Addiction treatment must be tailored to the individual addict as no single addiction treatment works for every patient. Addiction recovery is dependent on many factors: the motivation of the addict, the choice of addiction treatment and counseling, the support of family and friends and the duration of the treatment.
Addiction Treatment Duration: The Three Month Factor
Time is an important factor in addiction recovery. One of the greatest barriers to successful treatment occurs if the addict leaves treatment too soon. Some people, for instance, make the mistake of confusing a detoxification program with addiction recovery. Detoxification is not an addiction treatment, it is designed solely to rid the addict’s body of the abused substance.
Addiction recovery requires a much longer treatment period. Experts have concluded that any addiction treatment lasting less than ninety days has no real effect on recovery. Often, successful addiction recovery requires a follow-up treatment plan.
Availability of Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment must be easily available to the addict. Addicts often have limited financial resources and so may be unable to travel or pay for addiction treatment programs.
Addiction recovery is constantly threatened by the possibility of relapse. When confronted with a relapse, or the temptation to give in to relapse, an addict has to be able to contact the addiction treatment center, or some form of support, as quickly as possible. For this reason, some of the most effective addiction recovery programs are located close to the addict’s residence or neighborhood.
Addiction Treatment Must Treat the Whole Addict
All too often drug addiction is only one of many problems facing an addict. Unemployment, relationship difficulties and legal problems often interfere with addiction recovery. Treatment may be further complicated by health problems, either drug-related or independent of the addiction. Risky behavior related to drug use must also be assessed and treated: Many addicts, for instance, engage in risky sexual behavior, and must learn safer sex practices.
Addiction treatment that ignores secondary difficulties is rarely effective for an addict. A holistic approach is required, providing the addict with opportunities to resolve health complications and social difficulties as part of their addiction recovery.
Multiple Approaches to Addiction Treatment
No single addiction treatment works for every addict. In fact, addiction recovery often requires a multi-treatment approach. Counseling coupled with addiction medications, when possible, works better than either treatment alone. Social support, whether from family, friends, or a 12-step program, is a vital ingredient for addiction recovery and should be part of any addiction recovery program.
Counseling, medication and support systems have to be closely monitored and adjusted during long-term addiction treatment. A counseling therapy that works in the early days of treatment may have to be modified over the course of addiction recovery. A 12-step program, while often used for addiction recovery, may eventually be replaced with family support as the addict rebuilds relationships damaged by drug abuse.
Relapses Do Not Indicate Failure
Relapses are common during addiction treatment and recovery, and may convince the addict that treatment has failed. This is not the case. If, or when, relapse occurs, the addict must continue addiction treatment in order to stop abusing the drug as quickly as possible. Addiction recovery is not an even road: Many addicts experience relapses, and often require multiple treatments to overcome recurring relapses.
A relapse after months of addiction recovery is not a failure; it is a setback. A relapse does not negate the drug-free days prior to the relapse. Those days are opportunities to mend relationships with families and improve one’s quality of life. Ideally, drug-free periods and addiction treatment give the addict the motivation to resist a relapse or, failing that, to find the motivation to restart treatment after a relapse.
Addiction Treatment Does Not Require a Willing Patient
Two of the myths associated with addiction treatment and recovery are that the addict must first hit rock-bottom before successful treatment is possible, and that the addict must recognize that he or she has a problem and seek treatment independently.
This is not the case. Many successful addiction recoveries begin when the addict is forced into treatment, either by family, employers or the courts. Addicts with children may be required to undergo treatment as a condition for regaining custody of their children.
Assuming that addicts do have to hit rock bottom is dangerous. The risk of serious injury or death is simply too great to hope that an addict accepts his or her own need for addiction treatment.
If you’re considering intervening and suggesting treatment to an addict, consult a health care professional first. He or she will have suggestions and resources that will help you make the best case for addiction treatment and recovery, and may even be willing to be part of the intervention. Be especially careful with an addict who displays violent or erratic behavior: You may need help from law enforcement officials to initiate treatment.
American Academy of Family Physicians. (update 2004, August). Substance abuse: What it is and how to quit.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (updated 2005). Drug addiction treatment methods. NIDA InfoFacts.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (1999, November). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide [NIH Publication No. 99-4180].