There are many myths and misconceptions about treatment for alcoholism. The reality is that many times there are no simple answers to helping someone recover from a serious addiction. However, what can be helpful is for people to become more educated about alcoholism treatment and the common myths that may surround it. Here are 10 myths about treatment for alcoholism.
One: Treatment That Works For One Person Will Work On Another
Although hearing about someone else’s success story may be inspirational, the reality is that what may work for one person may not work for another. Everyone brings different backgrounds and genetics and that affects how they will respond to a treatment. The best rehab centers will tailor a treatment for an individual to receive the best customized care.
Two: Only Irresponsible People Can’t Stop Drinking
Alcohol is a complex problem, and can happen to even the most responsible and normal people. If someone has developed an addiction to alcohol it doesn’t mean that they are irresponsible, but they’ve developed a dependency on a substance and need professional help.
Three: Professional Treatment Will Cure The Problem Forever
While professional addiction treatment will definitely set the alcoholic on the right path to recovery, the reality is that it will be a lifelong journey. Addiction is never completely cured, but it will give the patient the tools to cope with life without turning to alcohol, which they had turned to before.
Four: Alcoholics Must Be At Their Lowest Point Before Getting Treatment
An alcoholic doesn’t need to hit rock-bottom before attaining treatment. In fact, it’s better to recognize the problem early so that treatment can be sought before the addiction spirals out of control.
Five: Self-Control Is Key To Overcoming Addiction
Addiction isn’t about self-control, but about overcoming a disease that has taken over a person’s life. Attributing it to self-control is the wrong way to view addiction, and why it’s so hard to conquer.
Six: All Rehab Centers Are The Same
Rehab centers are not all the same, and some may be better for an individual than others. Patients should find the rehab center that offers the best facilities, staff, and individualized care to receive the best chance at a full recovery.
Seven: Relapse Is A Major Failure
No one is perfect, and even someone with the best intentions can have a moment of weakness. That does not mean that rehab has been a failure. In fact, it just means that the patient in recovery has experienced a bump in the road, and just needs to get back up again with renewed determination to be sober.
Eight: Families Will Immediately Be Reunited After Treatment
Families that have been torn apart by addiction won’t immediately be functional again after a member has received treatment. Besides recovery from alcohol addiction, the individual also needs to work on piecing one’s family back together. That is something that will have to continually be worked on even after treatment.
Nine: Mental Health Issues Need To Be Treated Separately
The exact opposite is true, mental issues and addiction problems need to be treated together by a dedicated addiction professional who has experience treating co-occurring disorders. Studies have shown that when treated together, patients have a much greater chance at long-term success.
Ten: Treatment Has To Be A Painful Experience
While treatment will be challenging, it doesn’t have to be a painful horrible experience. In fact, it’s time where the patient can focus strictly on oneself, becoming a healthier, more functional person. The patient can focus on growing spiritually and emotionally and have access to top-notch facilities and addiction professionals. There will also be a community of people fostering the path towards a successful rehabilitation.
photo credit: Travis Young
Orchestrating an intervention for a loved one can be a delicate and stressful endeavor. However, when the people close to an addict feel like they need to stage an intervention, chances are the addict is in desperate need of help. Interventions are often considered the last resort to get someone help. An intervention shouldn’t be staged without careful planning and the assistance of a professional interventionist. The ultimate goal of an intervention is to get the addict to agree to get treatment, and not to estrange them even more. Relations between the two parties can be so strained, that a professional interventionist needs to be present to provide the proper moderation and guidance. For anyone wanting to stage an intervention, here are the parts necessary to perform one successfully.
Carefully Research The Situation
A lot needs to be considered before putting the wheels of an intervention in motion. Things that need to considered are:
- What treatment center will be offered to the addict?
- Will insurance cover the costs?
- Who are the closest people to the addict?
- Is the addiction immediately life-threatening?
- Are there children involved who might be affected?
All of these things need to considered to set a time-frame. For example if the addict’s personal safety or safety of children involved in the situation are at stake, then the intervention needs to be put in motion right away. However, if the situation isn’t that immediate, more time can be taken to research the right treatment center, who is available to be involved in the intervention, and where it should take place.
