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Medication Or Counseling: Which Works Best For Substance Addiction

If you’ve been struggling with substance abuse or being addicted to them, beating this habit is one of the biggest life wins you can ever have.

But fighting addiction is never an easy journey to undertake, and this is evident in several cases of people who tried and failed.

On the positive side, some have been successful in their journey. It all depends on your commitment to beat the addiction.

Addiction comes in different kinds, hence people deal with it differently.

You’ll also respond differently to various treatment options.

So, choosing the treatment option to use on substance addiction is crucial. While choosing the method that works best is complicated, it’s easier for you to base it on scientific evidence and your willingness to stick with it. 

Medication Or Counseling: Which Works Best For Substance Addiction

The two most common treatment options sought by people are medication and counseling. This article will discuss the two methods in detail to help you understand which one to choose. 

Counseling treatment 

Counselling has become a common treatment method to help people struggling with substance abuse.

There are different types of therapies to help with substance abuse or other mental conditions that play a part in substance abuse, such as family counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy.

This treatment option has also been popularized by the availability of treatment centers, such as Heal Behavioral Health and others, that help patients build a solid foundation for recovery.

How counseling works

There are different ways that counseling can help people struggling with substance addiction. Different techniques can be used individually or as a combination for faster recovery.

Here are some of the techniques: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy

This type of therapy helps modify a patient’s attitudes and behaviors related to drug use and substance addictions. It helps identify negative patterns that contribute to self-destruction and helps adopt healthier patterns that lead to a sober life. One significant advantage of this therapy is that it can be used for individual and group counseling.

  • Motivational interviewing

This is a counseling method where the counselor helps the clients maintain sobriety by motivation. The counselor will help identify the intrinsic motivations and focus the therapy on that. It helps the client find their own motivation of being sober instead of being forced to. The collaboration helps the client make decisions, so it helps improve retention rates of treatment programs.

  • Contingency management 

This is a therapy where individuals are awarded for making positive changes. In this type of therapy, positive reinforcement is used since it’s likely to increase the achievement of a specific behavior, such as sobriety. Some of the benefits of this type of therapy include a higher retention rate for treatment programs, improved likelihood of staying sober, and it can be used as a stand-alone treatment measure.

How medication works 

Medication is an important treatment method that works on substance addiction in the following ways: 

  • Suppress withdrawal symptoms 

During detoxification, medication can help suppress withdrawal symptoms. This is especially important considering that detoxification alone isn’t a stand-alone treatment but part of the process. So, there are chances that an individual can go back to substance abuse even after undergoing detoxification. For example, lofexidine, which is a non-opioid medicine, was approved by the FDA to reduce opioid symptoms.

  • Relapse prevention 

Relapse and cravings for drugs can be common during the treatment period. If not controlled, it can lead to patients using substances again. However, medication can be used to re-establish normal brain function and prevent opioid, tobacco, or alcohol relapse and addictions.

  • Prevent co-occurring conditions 

There are other conditions, such as depression and anxiety, that may be contributing to a person’s addiction to drugs. So, a variety of medications can help treat these conditions to help reduce the causes of addiction.

Medication Or Counseling: Which Works Best For Substance Addiction

How to choose between medication and counseling 

Consider several things when choosing between medication and counseling.

But whatever choice you make, make sure that it’s reviewed by a mental health professional. Here are some considerations to take note of:  

  • Choose a treatment that makes sense to you. Doing so will increase the chances of sticking with it and making the most of it. Both counseling and medication will require you to stick with it as results don’t come overnight. So, preference is very important. 
  • Choose medication that’s evidence-based and has proven to work. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy will work for alcohol abuse and reduce conditions that may contribute to the addiction, while medication can reduce cravings for those drugs.


When dealing with substance addiction, it’s important to work with a treatment option that’ll enable you to fight and win against addiction.

While both medication and therapy may help you fight the cravings, it’s important to choose the one you’re comfortable with and what you can stick with.

In some cases, you may need a combination of the two, so it’s wiser to talk with a professional first.

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