1. Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. Drugs of abuse alter the brain’s structure and function, resulting in changes that persist long after drug use has ceased. This may explain why substance users are at risk for relapse even after long periods of abstinence and despite the potentially devastating consequences.

2. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her substance use. To be effective, treatment must address the individual’s drug use and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems. It is also important that treatment be appropriate to the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture.

3. Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical. The appropriate duration for an individual depends on the type and degree of the patient’s problems and needs. Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment. Recovery from drug addiction is a long-term process and frequently requires multiple episodes of treatment. As with other chronic illnesses, relapses to drug use can occur and should signal a need for treatment to be reinstated or adjusted. Because individuals often leave treatment prematurely, programs should include strategies to engage and keep patients in treatment.

4. Behavioral therapies—including individual, family, or group counseling—are the most commonly used forms of substance use treatment. Behavioral therapies vary in their focus and may involve addressing a patient’s motivation to change, providing incentives for abstinence, building skills to resist drug use, replacing drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding activities, improving problem-solving skills, and facilitating better interpersonal relationships. Also, participation in group therapy and other peer support programs during and following treatment can help maintain abstinence.
– National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)