Treating Substance Abuse - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-12-12
Treating Substance Abuse - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Gender Counseling Substance abuse Cognitive development
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1813 words
16 min read


Substance or drug abuse is the use of specific chemical compounds to create pleasurable feelings in the brain. Studies reveal that more than 190 million individuals use drugs around the world, and this issue has risen at alarming rates, especially among youths below the age of thirty years (Saad et al., 2018). Drug addicts may also share needles and other equipment to administer the drugs, which may predispose them to the risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV infections. Studies also show that marijuana, hashish, and cannabis are the most popularly used drugs worldwide. Over 140 million people worldwide use cannabis for their purposes (Saad et al., 2018). The use of other stimulants such as ecstasy and amphetamine is also on a steady rise, with over 30 million people around the world abusing them.

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About 13 million people worldwide use cocaine, with the US recording the highest number of abusers (Jones et al., 2018). The abuse of drugs such as crack, nicotine, and other similar opioids is not very common as other drugs, with about 8 million people around the world using it. The highest number of nicotine users is found in Europe and South-West and southeast Asia. For years, experts have attempted to devise strategies to help treat drug addiction (Jones et al., 2018). Treatment is aimed at helping addicts compulsively stop seeking and using drugs. Drug treatment can occur in different settings and may take a variety of forms. The amount of duration also differs among different individuals.

Drug treatment usually involves a combination of methods such as medication and therapy sessions. However, the specific treatment type varies depending on the patient’s needs and the type of drug they use (Jones et al., 2018). This article examines the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat substance abuse disorders. The paper also examines the role that gender plays in substance abuse and treatment. Further, the paper offers recommendations on the use of CBT for substance abuse treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a talk therapy that is based on behaviorism principles. Behaviorism is about how individuals' behaviors can be modified or controlled and the cognition theories that are focused on understanding how individuals feel, think, and understand the world around them and themselves at large (Liu & Li, 2018). Behaviorism pays close focus on a person's actions or behaviors, whereas cognition theories focus on the people's perceptions in terms of what they hear, see, feel, and think. Therefore, CBT is a variation of behavioral therapy and is based on attempting to change behavior by combining negative and positive reinforcements, rewards, or punishments with behaviors that a person wants to change (Liu & Li, 2018). Human cognition includes perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and general understanding. These concepts include everything that comes through the human mind through senses, past experiences, and interactions with others (Kim, 2020). While trying to understand cognition, experts added the analysis of cognition to the overall behavior therapy and developed the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Kim, 2020). CBT involves changing people's behaviors by considering their feelings and thoughts about their actions. Rather than just observing and trying to control individual behaviors, CBT focuses on the mechanisms that occur in the person's mind and how such perceptions, feelings, and thoughts result in them behaving the way they do.

Addiction is a pattern of behavior that goes against what an individual intends to do. In trying to overcome addiction, people will often state that they would wish to change those behaviors and genuinely do away with behaviors that result in addiction (Saad et al., 2018). However, they may find it extremely difficult to do so. The CBT approach asserts that addictive habits such as gambling, drug use, and video game addiction, compulsive shopping, and other harmful behaviors occur from inaccurate thoughts and negative feelings that come with these thoughts. CBT clarifies the way people’s emotions and thoughts interact and how they elicit specific behaviors (Saad et al., 2018). Psychologists discovered that many people have thoughts based on expectations that are unrealistic, untrue, or impossible to live by. In turn, these thoughts result in negative feelings that catalyze depression, anxiety, and conditions such as addictions. CBT helps individuals to systematically record their thoughts and related feelings, together with events that may trigger those thoughts and feelings, and the behaviors that they exhibit as a result (Jones et al., 2018). By recording these events and feelings, individuals can begin to alter automatic processes that may hinder their efforts at altering negative behaviors.

Examining Patterns

By examining patterns of feelings and thoughts that they experience repeatedly, individuals can start changing them by consciously perceiving situations in more realistic ways and do not automatically result in negative thoughts and cycles of destructive behaviors (Jones et al., 2018). CBT encourages addicts to reward themselves for healthy behaviors that they may use to replace the more harmful ones over time. Long-term, healthy behaviors become more associated with positive thoughts and feelings and become ingrained in a person's mind. CBT explores the conflict between what an individual wants to do and what they do. Substance addiction is an example of such a conflict within a person (Liu & Li, 2018). For example, a person may know what is safe and healthy, avoiding addictive substances and behaviors. However, they may go ahead and engage in the addictive behavior that may have very negative consequences for them and others (Liu & Li, 2018). Although sometimes addicts may regret their actions and behaviors, it may be extremely challenging to stop repeating them, sometimes without them knowing why.

