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Resources - Drug Rehabilitation

Drug Addiction Treatment
A Comprehensive Approach
Types of Treatment Programs
Women Often Experience Drug Abuse and Addiction Differently Than Men Do

Drug rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment programs provide comprehensive services for recovery from drug addiction, methamphetamine abuse and alcoholism. Facilities provide Methadone and Suboxone opiate detox, drug-free sober living homes and recovery homes, co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis treatment, plus court and probation approved day and outpatient programs.

The path to drug addiction begins with that first act of taking drugs. Over time, a person may need more of the drug to get the same effect. Drug seeking becomes compulsive, in large part as a result of the effects of prolonged drug use on brain functioning and, thus, on behavior. Drug addiction makes drug use a compelling need, not a casual choice.

Drug Addiction Treatment

Drug addiction can be described by many words, including complex, confusing, devastating and potentially deadly.

But one of the most important words that a person can use to describe drug addiction is one that is often overlooked: treatable.

Though countless numbers of addicted individuals are struggling with a disease that they mistakenly believe that they are not capable of overcoming, this is simply not the case. As thousands of formerly addicted people have learned, drug addiction is treatable.

As is the case with disorders such as depression, diabetes, and heart disease (to name just a few), addiction is a disorder that can be effectively treated with a combination of medical intervention and behavior modification. Many recovering addicts are now living healthy lives free from the chains of addiction - some are taking approved medications under professional supervision, while others are pursuing recovery through counseling, participation in a 12-Step support group, or a combination of these and other approaches.

For anyone who is currently struggling with a drug addiction, the specifics of treatment may not be as important as the fact that real and lasting treatment does, indeed, exist. Once an addicted individual has embraced that concept - that drug addiction is treatable and that it is possible to regain control over one's compulsions, beliefs, and behaviors - then the next step is finding the treatment plan that best addresses that person's specific needs.

A Comprehensive Approach

Most effective treatment programs for drug addiction feature both medical supervision and therapeutic intervention. The medical professionals can ensure that detox is done in the safest manner possible, and - if necessary - to provide medications that can help with rehab and recovery, while the therapists can help the recovering individual make the necessary changes in attitude and behavior that will increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety.

Whether conducted on an outpatient bases or in a residential treatment facility, drug abuse treatment addresses both physical and psychological issues, and should provide a comprehensive level of services to identify and treat any co-occurring disorders or other unhealthy aspects of the client's life that may have led to or been exacerbated by the addiction.

On the medical side, a variety of drugs have been approved to help wean addicted individuals from the substance upon which they have become dependent, and to help curb cravings that often occur during recovery.

Within the therapeutic component of a drug treatment program, clients usually have the opportunity to participate in individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy, and recovery support groups. All of these endeavors are designed to help the recovering individual address the issues that led to the addiction, make the necessary changes that will increase the odds of a successful recovery, and develop the skills and strategies that can help prevent relapse or a return to the previous drug-seeking behaviors.

Types of Treatment Programs

Regardless of the methodologies that are implemented, the goal of any treatment program should be enabling the client to achieve long-term sobriety and pursue a healthier, drug-free life. Accomplishing this objective is often a matter of matching an addicted individual with the type of treatment that best suits his specific needs.

Drug addiction treatment can be categorized in a variety of manners, including the following non-comprehensive list:

  • Short-term treatment lasts for six months or less (though it is often followed with participation in an ongoing aftercare support program). Short-term programs are often based on the "Minnesota Model," which includes between three and six weeks of intensive treatment followed by extended outpatient therapy or participation in a 12-Step group, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous

  • Long-term treatment may include ongoing programs such as methadone maintenance (which requires recovering individuals to receive regular doses of a drug to curb their cravings for opiates). Another type of long-term treatment is the therapeutic community, a highly structured long-term drug addiction treatment program in which patients remain in residential treatment for between six and 12 months. Therapeutic communities are helpful for individuals who are struggling to overcome long histories of drug abuse, whose ability to function within society has been severely impaired, or who have been involved in serious criminal activities.

  • Outpatient treatment is conducted during regular visits to a therapist or other treatment professional, but does not remove the client from her normal environment (meaning that she returns home at the end of every session, and may even be working or going to school while receiving treatment).

  • Residential treatment is an intensive, comprehensive approach that features round-the-clock care and supervision, and the removal of the client from his normal environment. Residential treatment usually involves a highly structured program that attempts to address all aspects of a person's life, and how these components led to or were impacted by the addiction.

  • Medically-supported treatment involves methadone or other physician-approved drugs in order to ease withdrawal symptoms or eradicate cravings.

  • Drug-free treatment relies primarily on therapy, and does not involve the use of addiction-related medications.

The types of treatment described above have varying rates of success depending upon the nature and severity of a person's addiction, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders. Once a person has decided to enter treatment, the most important decision is selecting a program that best fits their specific needs.