Gather The Right People
Once the situation is assessed, then one of the most important parts of the intervention needs to be organized, which is gathering the right people to stage the intervention with. Gauge who is willing to take the time to attend and when they are all available, and where the meeting will take place. Then ask them to write a letter stating to the addict why treatment must be sought immediately, and how it has negatively affected them. Then the order of who reads their letter should be decided. As mentioned before, a successful intervention needs to be orchestrated with care and planning to have the best chance of convincing the addict that treatment is the right solution. Once this part has been organized and planned, then the final part of planning the intervention can be done.
Find A Professional
It’s essential that an intervention professional be brought on board to make sure that everything is done to ensure success. The professional can help with the letters, figuring out the best location, and the best way to approach the addict. The professional can also provide some counseling and advice to the people who will be staging the intervention, so as to avoid conflict and figure out the best way to interact with the addict. Once the professional has been consulted, the team is in place, and the location figured out the intervention can then be staged.
Consider All Outcomes Before Going Forward
However, one more important thing the people who are staging the intervention should consider are all the possible outcomes. The best case scenario is of course the meeting going smoothly, and the addict willingly decides that getting treatment is the best option. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can go awry. There is also the possibility of the addict refusing treatment and the intervention causing an estrangement. In this case, the people staging the intervention should be prepared for that outcome, but understand that they are going to lose that person to addiction anyways, so the benefits far outweigh the consequences. And with the proper planning, an intervention may even save that person’s life and future.
photo credit: emdot
Incorporating physical activity into a regular routine is essential to facilitate health and sobriety. While it’s important for every person to do, it’s even more important for someone trying to maintain a long-term recovery from addiction. When someone is working on maintaining sobriety the process involves strengthening themselves physically and mentally. Besides working out nutrition plays an important role in recovery as well.
The body has already been weakened and is used to being abused, and physical activity helps the body become healthy and strong again. Many people now take the holistic approach to sobriety, and that means finding balance in their life, which involves integrating physical activities that help calm the mind and keep the body active. Here are 5 physical activities that benefit health and sobriety.
One: Walking Or Running
One of the simplest and most effective physical exercises that people can do is walking, or running if they feel like they are already in good shape. The great thing about walking is that it can be done by anyone no matter where they are located.
It’s free and doesn’t need any equipment or require any training. People can also vary the location of their walks, such as hiking on a nature trail or forest. Besides keeping a person in shape, it will lower the risk of heart disease and will help clear the mind. And when someone gets into the regular routine of walking, it helps add structure into their lives.
Yoga has been noted as being particularly effective in helping break the addiction patterns that the brain forms. Yoga increases body awareness and helps a recovering addict connect with the body in a more intimate way, through breathing and guided exercises. Yoga can help someone learn how to manage their emotional stasis and discover how strong and powerful their body actually is.
Three: Painting Or Drawing
In this day and age, when most people are glued to their smartphone or tablet, the physical act of drawing and painting can be incredibly therapeutic. The value of using one’s hands to create something is underrated and can have a calming and healing effect on a person. When someone in recovery paints or draws it’s not about creating the finished piece, but accessing the creative and happy part of the mind that probably had previously been lying dormant.
Four: Building Something
Likewise building something can help stimulate the mind in a way that it hasn’t been before. And it doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be complicated, unless someone has previous experience. It can be as simple as building a wall hanging or folding origami or constructing a simple piece of furniture, but the act of building something creates an innate sense of satisfaction and helps build self-esteem.
And in a more abstract sense, building something can even mean planting a garden or landscaping a yard. Overall it means just putting time and energy into a project and creating something.
If someone is lucky enough to be near water, whether a public pool or beach, then swimming is an amazing physical activity to take part in. Easier on the body than almost any other form of exercise, it nonetheless has great cardiovascular benefits, and helps a person feel stronger and happier. Being in the water is always an enjoyable and satisfying workout, where a person utilizes all parts of the body during swimming.
