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7 New Advancements In Substance Abuse Treatment



  • Substance abuse is when you use the item in a harmful way, while addiction is when you reach a point where you compulsively seek the drug or substance.
  •   The medication works by blocking the euphoric effects of alcohol and drugs and normalizing the brain chemistry altered by opioids and alcohol.
  • '  But it also increases the level of paranoia, hallucinations, irritability, and mood disturbances, causing a user to be extremely violent or erratic.

Substance abuse refers to the overuse of a substance for more than its intended purposes. The terms abuse and addiction are often used interchangeably. Substance abuse is when you use the item in a harmful way, while addiction is when you reach a point where you compulsively seek the drug or substance.

Recent statistics show that in America, 14.8 million people use alcohol, 58.8 million use tobacco, 31.9 million use illegal drugs, and 2 million people abuse drugs like opioids. Clearly, substance abuse is one of America’s most challenging public health problems. It affects society at all levels. It also exacerbates the country’s top three medical problems: cancer, heart disease, and HIV or AIDS. The country’s leading social issues are linked to substance abuse as well. These include drunk driving, violence, child abuse, and poverty.

If left untreated, a person can spiral into addiction, a complex condition to treat. Here are the different types of substance abuse:

  • Nicotine – The temporary pleasing effects of nicotine in your brain make you want to reach for another stick and eventually make it difficult to quit.
  • Alcohol – Drinking a glass or two of wine is fine, and drinking liquor on occasions is acceptable. But when you can’t go through the day without getting your fill is something else. When you drink alcohol too often and you can’t control your consumption, the effects of alcohol can be disruptive and, at times, life-threatening. In America alone, there are 14.5  million people ages 12 and older who struggle with alcohol abuse. Aside from causing violent behavior, a person who takes too much alcohol may suffer from severe health conditions such as liver cirrhosis, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
  • Opioids – Opioids are medically used to manage pain after surgery or treat moderate to severe pain caused by cancer treatment and injuries. Opioids block pain messages to the brain, giving the patient relief from pain to get through their day. But using them for a long time may result in addiction. About 67.9% of all drug overdose deaths are due to synthetic opioids, mainly Fentanyl. Addiction happens in opioids because the substance makes your brain believe that you need it for survival.
  • Illegal Substances – Cocaine and Methamphetamine are both psychostimulants. They send high dopamine levels, or the ‘feel good’ chemical our body produces, to the brain. This will increase the person’s alertness, energy, and happiness. This is what people refer to as ‘high.’  But it also increases the level of paranoia, hallucinations, irritability, and mood disturbances, causing a user to be extremely violent or erratic.

Illegal drugs can be snorted, taken orally, smoked, or injected intravenously for faster effect. Deaths due to the overdose of these substances continue to climb, despite efforts to curb drug supply in many aspects.

It’s important to remember that abuse and addiction can be managed successfully. However, do note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one patient may not work for another, and many factors can also cause a relapse. Patients who are at risk of relapse are usually recommended to enter an inpatient rehabilitation facility where they must stay for long periods of time. To know more, you can visit

Over the years, there have been new methods and advancements to treat substance abuse, and these have greatly helped individuals and families.  Many people who underwent treatment could go back and resume their lives. Here are some of the new advancements in substance abuse treatment:

1. Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT)

MAT is now considered the ‘gold standard’ in substance abuse treatment, particularly alcohol and opioids, as it has a higher success rate. The therapy employs a whole-patient approach that combines medication approved by the FDA with behavioral therapy to meet each patient’s needs.  The medication works by blocking the euphoric effects of alcohol and drugs and normalizing the brain chemistry altered by opioids and alcohol.

MAT helps patients stay in the program by positively influencing their participation in rehabilitation and reducing the terrible effects of withdrawal. The medication used in the treatment, primarily methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine, manages cravings, so patients focus on their development and sobriety. The efficacy of MAT can be attributed to it being an EBT or Evidence-Based Treatment, meaning it’s backed by scientific evidence and has resulted in many successes.

