The modern recovery moment traces its origins to Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1939. Over that long period, science has made many advances in understanding the nature of addiction and different ideas of how to treat it. Even as the motivation and need for sobriety has remained unchanged, there are new and innovative methods for accomplishing these goals. Here are some of the recent innovative ideas that are affecting how addiction and treatment is understood.
A push for integration between the worlds of medicine and recovery
Scientific research, particularly in how an addict’s mind and body operates, has led to a shift away from understanding addiction as a moral failure, or something requiring stronger will power, to an illness requiring medical treatment. In light of this, it is a disturbing reality that most people with the illness of addiction do not get needed medical care. According to a report from the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, while 80 percent of people who have high blood pressure get medical attention, only about 10 percent of people with addiction are receiving evidence-based treatment.
Many medical doctors are unaware of the reality of addiction, and many people in the recovery movement have very little medical training. Thus, there is a need for addiction medicine to come more in line with medical practice. This means that doctors and other health care providers are becoming need to be made more aware of the issues of substance abuse, learning to test for and diagnose addiction the way they would for any other illness.
A realization that care should be long-term based, and not one-size-fits all
A week or month long stay in a rehab center can do some good helping you get over the initial problems of withdraw, a serious substance abuse problem cannot be “fixed” in such a short period of time. With just one short-term program, it can be easy to relapse as you settle back into a life otherwise unchanged. Recovery should rather be thought of as a long-term process, spread out over months or even years.
Treatment for addiction should be individualized and long-term, responding to your unique needs and caring for you as a whole person, focusing on the biological, emotional, and social challenges of withdraw and sobriety. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy can be a useful way of dealing with root causes, and this is sometimes combined with medications that can lessen withdraw and addiction symptoms. This may also involve the input of a social worker to address living conditions that precipitate addiction. In short, addition counselors are working to make use of a variety of perspectives to get a full picture of a person’s individualized needs, and adjust their program based on which available options will work.
A shift away from merely solving the “negative” issue of getting rid of the addiction, towards a “positive” push towards living a full, sober life
The positive psychology movement of Carl Rogers has led to a shift away from therapists only thinking about people needed treatment as people with problems that need solving. Rather, the important thing is to help all people reach a state of self-actualization, in which an individual is aware of what he or she wants out of life and how to strive for it. In this way of thinking it is not enough merely to understand sobriety as a way of life that avoids substance abuse. Rather, we should look at what can motivate the person to replace addiction with a healthier lifestyle.
The emphasis should be on empowering the individual to work towards something positive, not merely avoiding an addictive substance. While traditionally addiction has been understood primarily as a moral, medical, spiritual, social, or psychological issue, contemporary ways of dealing with the issue integrate all these areas, using a variety of “lenses” to determine how an addict can feel like a whole person again.