The Evolution Of Addiction Treatment Over The Last Century

The Evolution Of Addiction Treatment Over The Last Century

Addiction treatment is an evolving science. As researchers learn more about how the brain works and the changes that addictive substances make in its neural pathways, the manner in which addiction is treated changes, as well. Addiction treatment methods have evolved significantly over the past 100 years. Instead of being treated like weak-minded individuals or hopeless addicts with no control over their addiction, today, people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) are properly diagnosed with a treatable mental illness.

The most significant change in addiction treatment is the lessening of the stigma for seeking rehab and therapy. Many therapeutic techniques we use today couldn’t have been possible without the pioneering breakthroughs over the last century.

Addiction Has Been Around as Long as Mankind

The first recorded reference to addiction dates back to Aristotle, who believed substance dependence indicated a defect in an individual’s willpower. He also noted the effects of heavy drinking on pregnancy and recorded the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Moving to more modern times, the first recorded form of addiction treatment in America dates back to the right after its founding. Alcohol abuse was a widespread problem in early America. Two historic milestones of addiction treatment happened during this time:

  • Sobriety Circles in Native American communities
  • Establishment of Sober Houses

Sobriety circle principles are an early forerunner to programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, which emphasizes group support and accountability. Sober Houses were hospital-like settings, similar to today’s rehabilitation centers, operating exclusively for addicts. Services include offering detoxification and “moral reframing treatmetns,” similar to the recovery therapy of today.

Recognizing Alcoholism as a Medical Condition

Dr. Benajmin Rush (b. 1746), the father of American psychiatric practice, is instrumental in treating alcoholism as a chronic medical condition rather than a moral failing or absence of willpower. Shifting the perspective away from viewing the addict as a moral failure and focusing instead on the loss of control that happens in active addiction significantly impacted the way that addiction was subsequently treated.

Dr. Rush’s theories were the foundation of the earliest Sober Houses and formed the foundation for the Temperance movement from the early 19th century. Over time, Sober Houses morphed into a model more similar to modern rehab facilities, with the first medically-managed rehab center opening in New York in 1964.

Influential Events in Addiction Treatment After 1864

The year 1864 marks the beginning of addiction therapy as we know it. The Keely Cure was postulated in 1870, including a 31-day stay in a treatment facility where patients focused on healthy eating, exercise, and fresh air. Although this was a revolutionary concept at the time, it’s now common in most inpatient rehab centers. Some other important milestones in addiction treatment over the last century include:

  • 1880: Sigmund Freud suggested using cocaine to treat alcohol and morphine addiction
  • 1890: Criminalization of addiction causes state-run treatment centers to close
  • 1901: The Charles B. Townsend Hospital addiction treatment center opened. Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, would be treated there
  • 1906: The Emmanuel Movement started a religious approach to alcoholism treatment. Its approach emphasizes the connection between mind, body, and spirit and is the first documented holistic approach to addiction treatment
  • 1935: Alcoholics Anonymous was officially founded, based on the perspectives of The Oxford Group, which highly influenced the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
  • The 1950s: The Minnesota Model was created, which influences many treatment approaches to this day
    Narcotics Anonymous was founded
    Disulfiram was first used to treat alcohol addiction
  • 1960: The Disease Concept of Alcoholism was published, and shortly after that, insurance companies approved coverage of alcohol addiction treatmetns
  • 1964: Methadone was first used to treat addiction
  • 1970: Narcan and methadone are approved by the FDA to treat addiction
    The Controlled Substances Act was passed

Recent Advances in Addiction Treatment

Over the last thirty years, the FDA approved additional medications to treat addiction, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Several pieces of legislation, The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act, and the Affordable Care Act made it possible for anyone to seek addiction treatment for low or no cost.

Modern addiction treatment combines the best of treatments in the past, such as:

  • Viewing addiction as a disease and not a personal failing
  • The importance of group support and accountability
  • Specialized residential treatment centers for addicts in early sobriety
  • Using medications to treat addiction and cravings
  • The importance of psychiatric therapy in preventing addiction relapse

Many holistic, comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs combine these approaches, as addiction treatment isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

No Matter Your Addiction History, You Can Find Help at Hickory Treatment Centers

Are you concerned with your drug or alcohol use? If drinking or using drugs is negatively impacting your life, we can help. Hickory Treatment Centers offers evidence-based addiction therapy in a professional, compassionate setting. We have several levels of treatment, depending on how severe your addiction is, including programs for family counseling and relapse prevention strategies to help you maintain your new sobriety. Contact us today to earn more.

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If you have tried to stop using alcohol or drugs on your own, you may feel that sobriety and clean living seem far away. However, with the help of caring staff members and a safe, structured environment, you can receive the guidance you need to fight cravings and regain control of your life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our admission staff or learn more about our healing programs.