Women Often Experience Drug Abuse and Addiction Differently Than Men Do

Drug addiction is an intensely personal, highly complex experience that follows certain patterns, but evades easy analysis or "one-size fits all" types of treatment. Within the disorder's complexities, experts have been able to identify certain characteristics that have been essential to treatment professionals and others who work with addicted individuals - yet for a long period of time, little attention was paid to the differing ways that drug abuse and addiction affect men and women.

In recent years, this scientific oversight has begun to be corrected, with several studies documenting significant differences in the ways that addictions progress, affect, and can be treated in men and women. For example, researchers have discovered that with many illicit substances, women progress from initial use to addiction much more rapidly than men do.

The following information addresses various areas in which researchers have made inroads in their attempts to understand how drug addiction affects women differently than it does men.

The Biology of Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported significant differences in the manner in which drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, and cocaine affect women and men:

A study examining gender and menstrual cycle difference in response to acute intranasal cocaine reported that mean peak cocaine plasma levels in females were higher in the follicular phase than in the luteal, whereas, overall, male subjects achieved the highest mean peak plasma cocaine levels, detected cocaine effects significantly faster than females and experienced a greater number of episodes of intense good effects. Further, research on the thermogenic effects of nicotine and caffeine in male and female smokers has indicated a significant increase in energy expenditure during activity compared with rest, but only in males.

From First Use to Addiction

Experts have long been aware that addiction often follows a relatively standard path of progression, but recent research has revealed degrees of difference in how the disorder progresses in men and women.

For example, NIDA has noted that cigarettes play a more significant role in the development of addiction in women, while alcohol has greater influence in the development of addiction in men. In cases of cocaine use, women are more likely to begin using the drug in the course of an intimate relationship, while men often start using cocaine with friends.

The path from first use to abuse and addiction often follows a more complex and circuitous path in women than it does men. Within women, these problems are more likely to be accompanied by - or exacerbated by - co-occurring psychiatric disorders, depression, anxiety, and relationship failures than is often the case with men.

Cocaine and Heroin

In studies of animals that were provided with the opportunity to self-administer cocaine and heroin, researchers noted that female subjects took the drugs more quickly and in larger amounts than did their male counterparts.

Studies on humans have revealed that among women and men who ingested similar amounts of cocaine, the level of cocaine in the blood system was higher in women than it was in men, yet women experienced the same level of cardiovascular response to the drug.

Abuse, Trauma, and Addiction

Many studies of drug abuse and addiction among women have noted that the majority of female drug abusers have experienced physical or sexual abuse. The NIDA website reports that as many as seven in 10 women who have entered drug abuse treatment have histories of physical or sexual abuse, while more than 30 percent of drug users who became pregnant before turning 18 had been raped at least once in their lives.

Physical and sexual abuse has been associated with lowered self-esteem, higher levels of delinquency, and increased drug use and abuse among young women.

In addition to preceding drug use and abuse, physical violence and sexual assault are also common aftereffects of these behaviors. Women who use drugs are victimized at a considerably higher rate than are men who use drugs or women who abstain from drug and alcohol use.

Drug Abuse and Pregnancy

It's no secret that using drugs during pregnancy can be bad for both mother and child, and research has documented the degree of damage that drug use can inflict on a pregnant woman and her baby. Drug use during pregnancy has been associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing tubal pregnancy, stillbirth, miscarriage, anemia, hypertension, and a rage of other negative health effects. Children who are born to mothers who used drugs during pregnancy are more likely to have lower birth weight and smaller head sizes than are babies who were born to women who abstained from drug use when they were pregnant.

Co-occurring Conditions

Women are more likely than men to experience co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders are significantly more common among female drug users than among male drug users. NIDA has reported that more than half of patients with bulimia have also experienced problems related to the abuse of drug and alcohol, while female crime victims who suffer from PTSD are 17 times more likely to abuse drugs than are non victims.


NIDA discovered that women who receive treatment for drug and alcohol abuse are less likely to experience relapse than are men who are treated for similar problems. A NIDA Notes report on the organization's website reports the following:

  • The researchers followed 182 women and 148 men in 26 public outpatient drug abuse treatment programs in Los Angeles County. The programs provided group, individual, and family counseling; educational activities; and referrals to other health and social services. The treatment lasted 6 months.

  • About half the patients regularly used just one drug - primarily crack cocaine, marijuana, or powder cocaine, and about half used more than one drug. Regular use was defined as three or more times per week. The patients were interviewed while in treatment and approximately 6 months after the first interview.

  • The scientists found that the women in their sample were less likely than the men to relapse: only 22 percent of the women compared to 32 percent of the men relapsed to drug use in the 6 months between interviews.

Unfortunately, women who are abusing or addicted to alcohol or other drugs face a number of barriers to receiving effective treatment. These obstacles include financial insecurity, a lack of programs that are designed to treat female clients, and difficulties arranging for childcare while they are in treatment.