Over time, CBT has been tested and proven to have an excellent record in treating substance abuse. Evidence from several trials and quantitative studies support its efficacy for drug and alcohol disorders. For example, Kiluk et al. (2018) conducted a meta-analytic study of CBT for drug dependence. The study results found that most patients who used CBT as a mode of treatment showed signs of recovery one month from the start of the treatment. The study also found that most patients who undergo CBT for disorder treatment have a lower percentage of relapse than those who rely on medication and other treatments (Kiluk et al., 2018). A similar meta-analytic review by Magill et al. (2018) also recorded similar results regarding the use of CBT as a treatment for substance addiction. The study showed that 60% of patients who underwent CBT had clean toxicology screen after one month from the start of treatment (Magill et al., 2018)

Gender and Substance Abuse

Any person with a genetic predisposition can become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Studies show that up to 12% of people aged 12 and older in the United States struggle with addiction (Becker et al., 2017). Because of how alcohol and drugs affect the brain's functioning, any person can find themselves dependent on a specific drug. However, specific environmental and biological factors can influence the type of substances a person will try and how they become addicted (Becker et al., 2017). These factors also affect how a person seeks treatment and how receptive they may be to the treatment. Gender is one factor that significantly contributes to addiction and treatment reception. There are several biological differences between men and women that influence how addiction develops. Addiction is a condition that affects anyone regardless of their age or gender (Zakiniaeiz & Potenza, 2018). Addiction typically starts in the brain, and the physiological processes that occur in the brain are the same for all people. When a person consumes a substance for the first time, specific neurotransmitters responsible for the risk-reward responses become activated, producing a sense of euphoria or highness (Becker et al., 2017). However, studies show that men have a high chance of abusing drugs than women for all types of drugs. Men are also more likely to overdose and get admitted to the ER for drug abuse than women. However, studies also show that women are more likely than men to have compulsive cravings for drugs and have a high chance of relapsing than men after substance abuse (Becker et al., 2017). According to statistics, there are more men in rehabilitation and treatment centers than women. However, women who are addicted are more likely than men to voluntarily seek treatment. In terms of substance abuse treatment, women are more likely to go to rehab for addiction to sleep medications and benzodiazepine. On the other hand, men are more likely to get addicted to substances like heroin and other opioids than women.

Although men are more likely to get addicted to drugs and suffer addiction than women, women's addiction mechanisms and processes are different from men. The higher addiction rate in men has less to do with a gendered vulnerability to drugs and may reflect the difference in chances and opportunities to engage in drug use (Zakiniaeiz & Potenza, 2018). On the other hand, women exhibit a quicker progression to addiction following the first use of alcohol or drugs. On average, women will increase their alcohol, cocaine, opioids, or marijuana intake quicker than men. Studies also show that women have a harder time quitting drugs than men (Zakiniaeiz & Potenza, 2018). Addiction happens more quickly in women than in men; therefore, they tend to enter rehab with more severe behavioral and medical issues than men who seek treatment.

Additionally, women face more barriers to treatment access than men in different societies. Pregnant women or those who have small babies are often skeptical about seeking medication or treatment because they fear losing their children (Becker et al., 2017). Most women who also struggle with addiction are the primary caregivers to their children and may not have any other person to take care of their children while they are in rehab. As such, most women may refuse to seek treatment because they have to take care of their families and others (Zakiniaeiz & Potenza, 2018). Clinical studies also show that women are more susceptible to cravings for drugs and other substances, especially during the different menstrual cycles (Zakiniaeiz & Potenza, 2018). This susceptibility exposes them to a higher rate of relapsing because hormones can worsen anxiety symptoms that may occur after one withdraws from drugs.


This paper examined the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of drug and substance abuse. Results from different studies and sources show that more than 190 million individuals use drugs around the world, and this issue has risen at alarming rates, especially among youths below the age of thirty years (Saad et al., 2018). Drug addicts may also share needles and other equipment to administer the drugs, which may predispose them to the risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV infections. As such, healthcare practitioners need to develop treatment mechanisms that can help in the treatment of addiction and help prevent relapse (Saad et al., 2018). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment option that has been used for years to help drug addicts to overcome their condition. CBT involves changing people’s behaviors by considering their feelings and thoughts about their actions (Liu & Li, 2018).

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