the necessary changes.


MI is non-confrontational and nonjudgmental. MI allows you to face things and situations as they are, helping you initiate the motivation to enhance your quality of life by harnessing positive thinking.

Contingency Management

CM- Contingency Management has a primary focus on improving motivation. With CM, practitioners award individuals incentives or tangible rewards after recording negative drug tests. The tips are prize vouchers you can use to trade for goods, services, or monetary prizes.

NIDA further published CM as a method that can help individuals become more motivated, remain in a treatment program, and achieve abstinence from alcohol and drugs. CM ensures regular and random alcohol/drug screenings for the person to receive instant rewards. CM is usually combined with other therapy and counseling types during a complete addiction treatment program.


Pharmacological Methods

Pharmacological tools like Buprenorphine, Methadone, and Naloxone help treat opioid addiction. Methadone and Buprenorphine are opioid agonist medications used to wean a person away from the short-acting and more potent opioids, such as oxycodone or heroin.


Naloxone is also an opioid antagonist, but it blocks the euphoric sensations of opioids, thus eliminating abuse. Naloxone, when combined with Buprenorphine, offers long-term addiction maintenance.


Other medications are employed as evidence-based treatments during alcohol addiction treatment. They include:

• Disulfiram (Antabuse)

• Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

• Acamprosate (Campral)

These drugs work by blocking the pleasant alcoholic effects hence discouraging drinking. Generally, pharmacological EBTs are used together with behavioral therapies in addiction treatment programs.

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The Bottom Line

The bottom line

Evidence-based treatment is a crucial aspect of modern healthcare. That is why Rolling Hills Recovery Center caters to the needs of you or your loved ones and has several evidence-based approaches.


Rolling Hills Recovery Center combines various approaches such as group therapies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy practices, individual counseling sessions, mindfulness, and meditation techniques. Also, we make sure that every treatment approach is highly individualized.

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