Why Treatment Works – And Why It Doesn’t

Why Treatment Works – And Why It Doesn’t

Addiction is a highly complex disease – one that is widely stigmatized and deeply misunderstood. Many people mistakenly believe that addiction is a matter of moral standing, or that it can be effectively attributed to a lack of willpower. On the contrary, addiction is scientifically recognized as a chronic and relapsing brain disease, one that can be treated but never entirely cured. Those who are suffering at the hands of a substance abuse or dependence disorder will need to undergo intensive addiction treatment. For many years, tools like Alcoholics Anonymous have been available to help men and women who struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Up until recently, addiction was treated exclusively in a hospital setting. Patients would be admitted to a detox facility, where they would undergo the symptoms of withdrawal in a safe and medically monitored environment. Once withdrawal was over and the patient was deemed physically fit to return to day-to-day life, he or she would do just that. However, it was quickly discovered that medical detox alone was not enough to keep people sober. The rates of relapse after detox remained exceptionally high, and it was determined that a more intensive level of clinical care would be necessary. Therefore, inpatient treatment was developed – and over time, the ins and outs of residential care have grown and expanded significantly.

Nowadays, residential care is comprehensive and highly individualized. Most individuals who have been suffering from substance abuse or dependence will undergo a multi-phased treatment process, which will generally include the following levels of clinical care:

  • Medical detox: during medical detox, an individual will undergo drug and/or alcohol withdrawal in a safe and structured environment. Most stays in detox will last for between one and two weeks, but could last for longer depending on specific needs and requirements. A team of medical professionals, addiction counselors and mental health professionals will work together to stabilize patients and prepare them for a smooth transition into inpatient addiction treatment.
  • Inpatient/residential treatment: most inpatient treatment programs will last for between three and six months – again, longer if deemed necessary. The main staples of inpatient treatment are intensive therapeutic intervention (group and individual therapy), the teaching of life skills, relapse prevention skills and healthy coping mechanisms, and trauma resolution (considering that the vast majority of men and women who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction have personal histories of unresolved trauma).
  • Intensive outpatient treatment: this level of clinical care will typically take place directly after an individual transitions from inpatient treatment to sober living. Intensive outpatient – or IOP – will take place around five times a week for several hours a day, and will focus on relapse prevention skills, life skills, and working through issues as they arise in a safe and supportive setting. Clients will also continue with individual and group therapy.
  • Outpatient treatment: outpatient treatment is one step below IOP. Clinical care and therapy will continue, but clients will have far more personal freedom and will only attend therapeutic sessions several times per week.
  • Sober living housing: after an individual completes inpatient treatment, he or she will immediately transfer to a sober living home. In sober living, residents will be held accountable for all of their actions while being encouraged and supported to continue along in their programs of recovery. Sober living will consist of a set of strictly enforced rules and guidelines, geared towards helping men and women make the slow transition back into fully independent living. This phase of treatment will typically last for six or more months.
  • Aftercare: aftercare is highly individualized – no two aftercare programs will be the same. Most will consist of a continuation in individual therapy and a continuation of psychiatric care in the case of dual diagnosis disorders. Aftercare will also include 12 step immersion, meaning that individuals will be strongly encouraged to attend one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every day while actively working through the steps.

If all of these phases are adhered to, there is a good chance that sobriety will be maintained. Treatment works if the individual is willing to seek help, and is receptive to the help that he or she receives.

However, treatment is not always effective. It is not effective if one of the above-listed phases is skipped, or if an individual does not do the intensive work required to overcome his or her addictive disorder once and for all.

When it Doesn’t Work

Despite the fact that resources are so widely available to those that need them, few people actually take advantage of them. Treatment is available and accessible, regardless of how bad things have become. Unfortunately, many people will never recover because they will avoid seeking professional help until it is too late. Those that do seek help – also unfortunately – have high rates of relapse. Why? Sadly, because they do not follow through with continuous care.

For example, say a middle-aged man with a severe alcohol abuse disorder decides to go to medical detox and inpatient treatment. He has been drinking for the majority of his life, and things have finally gotten so bad that he has decided to accept the help his family has been begging him to seek for close to a decade. He enters into medically monitored detox where he undergoes intense symptoms of withdrawal for close to a week. Once he is physically stabilized, he transfers to a gender-specific inpatient treatment, where he stays for three months. He starts to feel very good – very confident in his recovery – within the first month of treatment. He feels better than he has in years, in fact. He begins to believe that the sober way of life is the only way of life he wants to lead, and he feels extremely confident in his ability to stay sober. He has all of the tools he needs.

When he graduates from inpatient treatment he returns to his apartment and continues to go to meetings every day. After a week he gets caught up with work and he starts going to meetings five times a week, then three times a week, and eventually he only makes a meeting once every two or three weeks. One day, on the way home from work, he stops by a liquor store and compulsively picks up a small bottle of vodka. He went to treatment – so why didn’t it work? Why did he end up here; back where he started? This situation has nothing to do with whether or not treatment worked, it has to do with how committed this man stayed to his own personal program of recovery.

Intrepid Detox Residential

Medical detox is only the very first phase on the road to lifelong recovery. At Intrepid Detox Residential, we are dedicated to equipping men and women of all ages with the tools they need to stay sober in the long-term. If you have been suffering from substance abuse or dependence of any kind, we are available to help. Simply give us a call and our Admissions Counselors will work with you to determine which level of clinical care will best meet your unique needs. We look forward to hearing from you soon and getting you started on your own personal journey of addiction recovery today.

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