And like walking or yoga, regularly scheduling swimming sessions will help add structure to a person’s life. And by incorporating exercise on a regular basis, over the long-term the individual will look better, and be stronger mentally and emotionally. Exercise is an essential part of finding a holistic balance in one’s life. People can learn to interact with their bodies in kind, compassionate, and nurturing ways.
photo credit: Alexandra Huang
Parents may have a hard time understanding and communicating with their teenage kids. This relationship becomes more strained if their kid has become an addict, and they don’t know how to approach the issue, or how to find the proper help. It’s a delicate situation, because parents don’t want to completely alienate their kid, but also know how dangerous an addiction can be if it doesn’t get treated.
They should make every effort possible to ensure that their kids get help, but while doing so here are some things they should understand about addiction and how to deal find effective addiction treatment.
One: Addiction Isn’t About Being Weak
Parents should remember that addiction is considered a disease by many, and it isn’t about their kids being weak or bad people. The issue is more complex than that, so parents should try not to approach their children in an accusatory or highly emotional manner.
By understanding that addiction is a disease and that their children are still fundamentally good people with a serious problem, it can help facilitate a better understanding between parent and child.
Two: Figure Out If You Are An Enabler
Unfortunately parents may unintentionally be enablers for their children’s addictions. Whether it’s taking part in unhealthy activities and setting a bad example for kids, not spending enough time with them, or not monitoring their activity, parents can enable destructive behavior in their children. And parents should be brutally honest with themselves also, if they have any issues with addiction themselves.
Three: Study Any History Of Addiction In The Family
Many times a kid who develops problems with addiction at an early age comes from a family where the issue runs in the family, particularly when it comes to alcoholism. Genetics can contribute to someone’s propensity to abuse drugs and alcohol, and this should be taken into consideration when dealing with a kid. It should be something that is addressed, because perhaps the kid doesn’t even know that the pattern of addiction is being continued.
Four: Seek Family Counseling For Everyone
And most importantly, especially if a family has a history of addiction, family counseling should be sought for everyone to give the kid the best possible chance at long-term recovery. A healthy and functioning family-unit is essential to the success of an individual’s long-term recovery. And by agreeing to go to counseling also shows the kid that everyone is trying to work together to help the issue.
Five: Try To Have Regular Family Activities
Sometimes kids want to spend more time with their parents, but don’t know how to ask. Parents can often be busy with work and running a household and not realize that they and their children are starting to drift apart. When dealing with a son or daughter who has an addiction problem it’s important to try to get to know them again, and re-connect with them to find out what they’re thinking about, what is troubling them, and why they are turning to drugs or alcohol. This can go a long way towards re-establishing the familial bonds again so that the individual who is suffering from addiction can start moving forward in a more positive way.
Teenagers often turn to drugs or alcohol because they feel lost or neglected, and use the substances to try to escape or numb their feelings. When parents are trying to deal with a teenager who has these issues, it’s important for them to first research what causes addiction, self-reflect on family issues that may have facilitated the addiction, and to reach out to their children in a non-accusatory way and start re-connecting with them. By doing these things, parents can steer the future of their teenager in the right direction.
photo credit: mac
People who are struggling with addiction are used to abusing their bodies. They also have fallen into an unhealthy lifestyle based around their addiction of choice. A big part of recovery from addiction is learning how to live a healthy lifestyle, so that a person becomes strong enough not to relapse into old and potentially life-threatening habits.
A healthy lifestyle revolves around nurturing the body, and understanding the saying “you are what you eat.” Balanced nutrition is extremely important for someone in recovery to have so that they can learn how to take care of themselves in a positive way.
One of the big benefits of a balanced diet is that the addict in recovery is learning how to feel in control of life again. When someone is an addict, they are a slave to their addiction and allow it to run their lives. But by learning how to have a healthy balanced diet, they are taking control of their own lives and their destinies.
They are learning how to cook healthy meals that make them feel good, combating weight gain, and keeping busy learning new skills and nutritional knowledge that they might not have had before. This can help circumvent some of the cravings that they will have to combat.
