Entering a recovery center may be one of the most crucial decisions a person will ever make. There are a confusing array of centers to choose from, and families or clients need to make informed decisions.
Drug or alcohol rehabilitation is not like dental work or surgery, which often solves a health problem completely. Millions of people go through substance abuse programs every year, and yet a high percentage of them have been rehabbed in the past, some as many as five times previously.
There are three vital aspects of rehabilitation that must be considered before entering a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center.
Rehabilitation must be based upon medical research.
Rehabilitation for addictions developed outside of mainstream medicine, and many centers have still not gotten the message. Today doctors and scientists are recognizing addiction as a disease and are recommending a medical approach instead of relying upon behavioral changes.
Naltrexone is a medication long used to treat alcohol addiction. In 2006 it was reformulated into an injectible medication called Vivitrol for alcohol. In 2010, Vivitrol was approved for opioid addiction. Studies showed that 36 percent of patients using Vivitrol were able to stay sober and in an addiction program for a full six months. A control group found only 23 percent of the participants staying sober for six months.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy declared that addiction is “A chronic disease of the brain that must be treated.”
Rehabilitation must provide a supportive, non-punishing environment.
For many years, addicts have been viewed as ‘broken’ or different from sober people in some way. Jail time isolates many, and social punishment wreaks havoc on others.
Author Johann Hari suggests that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, as many of us insist upon. Instead, it is connection.
Psychologist Bruce Alexander would agree. He proved through his ‘Rat Park’ experiment that, when given a normal social environment, rats did not take much interest in the heroin provided in their water. Isolated rats were so addicted that they died.
Hari insists that a healthy environment, constant social interaction and meaningful goals diminish the need for the stimulus of mind-altering substances.
The treatment center must offer an outpatient support system.
Getting sober, like losing weight, is really tough. But, like maintaining weight-loss, staying sober can be even tougher. Many recovered patients walk out of the clinic and drop into a manhole. That is because, as Johann Hari said, connection is the key to addiction. People are connecting normally to old friends. The friends abuse substances.
The rehabilitation field is accepting that addictions are a chronic disorder, and, like other chronic conditions, not a quick-fix.
Medicaid is now beginning to cover continuing care as are several private insurers. This coverage will encourage treatment centers to extend their care to outpatient facilities, and to provide social resources.
A new smartphone app called A-Chess can be provided by centers to receive notifications from the app that a person may be struggling on a given day. The app also provides interactions with other patients about coping with addictions.