The University of Arizona

Treatment Modalities and Treatment Settings for Illicit Drug Abuse
Psychosocial Treatment:

Treatments for illicit drug problems typically fall into two general categories—psychosocial treatment and pharmacotherapy (pharmacological treatments). Psychosocial treatments encompass a wide range of modalities, from ‘talking therapies’ such as cognitive-behavioral or family therapy to supportive work such as help with insurance and government benefits. Pharmacological treatments include medications for addressing problems ranging from intoxication to dependence.[1,2]

Psychosocial treatments are designed to help alleviate the act of compulsive substance use by creating changes in a patient’s behaviors, thought processes, affect (feelings, mood), and social functioning. Psychosocial treatments are used with all types of drugs. All psychosocial treatments address one or more of the following common tasks:[1]

  • Enhancing motivation to stop or reduce substance use
  • Teaching coping skills
  • Changing reinforcement contingencies
  • Fostering management of painful affects
  • Enhancing social supports and interpersonal functioning



  • (1) American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Substance Use Disorders. Arlington, VA: APA; 2007 Apr. Report No.: 164.
  • (2) Independent Expert Working Group. Clinical Guidelines on Drug Misuse and Dependence Update 2007. UK Health Departments; 2007.