Experts have recognized that addiction is a learned behavior. This means that ABA, which looks to address negative learned behaviors, can be used to treat it. This is because drugs are often used with specific people, in certain environments, or in certain situations. For example, if you always use drugs with the same people, you begin associating those people with getting high. The body then begins to crave drugs whenever you see those people. Dopamine, a hormone the body releases that makes you feel good, helps reinforce this behavior. Getting high causes the body to produce more dopamine, so it begins to up dopamine production when you come in contact with a trigger situation.
Studies have also looked at how drug use can be triggered by certain cues in a similar manner as Pavlov’s dogs were triggered in his classic study. In that study, he conditions dogs to know that they were going to be fed when they heard a bell ring. The dogs would start salivating for food whenever they heard the bell, even if they weren’t given any food. Drug users react the same. If they often did drugs at a club, they may start to crave a hit just by being around flashing lights or loud club music. ABA treatment can help recondition these responses using a variety of different tools.
ABA treatment is made up of a number of different tools. The tools we will use to help treat your addiction will be based on your unique situation and needs.
The first tool is called contingency management, and it’s based on what’s called operant conditioning. This tool is designed to reward positive behavior by giving the patient an actual physical reward. The idea is to condition the body to understand that refraining from drug use provides a reward. This may sound quite basic, but it has been proven to be a very effective treatment. Studies have shown that is it one of the most useful ABA tool for affecting change. Many intensive outpatient programs and outpatient rehabs use a version of contingency management.
One such version that is widely used is a voucher-based program. This type of ABA treatment has been used since the 1990s and has been found to be very successful in treating a wide number of drug addictions. When a patient’s drug test comes back negative, they receive a voucher that can be exchanged for any number of rewards. Some treatment centers give out pre-loaded debit cards patients can use anywhere, while others may use other types of vouchers. We will determine what works best for each patient.
As patients move forward in the program and have more negative drug tests, the vouchers increase in value. However, if a drug test comes back positive, the rewards reset to the lowest level. This motivates patients to continue to remain sober, especially if they are highly interested in the upper-tier voucher rewards.
Another ABA tool we make use of here at Solutions Counseling Center is known as community reinforcement. This tool is often used alongside a contingency management tool to help reinforce sobriety. The goal here is to slowly transition each patient away from a voucher reward into natural rewards and reinforcement. While it is very motivating to receive rewards for being sober, we recognize that can’t continue for the rest of a patient’s life.
Community reinforcement involves replacing physical rewards with intangible ones such as praise, companionship, and strong relationships with others. These are natural reinforcement rather than monetary reinforcement and can come from a wide variety of sources, not just your therapist.
ABA treatment also focuses on preventing relapse. While it’s true that relapse can occur regardless of what treatment methods are used, we focus on those that help greatly reduce the risk of falling back into addiction. ABA has been shown to do just that by focusing on teaching relapse prevention skills and healthy coping mechanisms. We use ABA alongside other tools designed to give you these skills and mechanisms so you can begin your sober life unafraid of relapse.
One distinction ABA treatment makes is the difference between relapse, which is a major step backwards, and a single lapse in judgment or a mistake. A lapse is a singular event. You know exactly when the mistake occurred and, by working with your therapist, can often determine why it occurred.
A relapse, on the other hand, is not a single event but a series of events. It’s not a simple mistake but a sign that the treatment tools you have are not working as intended. We see relapse as an indication that we need to change the modality you’re using or as a sign that what appeared to be the source of your trauma was not. Relapse doesn’t mean you can never be sober or that you have “failed” therapy. It’s a sign that you aren’t quite there yet but that you’re still on the right path.
ABA services provide many different tools to help you reach your goal of living a sober life. Our team here at Solutions Counseling Center is well-versed in using ABA and is ready to help you overcome your addiction using it and other tools that have been proven to be effective in treating addiction. If you’re looking for an addiction treatment center in Louisville, please reach out to us to learn more about what we’re about and how our intensive outpatient program can help you.