Evidence-Based Treatment

Drugs and Alcohol Treatments

Drug and alcohol treatments come in a wide range of styles and forms, ranging from psychoanalytical practices to faith-based therapy. Some of these options are supported by scientific stud such as evidence based treatment, while others are based on anecdotal experiences, or worse – no experience at all.

As the importance of effective drug treatment comes to light, many rehabilitation centers are embracing the principles of evidence-based treatments as opposed to sticking with old standards. Seen as the new frontier in addiction medicine, evidence-based treatment allows practitioners to hone in on methods that are more likely to see long-term success. But what does this mean, and does it truly offer any advantages to patients?

What Is Evidence-Based Treatment?

As the name implies, evidence-based treatment, or EBT, is an approach to therapy in which clinical evidence is used to determine the best course of care. However, this definition is quite vague, as scientific evidence comes in many different forms and functions. In general, in an addiction treatment setting, evidence can include a wide range of options, including trial data, test results, study conclusions, anecdotes and observations, and prior patient performance. While the weight assigned to one data set over another can be quite variable depending on the opinions and experiences of the healthcare professional in questions, objective evidence is often assigned a greater weight than more subjective forms of study.

The principles of evidence-based treatment rank forms of evidence into one of five levels:

  • Level I: Evidence derived from clinical studies or trials conducted by scientific professionals that include some form of randomization
  • Level II: Evidence collected from quasi-clinical testing settings that do not contain any level of randomization
  • Level III: Evidence that comes from a consensus within a profession or community, like the acceptance of gravity as a reality
  • Level IV: Evidence from reviewing and analyzing research performed by others or collected during a literature review
  • Level V: Anecdotal evidence related to personal experiences and observations

Despite the concept’s relative newness in the realm of addiction treatment, EBT has been studied by many top clinicians in the field, including the authors of the landmark 2005 study “Evidence-based treatment: Why, what, where, when, and how?” first published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. While application of approved methods is open to some interpretation – there is no one true way to collect evidence, or any one way to evaluate the appropriate use of available evidence – the utilization of scientific evidence opens many doors for practitioners.

Why Evidence Based Treatment Matters

Addiction medicine has long been a problematic area. Unlike many other chronic diseases that can be definitively diagnosed and addressed with medication, the strong psychological components behind substance abuse make rehabilitation less cut and dry. With so many different treatment methods that may or may not make a difference, doctors and counselors have long been forced to use conjecture to determine best practices.

Evidence-based treatment provides an alternative, allowing professionals to use sound evidence to determine a proper approach to patient care. Instead of sticking to known methodologies without deviation for all patients, EBT encourages treatment communities to adapt and evolve with the progressions in medical research.

In facilities that do not rely on evidence-based treatment, the therapies provided often have no base in medical science or reality. These rehab centers are permitted to offer care with no track record of success, no proven efficacy or effectiveness, and no guarantee of safety. Patients may invest money or time into treatments that are ineffectual at best or dangerous at worst, leading to a likelihood of continued addiction and any related health and lifestyle consequences.

Evidence-Backed Opportunities in Addiction Medicine

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, evidence-based practices are designed to address specific aspects of drug addiction and their influences on self, family, and society based on known information in the field of treatment. In addiction medicine, two diverse areas of treatment are approved as evidence-based options: pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies.

Pharmacotherapies refers to approved medications that have a proven track record of success in patients, including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone for opiates, bupropion and varenicline for tobacco addiction, and acamprosate, disulfiram, and topiramate for alcohol. Behavioral therapies, on the other hand, also show strong evidence in addiction patients, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management interventions/motivational incentives, motivational enhancement therapy, and 12-Step facilitation therapy.

When used in conjunction, approved evidence-based treatments have significant advantages, increasing the likelihood that therapeutic resources will offer long-term relief.

Concerns in Applying Evidence Based Treatment Principles

As anyone well-versed in scientific practices knows, studies aren’t perfect. Evidence is only as good as the practitioner applying knowledge, which opens the door for improper use and misinterpretation. While EBT offers many advantages, it is not without fault. Some of the concerns involving the application of EBT include:

  • Researcher limitations; addiction medicine is a challenging field absent of the requirements involved in analyzing and evaluating practices, which can further complicate treatment
  • Cost-effectiveness; implementing new practices, training and hiring staff, reteaching treatment approaches, and purchasing equipment can be prohibitively expensive
  • Quality assurance; methods are only effective when utilized properly – improper use can be damaging to patients and practitioners alike
  • The ever-evolving state of medicine; in time, practices are often replaced by evolving research, rendering current understandings largely useless

Despite the challenges in EBT, these practices are significantly better than the alternatives, helping patients to receive the most effective treatment possible.

If you or someone you love is seeking evidence based treatment for drug or alcohol addiction rehabs in Ohio, we are here to help. Call now at 513-909-2225 to learn more about what we have to offer.