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What is Evidence Based Addiction Treatment?

people during 12 step meetingIn 2020, some 4.1 million people (or 1.5% of the population received substance abuse treatment across an estimated 16,000 treatment facilities in the U.S. Those facilities offer a wealth of options, ranging from 12-step and Christian-based treatment to rigorous evidence-based treatment and therapy built around research and long-term outcomes. That wide variety of choice means you’ll have options to choose from, to select a type of therapy that works for you or your loved one’s lifestyle, beliefs, and preferences. However, it also means you may want to learn what those treatments actually mean and how they work.

One of the most pressing questions is “what is evidence-based” therapy. This term is typically used to reference a standard of quality, which means that methods have been researched and proven to be effective in achieving recovery. This gives you more assurance that the program will actually help you to recover – although results almost always depend on your mindset and motivation.

What Does Evidence-Based Mean?

Evidence-based is a term that means research has been done and has produced evidence that the treatment has a positive effect. However, the term doesn’t say anything about the quality or scientific rigorousness of the study.

For example, LSD was used for years to treat mental health patients based on a study of just four people. On the other hand, CBT is now used to treat substance use disorders based on studies containing thousands of test subjects.

Evidence-based can also mean that a program is based on results from the program. This means that the term can be abused. For example, if 2% of the total patient population go on to graduate into recovery, evidence shows that the program works. For this reason, “evidence” based isn’t good enough and you’ll always want to ask about completion rates, recovery rates, etc. However, even those can be difficult to use as a proof of efficacy, because treatment centers conduct their own research based on factors like program completion rates, sobriety in the months immediately following treatment, and alumni interviews at follow-up points of 6 months or a year.

Evidence-Based vs Research-Based

You’ll also often see terms like “research based” or “science-based” instead of evidence based. Here, terminology can be confusing because it may be used interchangeably. This means that it’s highly likely there is no difference between the evidence-based and research-based claim.

However, a good “research based” program would use a treatment method after initial studies have shown potential efficacy, followed up on how that treatment efficacy lasts, and followed up to understand which parts of the treatment helped and why to work on building a better program.

Unfortunately, you won’t know which a rehab center means unless you start asking questions. Or, if you do your own investigation into the treatment methods they use to see how well studied they are.

Here, most therapeutic interventions are well-studied and well-tested. In addition, any medication assisted program is actually regulated by the government, meaning that it is very well tested and proven. On the other hand, there are many complementary therapies, spiritual programs, and holistic programs that are not based on rigorous research at all.

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Do You Need an Evidence-Based Program?

a male client during therapy from an evidenced based programEventually, most studies show that any treatment is better than no treatment at all. Attending a 12-step program like AA or NA still gives you social accountability and motivation – which can empower you to quit and stay clean and sober. However, looking for and finding a scientifically tested and proven treatment option may improve your chances of recovery. For example:

  • Has this treatment method been tested on many people and been proven effective at a high level?
  • What is the program graduation rate?
  • What is the recovery rate at 6 months? A year? 5 years?
  • How much follow-up treatment is needed to achieve those success rates?
  • Are there rigorous and objective controls in place to ensure the quality of data from a study?

Evidence based treatment should be tested for:

  • Safety
  • Efficacy
  • Long-term results

That’s important for ensuring that you can easily move into treatment without questioning the treatment itself.

Eventually, most people looking for treatment don’t have the scientific expertise to determine if a treatment method is science-based. You also shouldn’t have to. However, looking for evidence-based treatments can help you to ensure that your program is based on research and evidence of success.

Choosing a Treatment Center

There’s no one best option for treatment for everyone. In fact, the best treatment programs are those that are tailored to the individual, updated as the individual progresses through treatment, and adapted to meet specific needs. However, some of the following include evidence-based treatment methods you can look for:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment – Pharmacological interventions including acamprosate, buprenorphine, disulfiram, LAAM, methadone, and naltrexone.
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Interventions
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • Multi-dimensional family therapy
  • Couples behavioral therapy
  • Family strategic therapy
  • Contingency management therapy
  • Relapse prevention therapy
  • 12-step facilitation treatment
  • Problem-service matching for customized treatment

Other forms of behavioral therapy such as DBT and EMDR may have research-based and evidence-based claims as well. Many treatment centers also offer complementary therapy. However, this means that the treatment is added on to the primary treatment and will not, on its own, help you to get clean and sober. Instead, it may improve or enhance the primary therapy. They are almost always based on small scale studies rather than larger studies – which means they are not suitable primary treatments.

If you’re worried about the efficacy of treatment, there’s a lot to navigate. With over 16,000 treatment centers in the United States, there’s also a lot to choose from. Here, it’s important to take into account that CBT, family therapy, behavioral therapy, and medication-assisted treatments are the most proven treatment methods for recovering from a substance use disorder. However, counseling, 12-step, and other types of therapy can also be extremely effective – especially when used in conjunction with CBT. In addition, the best programs typically tailor their treatment to the individual, so you tackle your individual problems and overcome specific behaviors or issues. It can be extremely difficult to independently verify the efficacy of any therapy offered by a treatment center, however, asking about what methodology is used, how programs are built, and what you can expect in terms of treatment, counseling, and therapy, will put you on the right track to figuring out if the center uses evidence-based treatment or not.

If you or your loved-one struggles from alcoholism or other substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about our detox, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment programs. 10 Acre Ranch also has specialty tracks like our pet friendly drug rehab and couples substance abuse treatment programs. We’re here to help you recover.