As awareness of the opioid epidemic grows, more people are demanding action, and governments are responding. In the past 10 years or so, more addiction treatment centers have been opening, more insurers have been covering addiction treatment, and recently, public insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare have expanded their addiction treatment coverage. This is excellent news for anyone who struggles with addiction or has a loved one who struggles with addiction. However, not all treatment is equally effective. Many people looking for addiction treatment are subjected to methods with no scientific backing and quickly end up back where they started, or worse. This is why evidence-based treatment is so important.
Evidence-based treatment is simply treatment that uses methods that have been studied and shown to be effective. What “effective” means depends heavily on context. Typically, you want a treatment method to be better than doing nothing, and ideally, better than other available methods. So for example, antidepressants improve symptoms in between 40 and 60 percent of people with depression. That doesn’t sound overwhelmingly effective, but a placebo only improves symptoms in between 20 and 40 percent of people with depression. So an evidence -based approach would suggest that anyone with moderate to severe depression should at least try antidepressants.
A surprising number of professionals don’t adhere to evidence-based practices. Addiction treatment is often based simply on the 12 steps, or even on religious principles. 12-step programs do have some useful attributes, but relying only on 12-step programs for addiction treatment only works well for about a third of people, a little bit for another third, and not at all for the rest. 12-step programs are probably best used as a way of building a sober network during and after treatment rather than as a primary means of treatment. Despite this, many treatment centers are basically residential 12-step programs. While this is better than nothing, 12-step programs do have some potentially harmful biases, such as their opposition to medication as part of treatment.
A truly evidence-based treatment program will change as new evidence comes along. This evidence can make a huge difference in treatment outcomes. Some of the more important evidence-based practices include the use of methadone and buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, for depression and anxiety disorders, individualized treatment plans that recognize differences in patients, and long-term follow-up care. Sometimes people object to these practices on moral grounds, sometimes criticizing medication-assisted treatment, for example, as replacing one addiction with another. However, this is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the real world, we have to take improvements where we can find them, and looking at the available evidence is the best way to find them.
Out of our beautiful custom home in Holladay, Utah, Pinnacle Recovery offers a premiere, customized clinical continuum of care for addiction, alcoholism, and co-occurring disorders. With the healing and inspiring scenery of the breathtaking Utah mountains all around you, you’ll be motivated to work toward deep, lasting change and recovery. Call us today for information on our programs: 866-301-0573