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Winter 2007

Best Addiction Programs Based on Sound Evidence

Widespread coverage of celebrity trips to rehab has focused increased attention on drug and alcohol addiction treatment. UCLA addiction medicine experts stress that individuals looking into a program for themselves or a loved one should make sure that is by scientific research.

“Anyone can set up a residential treatment center, regardless of whether they have any special training or expertise,” notes Roger A. Donovick, M.D., UCLA psychiatrist and addiction specialist. “Many of these programs employ treatments that the people running the center may feel good about, but that are not based on any scientific evidence. People should be looking for a treatment approach that has evidence to support it.”

Addiction treatment is broken into three stages: the initial detoxification, rehabilitation and continuing care. Detoxification, for those who require it, takes a medical approach to stabilizing the addicted individual in preparation for treatment. Under the supervision of health professionals, usually in a hospital over a period of several days, patients are given medications to ease the physical discomfort of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.

The rehabilitation phase—often consisting of residential care followed by intensive or outpatient care for 90 days or longer—teaches recovering individuals and their family members skills and information to help them address the challenges of establishing a sound recovery program.

 “Some people need the structure of a residential facility for the initial part of treatment, while others can do well in an outpatient setting,” says Dr. Donovick. UCLA offers inpatient detoxification and an outpatient clinic, as well as a close working affiliation with Matrix Institute of Addiction, an internationally renowned intensive outpatient program. Richard Rawson, Ph.D., associate director of UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, notes, “A program should focus on helping the addicted person learn how drugs and alcohol have changed his or her brain and how specific lifestyle changes can promote long-term recovery. Effective treatment includes engaging an addict’s family and support system as well as treating the patient with medication and cognitive therapy.”

Addiction is a disease marked by relapse, which is why the third stage of treatment—continuing care services that monitor the emotional health of recovering addicts, reinforce their lifestyle change and support their recovery program—is so important.

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