Adjunctive Treatment Programs For Addiction Recovery: What Are They

Updated on August 23, 2022

The main thing you should be concerned about when you go in for treatment for your addiction is your body. That is the thing that addiction to any substance damages the most, whether that substance is alcohol, heroin, or fudge rounds. But addiction is also more complicated than that.

If addiction were a totally physical experience, then treating it would be far easier, and developing it would be far less common. It is not wholly physical though. There are many other components to addiction, chiefly the mental health component, as well as how it affects your life.

These are considered the secondary effects of addiction due to the fact that neither the substances themselves nor the cravings for the substances directly cause these effects. It is undeniable that they follow on from addiction, but the cause and effect are one degree removed.

That is the purpose of what is known as “adjunctive treatment programs”. 

What are Adjunctive Treatment Programs?

Adjunctive treatment comes from other medical fields, as it is any treatment that is performed by a doctor other than the patient’s primary care doctor. If you are dealing with cancer, but you develop some sort of infectious disease at the same time, you will have your cancer treated by an oncologist like normal, while receiving adjunctive treatment from a specialist in that field.

It is almost impossible to deal with addiction without dealing with the emotions that addiction leaves in its wake. But like we mentioned at the outset: Addiction is primarily physical. Your primary care physician is going to be able to prescribe you medication for handling withdrawal and detox, but they are not exactly qualified to give you antidepressants or counseling.

So, while a doctor who specializes in addiction counseling takes care of your body’s withdrawal side effects and detox medication, a psychiatrist will be the one analyzing your mind and prescribing you medications for any mental illnesses you might have (if you need them).

What is the Purpose of Adjunctive Treatment Programs?

It is easy to act like all addictions are built the same, and that all a person has to worry about with addiction is withdrawal and detox. If only that were true, things would be a lot simpler.

Lots of complications can develop over the course of being treated for addiction. Most of them will not be life-threatening, but they can still affect the quality of your life significantly.

The human body is a complex chemical reaction, and addiction does damage to basically every part of it. That means that at the same time that illicit substances are playing havoc with your nervous system, your immune system might develop weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the physiological confusion. That can mean disease, particularly infection.

That is to say nothing of the fact that most drugs have one or two organs that they put special burden on. Alcoholics regularly deal with liver damage, and heroin addicts can develop diabetes despite otherwise being in perfectly good health. These issues can cascade into others, and the web of chemical reactions and bodily functions it can disrupt can become hard to track.

In short, adjunctive treatment is necessary because it takes a whole other doctor to help heal the parts of the body that addiction can damage.

What are the Most Common Forms of Adjunctive Treatment?

There are two layers to this answer: The simple layer, and the complex layer. We will start with the simple layer, because all that talk about stressed organs might have gotten you concerned that your addiction is going to cause some sudden, catastrophic system collapse in your body.

The Simple Form of Adjunctive Treatment

By far the most common adjunctive treatment for addiction is mental health treatment. Most people do not have such bad substance abuse problems that they need substantial medical care during their recovery. But every single addict will need emotional counseling. Why?

That is the simple part: Most addicts know why. You see, our society does not educate people very well about addiction. This results in many people filling in the gaps in their knowledge with some of their own personal biases. That is true whether you are an addict or not.

An addict will get addicted to something, blame themselves, isolate themselves, and then feel horribly guilty for the situation they put themselves in. This can lead to a downward spiral, as the substance they abuse might be their only respite from this guilt. That is what makes therapy to handle those emotions both so common and so necessary.

The Complex Form of Adjunctive Treatment

Besides therapy, there are really very few common forms of adjunctive treatment. It takes years of substance abuse for a person to develop organ damage, and most of that organ damage will likely make itself known long before the addict makes an attempt at recovery.

That creates a surprising scenario where a person might get adjunctive treatment for the side effects of their addiction before they get treatment for the addiction itself.

Some of the forms of treatment that occur during detox, withdrawal, and general addiction treatment will be dealing with the side effects of withdrawal, particularly seizures and nutrition.

Addicts in recovery (as well as addicts in general) have trouble keeping food down, meaning there is a risk of health problems due to malnutrition. People who have been addicted for years might suffer seizures, which can be life threatening if they happen in one’s sleep.

These are the most common forms of adjunctive treatment during recovery, but they are still only reserved for people who have particularly bad and long-lasting addictions.


If you are getting treated for addiction, then you are probably going to get adjunctive therapy at one point or another. This is a good thing. The more doctors involved with your recovery, the more comprehensive your recovery can be.

The alternative, which some people sadly have to deal with, is being treated only for the withdrawal itself. That is not enough. If you or someone you love is dealing with addiction, then consider a psychological evaluation to see how helpful adjunctive therapy might be:

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