Addiction has certain features for nearly everyone–escalating use, increasing secrecy, using to get back to normal, fear of withdrawal, prioritising use over work, school, family, and friends. Some of these features are more obvious than others in certain people, but there’s a strong family resemblance.
It’s tempting, then, to think there is a right way to treat addiction, but that hasn’t turned out to be true. Certainly, some treatments are worse than others. Locking someone up, for example, may prevent him hurting himself or others, but that’s about all it does. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in the past 100 years. Addiction is now commonly thought of as a disease rather than a moral failing. While the notion of addiction as disease is up for debate in certain circles, there is at least a broad consensus that addiction requires treatment instead of punishment.
Exactly what that treatment should be is a matter of endless debate. Some people believe 12-step programmes are the only way to go. Others see promise in medications that reduce cravings and moderate obsessive thinking. While abstinence is still considered necessary by most people, there are many roads to that goal. There are 12-step programmes, inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes, opioid-blocking medications, therapy, and various mixtures of these different approaches.
While many addictions look alike, they are driven by different factors. Some addictions are driven by depression and anxiety, while others are driven by ADHD or schizophrenia. It’s strange to say that addiction should be treated the same way whether it’s caused by depression or ADHD. Some elements of treatment will be effective for both. Everyone benefits from social support, for example, or from learning to ride out cravings. However, these will benefit different people in different measure.
Even in one person, addiction has many components. There might be trauma involved in the depression, compounded by the shame of addiction. One approach might not address all the major factors. If you learn to manage addictive behaviour without addressing social anxiety, for example, you will have an uphill battle. The more resources and approaches each person has at her disposal, the more comprehensively she can recover.
This is all to say the more paths to treatment, the better. More options mean more success for more people. There is no one approach that will work for everyone. Even 12-step programmes include multiple approaches, such as the steps, social support, affirmations, mentorship, and service. Whatever else you can add will only increase your chances of success.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig treats alcoholism and drug addiction as an illness and promote abstinence as essential for long-lasting recovery. We help patients recover through an intensive, personalised programme that combines medical treatment, 12 Step therapy, CBT and other psychiatric therapies and complementary therapies. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020