Substance Abuse Therapy

Substance abuse therapy may include a number of drug treatment facets such as a 12 step program, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. This article addresses substance abuse therapy for teens and other therapeutic options like boarding schools, equine therapy, and more.

Substance abuse means the inappropriate use of any substance that has a limited proper use. It could refer to the use of prescription medications that were not prescribed to the person who took them or that are used by the person for whom they were prescribed but not for the purpose or in the way they were meant to be used, and not under a health care provider’s instructions. Substance abuse can also refer to the use of substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs, as well as tobacco and even food.

Some substances are not physically addictive, but may be psychologically addictive, so there are two different ways in which a user could be dependent on a substance. In addition, everybody needs food, so the unraveling of an abusive relationship with food is a special case. One can quit using alcohol, tobacco, heroin, or Vicodin® and never touch it again. One cannot stop eating.

Although substances can be abused without the user becoming dependent, substance abuse often involves or leads to dependency or addiction. Therapies for treatment of substance abuse have some essential differences depending on whether the user is or is not addicted/dependent. Users who have been addicted for some time often have a range of physical and psychological problems from the substance abuse itself and may have additional health issues often due to poor nutrition, if nothing else.

Two Important Types of Substance Abuse Therapy for Everyone

When treatment begins, therapy directed at substance abuse may actually have to wait until more critical medical issues such as addiction and any life-threatening side effects have been dealt with. That aside, there are a number of possible approaches to substance abuse therapy. One type of therapy that has been found very effective is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), also called Cognitive Behavior Therapy. CBT is a group of therapeutic techniques that help a person to reconsider the way they’re thinking about things and to examine how thoughts and feelings influence their choices for action. Patients also learn to separate the elements of life that are within their control from those that are outside of their control. CBT is based on a collaborative approach in which therapist and patient jointly set treatment goals and make decisions.

The Twelve Step approach, connected in many peoples’ minds with Alcoholics Anonymous - with which it started in the 1930s, has been adapted to other types of substance abuse, including, for example cocaine, which has its own organization, Cocaine Anonymous. It has also been adapted for substance abuse therapy for teens and dysfunctional behaviors besides ones relating to substances. Online meetings and materials are offered for those who do not have access to a local meeting of the type they need.

Substance Abuse Therapy Especially for Young People

Therapeutic boarding schools, which combine therapy with an academic program, are another option for young people. In a supervised, structured environment, young people may have a better chance of recovery under certain conditions that they do when in the midst of all their old haunts and old friends, if these locales and friends are a bad influence and make it difficult for them to overcome substance abuse. These boarding schools differ widely in philosophies and approaches, and may include approaches that are Christian, family-style, or involve 12-step or other nationally or internationally recognized therapeutic approaches.

Therapeutic ranch-style programs are another substance abuse therapy approach, particularly for young people. Though not all ranch-style programs treat substance abuse, those that do tend to combine some form of clinical therapy with equine therapy, vocational or occupational therapy. Some also include community service, a focus on athletic programs, and academic classes. Some feature a wilderness experience in which community needs, interdependence, and essentials of survival are the focus.

Particularly in teens, substance abuse has been found to be associated with depression. In some cases, depression may prompt substance abuse. But since the substance abuse may be the more obvious problem, it may be treated without a recognition of or treatment of the underlying depression. In this case, combined therapy that addresses both depression and substance abuse at the same time has been found to be the best approach.

Depression in Children and Adolescents: A Fact Sheet for Physicians
Written by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Friday, 13 February 2009 12:36 - Last Updated Thursday, 19 February 2009 15:14 access at:

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