Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction

Principles of Effective Treatment
Based on scientific research since the mid-1970s, the following key principles should form the basis of any effective treatment program:

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
    No single treatment is right for everyone.
  • People need to have quick access to treatment.
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use.
  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
  • Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
  • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
  • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.


  • California spends $12 billion dollars per year on state corrections
  • Approximately half of prison and jail inmates meet criteria for substance abuse or dependence.
  • Most people with substance abuse issues who are released from prison/jail relapse in the community.
  • We have an opportunity to provide treatment while incarcerated
  • Unfortunately, substance abuse and addiction treatment is not widely available.
  • The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University estimates that only 11% of incarcerated individuals in need of substance abuse treatment receive it in jail or prison.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER? Once someone has a conviction on their record it becomes increasingly difficult to find gainful employment, no one wants to rent to you, without treatment it’s likely that they will relapse.