Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Font Size

Counseling and Addiction

Kicking the prescription drug abuse habit -- or any other addiction -- is a major accomplishment. But for most people with opioid addiction, detox is only the beginning of a long-term battle against craving and relapse.

Counseling is an essential part of drug abuse treatment for many people. Cognitive behavioral therapy, family counseling, and other therapy approaches can help people recovering from opioid addiction stay clean. Psychotherapy can also treat the other mental health conditions that often contribute to prescription drug abuse.

Why Counseling Is Important in Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction is more than a physical dependence on drugs. Even after detox, when physical dependence is cured, addicts are at high risk for relapse. Psychological and social factors are often powerful stimuli for prescription drug abuse relapse:

  • Stress, especially sudden life stresses
  • Cues in the environment, like visiting a neighborhood
  • Social networks, like spending time with friends who continue to use drugs

These factors can create ongoing, nearly irresistible urges to use drugs. Prescription drug abuse counseling helps addicts escape craving and learn to cope with life, without using drugs.

Several counseling therapies are available for prescription drug abuse, and no method is known to be the best. Likewise, no one approach is appropriate for everyone with opiate addiction. The right drug abuse treatment plan is tailored to a person's addiction and his or her individual needs.

Individual vs. Group Therapy

While any counseling therapy for drug abuse treatment is better than none, group therapy is generally preferred over individual therapy. In group therapy, a person is more likely to be both challenged and supported by peers who are also going through drug rehab. Twelve-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous are the most well-known group therapy organizations.

Individual therapy can be helpful in the case of a dual diagnosis: coexisting depression, bipolar disorder, or other significant mental health condition that requires treatment in its own right, separate from the opioid addiction.

Outpatient vs. Residential Treatment

Residential therapy allows the addicted person to temporarily escape the environment that allowed him or her to use drugs. A person goes away to a specialized facility for a period of weeks to months. While highly effective in the short term, there is debate as to whether residential programs lead to longer abstinence from prescription drug abuse than outpatient programs. Residential drug abuse treatment programs are expensive, usually costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Outpatient treatment programs are the usual setting for ongoing prescription drug abuse treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy -- or CBT -- teaches a person how to recognize moods, thoughts, and situations that cause drug craving. A therapist helps the person avoid these triggers, and replace negative thoughts and feelings with ones that are healthier.

The skills learned in cognitive behavioral therapy can last a lifetime, making it a potentially powerful method of drug abuse treatment. However, not all therapists are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which can be complex.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

pills pouring from prescription bottle
Video
Hangover Myths Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Article
prescription medication
Article
 
Hands reaching for medicine
Article
overturned shot glass
Article
 
assortment of medication
Article
How to Avoid Social Drinking
Article