Evidence-based treatment forms the foundation of effective addiction or mental health treatment plans. Using evidence-based modalities is essential to ensuring the safety and efficacy of a treatment plan. It also helps medical professionals clinicians approach treatment with confidence by employing tested and proven methods.
But what is an evidence-based treatment for substance use problems, and are they different from options used in mental health treatment? Learn more about the different treatment approaches used in addressing a range of mental and behavioral issues.
Evidence-based treatment is an approach (or set of approaches) that has been tested and proven to be safe and effective in scientific studies. Like medications that are used to treat medical conditions, treatment approaches that are used in mental health and addiction therapy undergo a process of scientific testing. Treatment modalities that are shown to be safe and effective are called evidence-based therapies. Treatment that isn’t tested or doesn’t show significant signs of being safe or effective is often thrown out, but some fall into the category of alternative treatment.
Alternative treatment can include things like yoga or art therapy, which are generally harmless but don’t function as a reliable foundation of treatment. Still, they may be used in some settings to increase engagement in treatment. However, effective treatment should be grounded in evidence-based treatment approaches, while alternative therapies are reserved for supplementary options.
Though mental health and substance use disorders are very different issues that require unique treatment options, they often co-occur. A few evidence-based treatment options are used in treating mental health issues and addiction. One of the universal evidence-based therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT, which is used to treat addiction, depression, anxiety, and other issues, is a form of one-on-one talk therapy that occurs during sessions with a therapist. The goal of CBT is to develop positive coping responses to challenges and high-risk situations that help prevent a relapse into negative thoughts or behavior. CBT has shown to be effective in treating substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and other mental health issues.
A specific kind of CBT called dialectical behavioral therapy is used to treat addiction, borderline personality disorder, and other issues that can cause self-destructive behavior.
Many evidence-based pharmacological therapies are used in addiction and mental health treatment. But unlike psychotherapies, medication is often very specific in treating one issue. For instance, opioid addiction may be treated with buprenorphine, but that drug isn’t useful in treating alcohol addiction or other mental health issues.
People who are in addiction treatment with anxiety, depression, and/or other issues may take antidepressants or other medicines to help them manage mental health symptoms.
Though these medications are intended to treat specific problems, mental health-related addiction issues are often connected. Ignoring one while treating the other is ineffective and likely will lead to relapse. Mental health and substance use treatment needs to be a multidisciplinary approach.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 03). Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment
Mayo Clinic. (2019, March 16). Cognitive behavioral therapy. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 01). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine). from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-therapies/cognitive-behavioral-therapy
National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, July). Anxiety Disorders. from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml