Treatment implies something being done to help someone get better, to reach recovery. Ideally, it is a psychosocial intervention which may be packaged with other interventions such as medication and harm reduction. Help seekers bring with them their substance use history, their mental health and their social circumstances and so it is important to be realistic about what difference treatment can make. Some people have all they need to get better without help, others need a lot of help. Find out more about how to measure Treatment Outcomes.

A good treatment is fashioned collaboratively by the practitioner and their client. Preparation is important and all treatments are likely to consist of three stages:

  • Stage #1 detoxification or stabilisation of substance use – typically within a week

  • Stage #2 relapse prevention – starts in the previous stage and carries forward to the next stage

  • Stage #3 lifestyle change – typically a psychosocial or mental health intervention, which may be strengthened with medication

So, is harm reduction a treatment?

Harm reduction is about improving the quality of life without necessarily changing substance use. It is a way of engaging people with helping agencies and of helping those who are unable or choose not to work towards recovery. Harm reduction can take place at all stages of an addiction career. Examples are:

✔︎ needle and syringe exchange

✔︎ substitute prescribing

✔︎ nutritional supplements in alcoholic drinks

✔︎ coping strategies for partners of people with an addiction

✔︎ coping strategies for children of people with an addiction

✔︎ naloxone for opiate overdose

What makes a difference to outcomes?

The one thing that makes the most difference to treatment outcome is where the person is starting from. 50-60% of how well people do is down to social capital: education, family and friends, employment, health…

Choosing an effective intervention

It turns out that apparently dissimilar talking therapies often have crucial ingredients in common. This means that the particular treatment matters less, as long as it is recognised as effective, than feeling good about the way it is delivered. Treatment is invariably some form of psychosocial intervention, which may be enhanced with medication, and which should build resilience into the future. The prescribing interventions are usually specific to each substance and work only for as long as they are given.

Treatment, or therapy, is the attempted remediation of a health problem, usually following a diagnosis.
It is the medical or surgical management of a patient.

Difference between preventions, treatments, and cures.
– A prevention or preventive measure is a way to avoid an injury, sickness, or disease in the first place, and generally, it will not help someone who is already ill (though there are exceptions).
A treatment or cure is applied after a medical problem has already started.
– A treatment treats a problem, and may lead to its cure, but treatments more often ameliorate a problem only for as long as the treatment is continued.
– A cure is a subset of treatments that reverse illnesses completely or end medical problems permanently.

The words caretherapy, treatment, and intervention overlap in a semantic field, and thus they can be synonymous, depending on context.

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