Current Treatments for Substance Use Disorders: Positives & Problems 


Noteworthy and Unique Positives of Current Methods

In the United States, the most common ways of attempting to help clients with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) are single issue focused programs [1]. The primary interventions utilized by providers within these programs are aimed at addressing one specific issue: ongoing abstinence from alcohol and drugs or the prevention of relapse.  The organizations that most often provide what are considered helpful services for people with SUDs are known as Residential Treatment Centers, Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP’s), Medication Assisted Treatment programs, and psychosocial interventions [2].  The most widely utilized and socially accepted psychosocial interventions are cost-free 12 Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and the like [3][4][5]. These programs have helped many and they embody many unique characteristics that have not only saved lives, but have also reframed our society’s beliefs about people who abuse substances. In 12 Step programs, some important variables that have helped people achieve and maintain their forms of abstinence are peer support, making use of role models, the establishment of alternative coping skills, and a variety of ongoing, easily accessible, community based support groups [6][7][8][9]










Problems with the Status Quo of Treatment

With this said, current research indicates that these methods and efforts to help people with SUDs have low completion rates, difficulties engaging and retaining long term participants, and a serious gap in services for those with concurrent mental health issues [10][11][12][13]. Another contentious and controversial characteristic of many of these organizations, such as private residential treatment centers and public programs like AA, is their insufficient application of scientific principles to assess, record, and assert their results.  Most of them lack assiduity and systems that align with what are considered standard empirical research methods and protocols [14]. The research that is produced in single focused program is considered inconclusive and is often disputed [15]. For many in the psychological, medical, and psychotherapeutic fields, especially those with an emphasis on utilizing current and effective research or what are called evidence-based practices (EVBs), this poses a significant host of problems and concerns [16][17].