Balanced Nutrition Leads To A Balanced Life
One of the most important life lessons a recovering addict has to learn is how to live a balanced life. Previously, the addict’s life had been spiraling out of control and was wildly unbalanced with the addiction taking center stage. But in recovery a healthy balance needs to be achieved in all aspects of an individual’s life to have the best chance at achieving long-term recovery, learning how to navigate life without feeling the need to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
And at the center of holistic healing, which is often integrated into inpatient rehab centers, is the idea of keeping a person’s energy balanced. And when someone is eating a balanced, healthy diet this contributes tremendously to a positive lifestyle, because the food is the fuel the body depends on every day.
Focus On Replenishing The Body
When addicts first enter rehab, their bodies are still recovering from detox and need to be nurtured and replenished. The body needs to heal, and a healthy diet is essential to the body growing strong and healthy again. Even more so than the diet, is the awareness a person imbues in one’s life to heal and replenish the body.
These mental affirmations, a long with the balanced nutrition to go a long with it, will help a person both spiritually and physically to replenish themselves after reaching their lowest point. Foods that are especially healthy for recovering addicts to eat are:
- Fresh fruit
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
These foods will help replenish the serotonin in a person’s body, which has been depleted of because of previous abuse from addiction. Fruits and vegetables also have antioxidants and will help revitalize a body that has been previously abused. People who do this will start feeling happier, healthier, and stronger emotionally and physically.
And perhaps most of all, learning how to eat a balanced diet will equip an individual with lifelong tools needed to battle addiction. Recovering from addiction is a journey, and even people who have achieved long-term sobriety warn that no one can be completely cured and it’s a journey. Of course you’ll need to exercise as part of your recovery, to maximize the benefits gained from proper nutrition.
One of the most important parts of the journey is learning how to nourish the body in different ways, and by eating healthily and making that commitment, a person will be more equipped to achieve long-term sobriety.
photo credit: Justinegal3191
With rising rates of addiction and overdose deaths related to prescription drugs, there is growing concern about how to handle medication provided to patients. In the past twenty years, deaths from unintentional drug overdoses have increased by over 500% and the majority of this increase is due to prescription painkillers. The reality is that most of these prescription drugs are coming from well-intentioned doctors who are providing medication for pain.
Physicians may not have enough training to identify warning signs of addiction in their patients and are failing to exercise the necessary caution in providing prescriptions. Unfortunately, doctors are at least partially to blame for the increase in prescription drug addiction; even those who are typically conscientious and respected in the medical community.
How Physicians Contributed to Growing Rates of Addiction
One of the reasons that the use of prescription pain killers has increased so much since the 1990s is due to a shift in the management of pain for patients. In the past, some patients suffering from pain were not treated properly or were unable to receive help for their problems with pain. In an effort to redress this issue, doctors were taught to ask patients their level of pain and prescribe medication accordingly. At the time the belief was that painkillers were not addictive for patients with legitimate pain problems. Drug companies were also pushing for the use of more opoids like oxycodone which was framed as a safer alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
This shift in the treatment of pain ended up becoming a problem as doctors began to over-prescribe these drugs to patients. The amount of opoid narcotics prescribed by doctors has more than tripled and the drugs are even provided for children. Additionally the number of prescriptions written for drugs to help with opiate addiction like Buprenorphine has also risen. Doctors are also now more likely to diagnose people with chronic pain than ever before and patients often develop a tolerance, requiring more opoids to be pain-free.
One of the biggest groups of those involved in prescription drug abuse is teens and young adults. Among teenagers, painkillers are the most commonly abused drugs after tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Most of the individuals in this group do not take medication for legitimate pain but have access through their parents or peers that have a prescription. For older age groups however, most are prescribed medication following a serious injury or surgery for their pain. They can quickly develop an addiction even though they are not abusing the drugs or taking them for non-medical reasons.