2.  Nicotine Replacement Products

The terrible effects of nicotine cannot be underestimated. Prolonged tobacco use can lead to respiratory diseases, insulin resistance, heart disease, and stroke. Not to mention, people around you, like your family who are exposed to second-hand smoke, may suffer the same.

Recently, products devised to replace nicotine have flooded the market: nicotine gums, patches, nasal sprays, inhalers, and lozenges.  These products lessen your cravings in under 15 minutes and may protect you against withdrawal symptoms.

No matter how long you’ve been smoking, once you decide to quit, your circulation improves, and within weeks of quitting, your lung function improves. And the longer you are weaned from smoking, your risk for heart disease decreases by 50%. These products will help address your cravings, but it will be up to your conviction to eliminate the habit that will make your quitting successful.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that uses very fine sterilized needles at pressure points to stimulate parts of the nervous system. Even though this method has been available for thousands of years, it has been recently used in addiction treatments as well.

Acupuncture promotes overall balance in the body, loosens blockages, and improves blood flow. Acupuncture helps prevent relapse and supplements other types of approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy.

In traditional oriental medicine governing acupuncture, it is believed that the body has 365 designated acupuncture points along the meridian. Unblocking these clogged points will achieve a balance in the body and harmonize the yin and yang, which are the two complementary principles of Chinese philosophy.

4. Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is an evidence-based treatment aimed at helping in the recovery of patients of cocaine and methamphetamine abuse. It’s a highly structured 16-week behavioral treatment done outside a rehabilitation facility. It involves several hours of session per day, several days per week, and includes varying therapeutic styles and psychological orientations, entirely dependent on the patient’s needs.

5. Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS

In severe substance abuse and when all modes of treatment prove to be unsuccessful, a new method is making waves. A new type of neurosurgical treatment that regulates dopamine imbalance by inserting brain-stimulating electrodes in the brain’s rewards center can be done to drown out constant cravings for the drug.

Doing this will also activate the frontal lobes and improve the patient’s judgment and decision-making process. DBS or Deep Brain Stimulation made waves over a decade ago as it can successfully treat patients with Parkinson’s disease. DBS results are immediate, and patients who participated in the experiment have experienced long-lasting sobriety.

6. Contingency Management Programs

One effective method being applied in rehabilitation or substance abuse treatment is contingency management. Here, patients are rewarded to reinforce positive behaviors, so they remain sober and eventually quit using the substance they’re addicted to.

The principle revolves around motivational incentives to ensure the patient stays in the program. There are two ways to give tangible rewards to patients. One is through voucher-based reinforcement, where a patient is given a voucher for every drug-free urine sample provided.

The vouchers can be exchanged for food items, movie passes, or even services like massages and spas. The more drug-free urine samples a patient can provide, the higher the rewards. On the other hand, a positive urine sample resets the value of the reward to the lowest tier.

Another program utilizes a prize incentive scheme, wherein instead of goods, the rewards will be cash. Incentive-based interventions are said to be highly effective in promoting sobriety, and more patients are seen finishing programs they started for substance abuse treatments.

7. Family Behavior Therapy or FBT

FBT involves the family of adolescent and adult patients with substance abuse. It addresses not only substance abuse but behavioral issues that may be associated with problems at home. The treatment is also in line with contingency management to ensure the patient stays on track.

Family members are involved in the program, and they are also taught how to cope with the challenges and how to improve the home environment to help the patient succeed in their treatment.


Modern medicine has evolved in a lot of ways to help patients with all kinds of diseases and be well, and that includes substance abuse and addiction. Substance abuse is a disease and just like any other illness, you can recover from it. You just need to choose the right kind of treatment that fits you.

And just like other illnesses, you need to take care of it and nip it in the bud before it gets worse and terminal. But aside from medical intervention, patients suffering from substance abuse also need social support and understanding. They need to feel understood and welcomed in the home and community to have a sense of belongingness. This will help them stay positive in their treatment and continue their road to recovery.


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