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The Multidisciplinary Approach To Addiction Treatment

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

Medically reviewed by

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

January 29, 2019

Addiction is a complex disease of habit, compulsion, and obsession. Each person’s experience with drug and alcohol addiction is not the same, and neither is the recovery. Applying a universal approach to addiction treatment denies a patient their individuality, and fails to address their personal needs. A multidisciplinary approach to addiction treatment offers patients every possible benefit at an inpatient drug rehab.

What Makes An Addiction?

Addiction (also called substance use disorder) is considered a brain disease of chronic relapse. It’s compulsive, and a person suffering from an addiction lacks the ability to control the amount of drug they’re using, no matter the harmful consequences.

Addiction involves circuits responsible for reward and motivation, behavior control, as well as learning and memory. For addiction treatment to be successful, each of these aspects needs to be covered.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “while the path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs, over time a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive.”

Remember that a person with an addiction is still the same person, they just might need a little more support. With the help of a multi-disciplined team of experts and the principles of effective treatment, people are able to overcome the compulsion to use drugs or alcohol and return to living a fulfilling life.

Even though addiction causes the same chemical imbalance in everyone’s brain, each person’s experience will be different. First of all, not everyone will have the same drug of choice. The list of addictive substances keeps growing, but to date, some of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States are:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription Opioids
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sleep Medications
  • Amphetamine
  • Barbiturates
  • MDMA—Ecstasy and Molly
  • Synthetic Cathinones (bath salts)
  • Over-the-Counter Medications
  • Inhalants

Addiction treatment can necessitate different strategies simply based on the drug abused. Having a multidisciplinary team can ensure the best possible treatment and care.

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How Does The Multidisciplinary Approach Work For Addiction Treatment?

A multidisciplinary approach to addiction treatment literally means to come at the problem from several, or multiple (meaning more than one) disciplines (or training). A team of multi-disciplined professionals might be made up of any number of the following people:

  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Physicians
  • Interventionists
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Detoxification Specialists
  • Life Coaches
  • Nutritionists
  • Physical Trainers
  • Yogis (Yoga Coaches)
  • Pharmacists
  • Support Groups/Sponsor

Each member of the multidisciplinary team is able to meet with a client on an individual basis to interview them, review their test results, and review a questionnaire that the client has completed.

After each professional has interviewed the client, they meet as a group to discuss their findings. Then they come up with a treatment plan that includes individualized goals and objectives. In this form of treatment, the client is able to get comprehensive care from every possible outlet.

The professionals are also considered supervisors, to an extent. From the NIDA, “the counseling model is established so that ongoing supervision is naturally obtained from the supervisor and colleagues during the multidisciplinary team meetings.

“Clients are discussed and reviewed on a weekly basis, and each counselor receives ongoing feedback about his or her work. Ideally, the counselor receives individual supervision at least monthly, where patterns of types of clients and any problems the counselor has can be discussed.”

How Is A Multidisciplinary Approach Important For Recovery?

Drug and alcohol addiction isn’t easy to beat. When there’s a team of professionals working together to help individuals recover from addiction, the chances of success are greater.

There’s a reason that people who put more into their recovery get more out of it, and stay clean for the long run. The same goes for having an integrated team on their side. A person’s recovery isn’t simply based on stopping drug use. Neither is rehab treatment simply based on sober living, and therapy.

Addiction is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit, so all of those aspects of health need to be treated for the addicted individual to get well. Not everyone’s treatment will look the same with a multidisciplinary approach, but the same goal will be kept in mind—recovery. Some people need medication, detoxification, psychotherapy, support groups, family therapy, or treatment of a co-occurring disorder.

A co-occurring disorder occurs when a substance use disorder occurs at the same time as a mental health disorder. For example, a co-occurring disorder (or dual diagnosis) could be an alcohol use disorder and antisocial personality disorder, a cocaine use disorder and anxiety disorder, or heroin addiction and depression disorder.

A lot of people living with co-occurring disorders only get treatment for one condition, but with the integrated treatment of a multidisciplinary approach, each disorder can be treated with equal value and importance. Now the building blocks of a life-long recovery are in place.

So what exactly is recovery? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines 10 guidelines for recovery, which include:

  • Hope
  • Person-Driven
  • Many Pathways
  • Holistic
  • Peer Support
  • Relational
  • Culture
  • Addresses Trauma Strengths
  • Responsibility
  • Respect

The beauty of recovery is that it’s based on more than abstinence alone; it’s fueled by health, home, purpose, and community. The more support in each of these components, the better.

Addiction treatment is intended to reduce substance abuse to a point of abstinence while maximizing life potential and preventing relapse. If these three goals are met, then a drug rehab has done its job, and a person can move on to long-term recovery.

More About The Multidisciplinary Approach To Addiction Treatment

In the multidisciplinary approach, treatment is both holistic and traditional. A rehab center that successfully incorporates a multidisciplinary approach will be effective in differing scenarios.

The core methods used in this approach generally include therapeutic assignments, individual therapy, arts and experiential, as well as psychoeducational groups. For a person to achieve long-term recovery, the rehab treatment should cover behavioral enhancement, healthy activities, education, and support.

The NIDA reports that the groups of people who will strongly benefit from this type of treatment are adolescents or adults who have: a transient intellectual impairment at most, a sixth-grade reading level, those suffering from alcoholism or polydrug use, those with a dual diagnosis, and people who are willing to change.

Those who do not fit the previous criteria, as well as people who are seeking methadone maintenance may not benefit as much from this approach. Those who also might not qualify are people with a poor reading level, and who are unwilling to change. Sometimes people will be turned away if they continue to resist after 10 days of therapy.

The multidisciplinary approach works best in a residential setting because the environment provides essential room for a client’s personal growth. The ideal treatment will be 22 to 28 days for residential inpatient rehab, and five to six weeks for an outpatient addiction treatment, followed by 10 or more weeks of aftercare meetings.

What Are The Different Multidisciplinary Treatment Techniques?

Long-term recovery is based on a person’s self-improvement and healthy behaviors. The multidisciplinary approach includes pharmacotherapies, psychosocial or psychological interventions, behavioral therapies, and self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Pharmacotherapies: discourage continuing alcohol or other drug use, and utilize medication to suppress withdrawal symptoms, block or diminish euphoric effects or cravings, replace an illicit drug with prescribed medication, or treat coexisting psychiatric problems.
Psychosocial or Psychological Interventions: modify destructive interpersonal feelings, attitudes, and behaviors through individual, group, marital, or family therapy.
Behavioral Therapies: extinguish undesirable behaviors and encourage desired ones.
Self-Help Groups: for mutual support and encouragement to become or remain abstinent before, during, and after formal treatment.

You may have a lot to think about concerning your substance abuse, but one thing remains true—nothing will change if you don’t take action. There are a lot of different addiction treatments, and with the help of a professional evaluation, there’s a right one for you.

With The Right Rehab There Is Hope To Overcome Addiction

If you believe that a multidisciplinary approach is a solution for your addiction, contact a treatment specialist today. We can help find the best possible treatment for you or your loved one. Contact us to learn more.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Approaches to Drug Abuse Counseling

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Understanding Drug Use and Addiction

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction

National Library of Medicine - Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Working Definition of Recovery

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