Solutions to Stop and Prevent Addiction
In order to cope with the growing crisis of prescription drug addiction, doctors need to be more aware of the potential of opoid painkillers to become addictive. Physicians must scale back on prescribing opoids for acute pain as much as possible and start off with high doses of ibuprofen instead. Prescriptions for opoid drugs should be limited and filled only if absolutely necessary. If any opoids are prescribed it is necessary for doctors to provide patients with a warning and explanation of the potential they have to be addictive. Patients must be well-informed about the risks involved with taking prescription opoids and understand how addictive they can be even with short-term use.
Another important missing element is specialized training for doctors to have a better understanding of addiction. Physicians need mandatory education and training in the diagnosis and treatment of addictive disease with emphasis on prescription drugs. If doctors are unable to identify the signs of addiction then they might continue providing medication to patients that are abusing the drugs. An effort must be made on the part of physicians to stop prescription drug abuse and be responsible for preventing addiction.
photo credit: CDC
A new medication for treating heroin addiction known as buprenorphine has grown in popularity due to its effectiveness at cutting cravings. For many people struggling with heroin addiction, buprenorphine seems like the new answer that could help them get through the difficult period of detox and relieve their withdrawal symptoms.
A lot of doctors are beginning to see the advantages of treating patients with buprenorphine rather than methadone and patients are also seeking out this medication because of its positive results. A major problem with this new medication, however, is the limited access that doctors and patients have to buprenorphine because of certain restrictions. Senators in Washington are questioning the restrictions and are hoping to increase access for the benefit of heroin abusers in recovery.
How Buprenorphine Can Help Heroin Addicts
Many heroin addicts receiving treatment in a detox center find methadone to be ineffective at getting rid of their cravings. These patients tend to respond better to buprenorphine and feel more stable without an intense desire to use again. Opiate use has been a growing problem in the U.S. with about 14.6 million Americans using either illegal drugs like heroin or prescribed painkillers. Overdose deaths have become an epidemic with the number of deaths related to opiate abuse surpassing automobile accidents.
Buprenorphine is relatively new but has proven to be helpful for the growing number of people seeking recovery from their addiction. The medication is a partial opiate, meaning it bonds with people’s opoid receptors for over a day so that other opiates like heroin cannot access them. Taking buprenorphine basically prevents patients from getting high off of heroin. The medication also works to cut cravings dramatically, eliminate the physical illness associated with withdrawal and normalize brain functioning. If it is taken in the initial phases of detox and supplemented with counseling and rehab treatment it can help patients manage addiction and maintain sobriety.
Treatment Using Medication
When opiate abusers begin using buprenorphine they can start to stabilize their lives and can focus on their other treatment services. Not having to deal with painful cravings can help addicts become more successful in their rehab programs. Once they have begun working on their addiction problems they can start to taper down their dosage with the help of their treatment center.
Treatment counselors are often cautious about decreasing the dosage of the medicine too quickly and some people may stay on medication like buprenorphine for years. However, there are numerous success stories of heroin addicts that were able to reach a state of permanent sobriety due to their use of medication. Doctors say that the medication is typically safe to use but there have been cases of abuse and overdose. The positive effects seem to outweigh the problems with a recent study in Baltimore showing medication to decrease fatal overdose by 50 percent.
If more patients had access to medication like buprenorphine then doctors could save the lives of many more addicts. Unfortunately, medication assisted therapies are only offered in less than half of all private sector treatment programs. Many treatment centers work on an abstinence-only model for heroin recovery but some facilities are expanding their use of buprenorphine because of its greater success rates.
As data continues to show better patient experiences with the use of medication it is likely that treatment centers will begin to change their attitudes on abstinence-only models. Many users of buprenorphine report that it helps them feel normal again immediately and more able to engage with other people and improve their relationships. If some of the restrictions limiting access to this medication were removed it could be a great help to heroin addicts seeking recovery.
photo credit: dnews13
Not all addicts begin using drugs with the intention of abusing them. There are a growing number of people in the U.S. becoming “accidental addicts”- patients who are prescribed addictive pain or anxiety medication and end up becoming physically dependent. While the stereotypical image of an addict is someone who intentionally seeks out illegal substances, there are now groups of people who suffer from an addiction that occurred as a result of medical advice.
