How good is

❝ some treatments are better than others ❞


Before starting out on treatment most people like to know what the options are and what sort of results to expect.

Here are some frequently asked questions, FAQs, about addiction treatment in general...

#1 Is there a 'gold standard' outcome measure?
Benchmark :: clinically significant change
This benchmark looks at applying some sophisticated but readily understandable statistics to routine practice. The poster shows the outcomes for dependence, psychological and social wellbeing for different substances after treatment at a specialist addiction unit. Note that change occurs first for dependence, then psychological, then social wellbeing.
#2 Is there a best psychological treatment?
Benchmark :: cognitive behaviour therapy
This benchmark compares CBT with some other effective treatments. The poster shows that CBT is much more effective than no treatment but not much better than other active treatment. CBT, CM, RP treatments (see definitions below) all deliver similar and moderate effects when compared with each other but CBT plus CM gets the biggest effect (best outcome).

Common treatments...


  • CBT :: Cognitive behaviour therapy is probably the most researched and effective treatment. CBT works by i) identifying risks of drinking or taking drugs ii) working out ways of dealing with these situations - developing 'coping skills' iii) practising these 'coping skills'.

  • CM :: Contingency management, which works by rewarding abstinence or some other goal, typically with vouchers, medication take away privileges and prizes.

  • RP :: Relapse prevention, which is the same as CBT but with a relapse prevention focus.

  • MI :: Motivational interviewing is more of a technique than an intervention. It works by helping service users to become aware of what they most want to change in their behaviour.

  • NT :: Network therapy works by recruiting family and friends willing to give practical and emotional support to help people make changes to their substance use.

  • CN :: Counselling is something of an umbrella concept but typically means allowing a person to talk about their problems and feelings in a confidential and safe environment.

  • Social :: Includes help with housing, employment, leisure activities, relationships and so forth.


  • Substitution :: Some drugs of misuse can be 'substituted' with a safer prescribed medication. This is most commonly the case for heroin and other opiates.

  • Detoxification :: Medication can help relieve the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that occur when people addicted to alcohol or a drug either stop suddenly or rapidly reduce their intake.

  • Relapse Prevention :: For some addictions, notably alcohol, there are medications that help prevent slipping back into drinking or drug use.