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Drug Substitution Addiction Treatment

Drug substitution addiction treatment, also known as drug replacement therapy, has been used for many years now. It would be effective if you have been struggling with substance abuse and need legal access to certain substances that provide the same effects as drugs that you used to obtain illegally.

Various research studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that this type of therapy can be effective.

When you go for drug substitution treatment, you will receive medications to help you overcome your substance use disorder. Examples of these medications include buprenorphine and methadone, which are typically used for opioid addiction. Through drug replacement therapy, you may also be able to remain in the treatment program for a longer period of time, while also reducing your risk of relapse.

Drug substitution or drug replacement therapy refers to the practice of using specific prescription drugs to help substance users to quit another drug or withdraw from the effects of the drug that they were abusing. A good example of this form of therapy is the use of methadone replacement therapy for heroin and opioid use disorders.

Even so, there has been controversy surrounding the use of this form of addiction treatment. This is because some people contend that it only replaces one drug addiction with another - especially among patients who have been struggling with a short term or mild addiction.

However, drug substitution is typically used in many addiction treatment settings. For instance, it might be recommended as a short term treatment during the medical detox period. When this happens, you will get the help you need to withdraw from the drugs that you were abusing without suffering adverse symptoms.

When this is the form of treatment that is recommended, you will use the substitute drug until you achieve full recovery from your physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and substance cravings. After that, the treatment professionals will gradually wean you off the substitute medication over a period of 7 to 10 days.

Today, drug substitution is one of the most widespread, well known, and popular forms of addiction treatment for people who are struggling with an opioid use disorder. It is also endorsed by various organizations, including UNODC - the United Nationals Office on Drugs and Crime - as well as the WHO - the World Health Organization.

The primary goal of this treatment is to ensure that you achieve physical stability so that you can continue with the additional addiction rehabilitation, counseling, and therapy practices that will follow the initial medically managed detox program you undertake.

Who Is This Drug Substitution Treatment Best For?

If you have enrolled in a medical detox program, you might be asked to go through drug substitution treatment. This means that you will receive replacement drugs that you have to take in the short term. These drugs can help you go through the withdrawal process that follows the sudden cessation of substance abuse and addiction.

However, you can still continue taking these replacement drugs over the long term - as long as you are under the supervision and direct instruction of a qualified and licensed medical practitioner.

If you are addicted to opioids like heroin and prescription medications, you may choose to go to a methadone or Suboxone drug substitution program. This way, you will receive monthly, weekly, or daily doses of the replacement medication.

To be able to use this form of treatment, you need to see specialized doctors. They will prescribe the replacement medications for you so that you can start overcoming your current addiction. Alternatively, you could enroll in a specialized drug substitution clinic program.

To be able to remain in the program, you need to continue taking regular and random drug tests. You may also be asked to attend therapy sessions as one of the conditions that you need to meet before you can continue getting a prescription for the replacement therapies that were recommended by your doctor.

There are many other reasons why you may prefer drug substitution therapy. These reasons include but are not always limited to:

a) Individualized Treatment

If you sign up for drug substitution therapy, it might be easier for you to access the assistance that you need to overcome your substance abuse and addiction. Through such a program, you may be able to benefit in the long term with respect to your health and wellness. This is because it will allow you to make slow but gradual changes in your drug taking, which could potentially provide you with many benefits in terms of abstinence and recovery.

b) Positive Change

You may also choose drug substitution as your preferred form of treatment because you would like to change your life. This is because you will get the opportunity to use safe alternatives like Suboxone and methadone in such a program instead of continuing to abuse illicit substances like heroin and fentanyl.

c) Removal of the Criminal Element

When you are provided with alternatives to toxic and illegal drugs like fentanyl and heroin, it means that you will no longer have any need to continue abusing these illicit substances to be able to feed your addiction. In the long run, drug substitution could ensure that you no longer have to engage in illegal activities, beg, or steal so that you can get the pleasurable effects that your body still need during the initial stages of your addiction recovery.

How Long Is Drug Substitution Treatment?

Drug substitution therapy is like many other addiction treatment programs in the sense that its duration will vary from one person to the next. However, research studies consistently show that remaining on the medication over the long term could ensure that you have better rates of success.

For this reason, it is recommended that you continue participating in the drug replacement therapy program for anywhere between 90 days and 2 years - or even longer - before you try to taper off the drug. This is because statistics have shown that people who are on this form of therapy for less than 6 months tend to suffer poor outcomes in recovery.

Average Cost of Drug Substitution Treatment

The goal of drug substitution or drug replacement therapy is to ensure that you are able to deal with your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In many cases, it is applied where your withdrawal symptoms would provide you with an agonizing experience - which could potentially increase your risk of relapse.

Through this form of therapy, you will be able to get the opportunity to start stabilizing the various chemicals in your brain that have been affected by your ongoing substance abuse and addiction.

You will also be provided with medications that eliminate your drug cravings while also suppressing your withdrawal symptoms. However, these medications would be beneficial in the sense that they will not produce the pleasurable effects that you have become accustomed to in the course of your addiction.

However, since drug substitution therapy will take different durations for different people, you can be sure that the costs involved will also vary widely. This is particularly true when you consider that you also need to use in combination with other additional recovery services. These include addiction support, counseling, and behavioral therapy - among many others.

All these facets of treatment effectively mean that you can expect to pay more for drug substitution therapy than for many other types of drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. However, the efficacy of this form of treatment may be worth the extra cost that you would typically have to bear.

How Do I Go About Finding Drug Substitution Treatment?

You need to understand that drug replacement therapy should not be taken as a quick fix or short term treatment for your substance abuse and addiction. It is for this reason that you may have to stay on the therapy for several years before you can fully overcome your substance use disorder.

To this end, you should take your time looking for the right drug substitution therapy program - especially because you will be spending several months to a few years in the program. To find the right program, you should check if:

  • It can help you overcome the specific type of addiction that you are struggling with
  • It has highly qualified, experienced, and licensed members of staff
  • It has positive reviews from clients who have been through the program
  • It is affordable
  • It is duly accredited
  • It is in the right location for you
  • It matches your needs and requirements for addiction treatment

You may also want to consult with professionally licensed medical practitioners and other addiction treatment experts so that they can advise you on the right place to go for your drug replacement therapy.


Although drug substitution therapy is a good way to get started on addiction recovery, you should not use it as your primary or only option for long term sobriety. Instead, you should combine it with other therapies to ensure that you are able to achieve a state of full recovery.


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