These are often middle class, well-educated and successful Americans with families that are coping with a secret drug addiction. They may be educated professionally but lack an education on addiction. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who are addicted to prescription medication that they never set out to abuse.
Pain Medication and Addiction
The common story that seems to be the thread with people who become “accidental addicts” is a trip to the doctor for problems with pain or anxiety. They may have recently had surgery and are dealing with pain or have stressful thoughts and feelings that interfere with their daily life. The doctor will prescribe them medication based on the patient’s self-reported level of pain or anxiety. A physician will often prescribe some kind of opiate for pain relief or management like Vicodin, Percocet or Oxycontin that can quickly become habit-forming.
Patients are also prescribed medications for anxiety like Xanax which can be effective for people with symptoms of panic disorder but is also known to be highly addictive. With the increase in the number of pain-pill prescriptions has also come an overwhelming increase in cases of prescription addiction. In 1990, there were 75 million opiate descriptions written in the U.S. and today there are more than 210 million. It is no surprise then that more people are dealing with issues of prescription drug abuse and accidental addiction.
Physicians Fail to Warn Patients
Patients are often prescribed dangerous medications like Vicodin or Xanax with little warning of the addictive nature of the substances. People can quickly develop a tolerance to the drugs and begin to need increasingly larger amounts to gain the same effect that they had initially. Eventually patients cease taking the medication for their prescribed purposes but because they have developed a serious addiction.
The issue that contributes most to this problem is the failure of physicians to adequately warn patients of the addictive nature of the medication they are prescribing. Doctors may only receive minimal training in addiction education and are not fully aware of the potential that so many patients have to develop a dependency on opiates and anxiety medication.
Risk Factors for Accidental Addiction
There are certain vulnerabilities in patients that doctors may fail to identify when prescribing them pain killers. “Accidental addicts” often have underlying issues such as mental health problems, childhood issues, trauma or certain sensitivities to addiction. Parents and especially mothers that are over-stressed and dealing with a lot of pressure may discover a feeling of relaxation and escape when they take these kinds of medications.
These kinds of addicts may show warning signs of their addiction by struggling to hide their habit from children and other family members. They might also meet with multiple doctors to get several prescriptions of their medications. It is important for these addicts to receive the same type of addiction treatment and professional help that any other addict would need to recover. In many cases, people addicted to prescription pills are physically dependent on their medication and can still struggle with a sense of denial about their problem.
Their underlying issues that may have influenced their addiction can also make it more difficult for them to quit. With recovery treatment for a prescription addiction, “accidental addicts” can get the assistance they need to become sober again
photo credit: Luis Rosado
There is no question that women and men have a number of physiological differences when it comes to the development and progression of addiction. Alcohol and other drugs affect women and men differently and can ultimately impact the way that they recover from their substance abuse problems. Neither gender seems to recover more quickly or easily, but the path that each takes throughout the journey to sobriety is slightly different.
The experience of drug use and addiction varies greatly between men and women who have physical, psychological and emotional differences that factor into their dependency. As the number of women suffering from alcohol and drug abuse continues to grow it is important to look into these differences to improve the recovery process for them and attend to their specific needs.
Gender Differences In Addiction
Historically, addiction is a problem that is much more prevalent for men than women. Even in today’s world, men are twice as likely as women to become addicted to drugs or alcohol except in the case of prescription drugs which is about equal. When it comes to alcohol abuse the rates of addiction can be as much as three times greater for men. In spite of these numbers, the amount of women seeking recovery for alcohol or drug addiction has been on the rise in recent years. Although addiction is more prevalent for men, it remains a significant problem for women who are struggling with a dependency.
The reasons that men and women tend to gravitate toward drug abuse can also differ. Men may use drugs to amplify positive moods and cope with social problems while women may use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their emotional and psychological issues. Studies show that women are more likely to have issues like depression, anxiety or eating disorders which can contribute to their risk of developing an addiction. Stress factors such as relationships, childhood trauma, and victimization can also be serious risk factors for women who begin engaging in substance abuse.
