What is Evidence-Based Treatment?

What is Evidence-Based Treatment?

If you are considering treatment for a substance abuse addiction, it is important to choose a provider who uses a safe, effective, and proven approach. Working with a treatment center that promotes evidence-based treatment (EBT) can increase the likelihood of your success in recovery. This is because evidence-based approaches are based on efficacy research and outcomes for patients with similar challenges.

Explore evidenced-based treatment for substance abuse, including what EBT is, how it compares to other approaches, and which evidence-based approaches are currently used in quality substance abuse treatment centers.

What is Evidence-Based Treatment?

EBT refers to treatment methods based on evidence-based practices (EBPs). EBT and EBPs are backed by peer-reviewed scientific research that shows an empirical basis for claim outcomes for the practice or treatment. In other words, scientific researchers have examined EBT methods in clinical studies. They are found to be statistically effective for addressing the problem they seek to treat.

EBT also includes elements of clinical expertise of the practitioners administering the treatment, expert consensus, experimental designs, quasi-experimental designs, and personal communications. EBT considers patient concerns and challenges to develop treatment methods that combine all aspects of evidence into a holistic, meaningful result.

Why Use Evidence-Based Treatment for Substance Abuse?

EBT provides those seeking treatment for substance abuse with safe, effective ways to address their problems. When treatment centers use EBTs, patients and providers see the following benefits:

  • Increased treatment effectiveness
  • Better consistency of services and outcomes
  • Improved quality of substance abuse treatment
  • Reduced expenses associated with treatment

EBT reduces the potential for physical or psychological damages brought on by unproven treatment approaches. It ensures the treatment approach effectively addresses some aspects of substance abuse addiction and provides a framework for treatment centers in administering treatment.

Current Evidence-Based Treatments for Substance Abuse

Current Evidence-Based Treatments for Substance AbuseThe National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines several EBTs that evidence-based substance abuse treatment centers use to treat patients in recovery. These EBTs are broken down into pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies.

EBT pharmacotherapies for substance abuse

Pharmacotherapies refer to medical treatments that reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. This is also referred to as medication-assisted therapy or MAT. Commonly used EBT pharmacotherapies include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone)
  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
  • Varenicline
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram
  • Topiramate

In conjunction with behavior therapies, Right Path offers you each of these EBT options to promote a successful recovery journey. Our smoking cessation program uses a unique deprogramming process with the option of NRT or varenicline (Chantix) to help you stop smoking.

Right Path’s MAT options for opioid and alcohol addiction include plans that use buprenorphine, naloxone, naltrexone, acamprosate, disulfiram, and methadone.

EBT behavior therapies for substance abuse

EBT behavior therapies for substance abuse are designed to help you focus on long-term success, engage you in the recovery process, and help you change the thoughts and behaviors that keep you stuck in addiction.

Behavior therapies also help you develop new skills to cope with triggers and cravings. When used with pharmacotherapies, behavior therapies show great long-term success for those with addiction issues.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers the following behavior therapies as EBTs:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a therapeutic process that helps you understand how your thoughts and behaviors connect. During therapy, you make incremental movements toward new and healthier thought and behavior patterns.

Contingency Management (CM)

CM is a type of behavior therapy that promotes change with rewards for healthy or desirable behavior. The idea behind the therapy is to promote desirable, beneficial actions in a consistent manner.

Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA)

CRA is a behavior therapy that focuses on identifying triggers and behavior chains that lead to acting out on addictive impulses. It also seeks to help you find healthy ways to meet your needs.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy is sometimes used to help create internal motivation for those resistant to the therapy process. The counselor may perform an assessment and offer high-risk coping strategies.

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

The 12-step program is one of the most popular forms of behavior therapy. This EBT uses 12 spiritual guiding principles and actions that you can take to come to terms with your addiction and past actions and make amends where possible.

Family Behavior Therapy

Family behavior therapy is similar to individual therapies. It focuses on including family members in treatment to promote a healthy family dynamic for the addicted person and their family.

Right Path promotes healing through individual and group psychotherapy, support groups, and art therapy. These modalities use a combination of EBT behavioral therapy approaches to set you up for long-term success.

Non-evidence-based Approaches to Substance Abuse Treatment

EBT is the predominant treatment approach for most healthcare providers. However, there are still some facilities using invalidated or unsupported treatment approaches. These non-evidence-based treatments are ineffective and potentially harmful.

While several of the following treatment methods have been discredited, you may encounter programs that offer them when choosing a substance abuse treatment center. Avoid engaging in these treatments and instead opt for a treatment center that uses only EBTs.

Discredited and unsupported substance abuse treatment approaches include:

  • Electric shock therapy or electrical aversion therapy
  • Past-life therapy
  • The use of psychedelic medication
  • Rapid opioid detoxification using anesthesia
  • Scared straight programs or boot camps
  • Neuro-linguistic programming
  • Stimulant medications, apomorphine, lithium carbonate, beta-blocker, chlordiazepoxide, or dopamine precursor for alcohol dependence
  • DARE programs
  • Self-confrontation through videotaping

Seek Evidence-Based Treatment for Substance Abuse Issues

Seek Evidence-Based Treatment for Substance Abuse Issues

The quality of treatment you receive from your substance abuse treatment center significantly impacts your success in recovery. Choose a treatment center that uses a holistic yet evidence-based approach to treating substance abuse for the best environment for long-term success.


Written by Sergey Zhitar, MD Medical Director

Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.

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