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Why Long-Term Recovery Hinges on an Integrated Treatment Approach


Addiction is one of the most difficult disorders to treat because it encompasses multiple areas within the individual, manifesting as physical, mental, and behavioral characteristics. Focusing on one aspect of this disorder could mean the patient will end up back in addiction treatment. Addiction is a cyclic process that is extremely hard to defeat unless an integrated treatment approach is adopted.

This article explores the importance of taking an integrated approach to addiction treatment. How can clinicians do so? Why is it necessary for addiction treatment? Why does the existence of co-occurring disorders make this approach essential? How does such an approach improve client outcomes?

Addiction Treatment of The Whole Person

“People with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder.” —SAMHSA

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that co-occurring disorders, where a mental health issue is combined with substance abuse, are very typical in addiction treatment settings. SAMHSA’s study in 2014 highlighted the prominence of these disorders, citing the fact that 7.9 million adults in the United States alone had dual diagnoses that year.

The biological, psychological, and social components must all be addressed in addiction treatment, SAMHSA suggests, or the afflicted person runs the risk of never recovering from the illness. These disorders create a huge burden on society, leading to early death, homelessness, incarceration, and medical illness.

Addiction treatment must integrate modalities that address co-morbid illnesses, from anxiety or PTSD to chronic pain. Creating a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan should include all of the tools at your disposal to combat the multi-faceted disease structures that lead to addiction. People with mental illness have long sought to cope with their disorders through self-medication. Individuals with physical illness may become addicted to prescription opioids, then develop depression with the realization of what their lives have become.

Addiction treatment

Addiction treatment must focus on the whole person, not one aspect of the disease.

The National Institute of Health points out that the patient with co-morbidity often is the most difficult to treat:

“Patients who have both a drug use disorder and another mental illness often exhibit symptoms that are more persistent, severe, and resistant to treatment compared with patients who have either disorder alone.”

Addiction treatment specialists now have a plethora of tools at their fingertips for controlling the most complex patient disorders, including:

  • Medications for controlling the physical symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol, drug, or other addictions.
  • Medications for controlling mental disorders.
  • Behavioral treatments that can be combined with medications to retrain patient thinking and activities that led to drug-seeking behaviors.
  • Therapies that address the root of family issues, cognitive-behavioral therapies, community treatment programs, group therapies, and many more techniques designed to help a patient understand and then cope with environmental and emotional factors affecting their ability to get well.

While more research needs to be done on the best methods for integrating therapeutic approaches in addiction treatment, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Treating the whole patient requires a multi-faceted approach in most cases in order to achieve a successful outcome.

Want to learn more about our integrative approach to patient care? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.

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