Challenges in Recovery
When it comes to addiction recovery, women are actually less likely to seek help for their substance abuse problems than men. This can be due to the social stigma that is associated with being a female alcoholic along with practical concerns such as cost, child-care arrangements and responsibilities at work and home. It can also be more dangerous for women to wait too long to seek treatment for their addiction. The stages of alcoholism and drug abuse tend to progress more rapidly for women and the effects on their body are more severe. If a woman waits until she hits rock bottom to get help for her addiction then it may already be too late.
When women and men are in the process of recovery they may have to experience different barriers and obstacles to overcome. Women more often must deal with symptoms of depression that can represent a major challenge in their recovery. They may also have more issues with self-judgment and a critical inner voice that can make it difficult to fight cravings.
Once women and men reach the stages of recovery in a treatment center, they can both be equally successful in their attempts to become sober. They both have similar rates of abstinence and relapse making them about the same as far as their ability to recover. Women, however, tend to have shorter relapse periods and a greater willingness to seek help after a relapse. When given treatment for their specific needs such as group therapy or treatment for mental disorders, women can be as successful as men in recovery. Each gender may have certain needs in their recovery but both can become sober and avoid relapse with the right kind of treatment.
photo credit: yong
Recovering from addiction is often a difficult and heart-breaking process for everyone involved. Depending on the severity of their addiction, substance abusers may have to return to rehab treatment several times before finally becoming sober for good. The treatment approach for many decades has focused mainly on 12 step programs and a medication-free recovery. Now doctors and scientists are beginning to change their views of addiction therapy and push for more recognition of addiction as a disease that can be treated through medical approaches. In the past, addiction has been considered a behavioral problem rather than a medical problem but there have been significant changes in the view of addiction and methods of treatment in recent years.
Medical Treatment for Addiction
In only the last couple of years a top addiction society officially declared addiction a “brain disorder” that could be treated by doctors as well as addiction specialists. Medical schools can now offer a specialty substance abuse training program for doctors to be able to treat people suffering from addiction. The government has also created new resources to help guide patients, families and doctors toward science-based addiction treatment and there have been more developments in medication to treat addiction. Now instead of being viewed as a moral failing of the individual, addiction is considered more of a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated.
Addiction Treatment in the Past
Addiction is a significant problem in the U.S. with about 21 million Americans suffering from a substance abuse disorder for which they need special recovery treatment. There are more deaths caused by drug overdoses than traffic accidents in America. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans who are addicted to drugs other than nicotine do not receive treatment. Most of those people who do receive addiction treatment are provided help by programs that are not proven to be effective and are run by people with no medical training. The most popular recovery programs using the 12 step method do not have enough solid data to show their effectiveness. The history of the recovery movement of the past 20 years shows that addicts were shunned by the medical establishment and were forced to receive help outside of it. This is why most drug abuse treatment has been developed outside of mainstream medicine and fails to prove its effectiveness.
More Effective Treatment for Addiction
Over time, laboratory science has revealed addiction to be a true medical problem involving serious brain alterations caused by drug use. Alcohol can alter brain circuitry and most drugs affect the brain’s ability to produce normal levels of dopamine. Even after abstaining from drug use for a period of time, the brain of an addict can often fail to return to normal. Addicts must cope with severe mood swings and intense cravings or urges to use again. These types of brain changes make addiction a disease that should also be treated medically rather than simply through behavioral therapy. Addiction often proves to be a chronic disorder that requires multiple rounds of therapy and treatment to reduce the risk of relapse.
The most significant contributions to addiction treatment have been the development of medications used for treating substance abuse such as methadone for heroin or Antabuse for alcoholism. The future of addiction treatment will most likely involve more medications that can work effectively and be obtained through medical treatment. This type of medical treatment should be incorporated with the therapy available through existing substance abuse treatment centers. Drugs that can reduce cravings and prevent relapse are now becoming a key element in addiction treatment. The biggest changes in addiction treatment have come because of the shift in the view of addiction as a medical disease rather than a social or behavioral issue.
photo credit: lindslu