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Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors


Throughout history people have used drugs for a variety of purposes—for healing, for religious ceremonies, to alter consciousness for self-understanding, to loosen inhibitions and have fun, or to dull the senses against emotional or physical pain. Alcohol and other substances were used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and India as offerings to spiritual beings, as well as to reach a higher consciousness. Many religions today, from Tibetan Buddhism and traditional Native American religions to Roman Catholicism, use alcohol and other consciousness-altering substances in traditional ceremonies.

Throughout the ages people have also abused drugs and alcohol. No matter what the purpose for the initial drug use, it becomes for some people an obsession, and then an addiction. The history of treatment for substance abuse is much shorter. In the 1800s, alcoholics and morphine addicts were placed in asylums. Treatments sometimes included miracle medicines that were supposed to be quick "cures" for addicts. In the early 1900s doctors used electro-shock therapies and psychosurgery to treat alcoholics.

In 1935, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program was started by two men known as Bill and Dr. Bob. They helped each other achieve sobriety and continued to help others. This system of alcoholics helping other alcoholics grew into the AA movement, which is still strong today. AA's 12-step program has been adapted and used effectively to treat addictions of all kinds.

Today alcohol and a huge variety of dangerous drugs are readily available—marijuana, cocaine, LSD, heroin, inhalants, amphetamines, barbiturates, club drugs, and more. Fortunately, treatment programs are also readily available for those who want them. Outpatient methadone programs give heroin addicts the medication methadone to reduce cravings for heroin and block its effects. Patients are also counseled, given vocational guidance and training, and taught how to find support services. Long-term residential programs last for several months to a year. Patients live in a drug-free environment with fellow recovering addicts and counselors. Outpatient drug-free programs use such therapies as problem-solving groups, insight-oriented psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and 12-step programs. Short-term inpatient programs focus on stabilizing the patient, abstinence, and lifestyle changes.