Millions of people battle addiction every single day.
Addiction treatment is serious business, and it should always be treated as such.
Despite the stigma that still frequently surrounds substance abuse and addiction, every person who struggles with either deserves high quality, effective treatment, based on essential concepts derived from decades of research.
Following is a brief overview of key addiction treatment facts.
Effective addiction treatment — Key concepts
- An effective treatment program is based on the philosophy that addiction is treatable, despite its complexity and inherent challenges. Most experts agree that addiction is a disease, as opposed to a moral weakness, character flaw, or personal choice. No one chooses to become an addict, any more than anyone chooses to become a diabetic or get cancer. Just like many other medical and mental health disorders, an addiction has a significant impact on a person’s brain. As a result, it influences how he or she thinks and acts throughout any given day. That’s not to say there’s no personal responsibility involved; there is — especially when it comes to recovery. However, the disease model of addiction puts it in proper perspective.
- Treatment takes time, and sufficient time is crucial if lasting recovery is to be achieved. Addiction treatment isn’t something that can be done effectively in a few days or even a few weeks. It often takes many months and even a year or more. Even after treatment is complete, it’s important for an addict in recovery to continue to utilize and apply the coping strategies and healthy behaviors learned in treatment. Many individuals require ongoing support, for example, by attending 12 step meetings regularly (or at least from time to time) or continuing with a long-term aftercare program, in order to maintain their hard-earned sobriety.
- There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Every person is different, with his or her unique combination of needs, vulnerabilities, and various accompanying issues that have contributed to the addiction or may interfere with the recovery process if ignored. A good treatment program takes this into consideration and tailors treatment to the individual.
- Not only does treatment need to be tailored to each individual, it also must be frequently modified along the way. This is because humans are dynamic beings — their needs change continuously. The initial treatment plan must be periodically re-evaluated in order to determine whether or not it’s still working and is a good fit for that individual at that particular point in time. As the addict makes progress, the plan must be adjusted accordingly. An inflexible or static treatment plan simply doesn’t work. The same applies to any concurrent mental health and medical treatment.
- Those who don’t want treatment, or who are forced into treatment (e.g. court-mandated alcohol treatment following a DUI) can still benefit from it. It doesn’t have to be voluntary or even wanted in order to be helpful. Many addicts are initially very opposed to treatment, for a variety of reasons including denial and fear. However, many of them experience a turning point during treatment in which their resistance starts to give way to a desire to get better. Something starts to click, and they begin to realize that life truly can be better than it was before.
- Detox — the process during which all traces of the substance are eliminated from the body — is just the beginning of an effective treatment program. In and of itself, medical detox isn’t effective in terms of changing behavior. Most addicts will drink or use again fairly soon if they receive nothing more than detox. The detoxification process allows them to get clean — from a physical standpoint — but it does little to nothing to address the psychological and behavioral aspects of addiction.
- As mentioned earlier, addictions are complex. They involve much more than the addict’s drug or alcohol use. In order to be effective, addiction treatment needs to address the whole person. Every addict has many different needs and concerns, and they all intertwine with his or her addictive behavior. Humans are emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual creatures. A one-dimensional approach will have one-dimensional results, and the likelihood of relapse will be high. This is why more holistic treatment programs are especially effective.
- Addiction often goes hand in hand with other psychiatric disorders. Some of the most common are depression, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, certain personality disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Many addicts drink or use in a desperate attempt to self-medicate mental health symptoms. If co-occurring disorders aren’t treated along with the addiction, the likeliness of a lasting recovery is extremely low. Dual diagnosis programs recognize this and are especially beneficial for those struggling with other mental health problems.
- In addition to individual, group, and family therapy, medication is often a very useful and critical aspect of addiction treatment. Whether or not it should be prescribed depends on a variety of factors. It should be used only when necessary and with appropriate caution. Medications that have a potential for addiction themselves, such as prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety), must be used very carefully. It’s not uncommon for addicts to replace one addiction for another.
- During treatment, addicts are still very vulnerable to relapse. This makes it important for their drug and alcohol use to be closely monitored throughout the treatment process. When relapses do occur, they can be addressed in treatment. Learning to recognize triggers and understand the various factors that led to a relapse provides invaluable information. An addict can use that information to avoid relapsing in the future. Sometimes the process is two steps forward and one step back, but learning from mistakes is how people grow.
Getting treatment is worth it
Addictions are never easy to treat, but they can be treated effectively. Treatment can come in a variety of forms, including residential treatment, inpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment. Treatment programs may be faith-based or secular, gender-specific or co-ed, or focus on a specific age group such as adolescents or seniors. But regardless, they have a much greater chance of being effective if they incorporate the above concepts into their approach. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that may also help or improve their program. Rather, these are some of the essentials.
If you or a loved one needs treatment for an addiction, contact a local addiction treatment facility today. Getting into treatment can seem like a very daunting process, and choosing a program can feel a bit overwhelming at times. Just remember that help is available, if you reach out for it. If you have questions or concerns about a program, pick up the phone and call. Addiction counselors know that taking that first step can be very scary. However, you’ll almost always find that they’ll do their best to answer your questions, giving you the information you need to help you make the best decision for your future.