Anyone can experience addiction, but no two people experience it the same way.
Over the past two decades, addiction treatment has rapidly evolved to a sophisticated science integrating cutting-edge medical research with time-honored 12-step wisdom. Advances in brain imaging technologies have given us new insight into the nature of addiction, insight that has fundamentally changed the way addiction is viewed by the public and approached by the recovery community. The best treatment programs are no longer shaped around outdated understandings of addiction as a character flaw, but developed in response to the concept of addiction as a chronic brain disorder. Simultaneously, we are beginning to understand how to better harness the potential of therapies to create successful interventions for people seeking recovery. This growing body of knowledge has led to the development and use of new pharmacological therapies, psychotherapies, and experiential therapies proven to reduce cravings and relapse while getting at the core of addiction.
But what we have also learned is that treatment should not look the same way for everyone, and paving of each person’s road to recovery shouldn’t solely be the responsibility of the professionals. To ensure that your care is truly tailored to your needs and desires, it is critical that you take an active role in your addiction treatment plan.
What Successful Addiction Treatment Looks Like
Successful addiction treatment can appear to be an enigma, particularly at a time when we are experiencing a crisis of addiction throughout the country. While it’s true that addiction treatment is complex, the primary struggle we are facing is not that excellent treatment does not exist, but that it is so rarely available that many people struggle to identify high-quality programs.
So how do you identify excellent treatment? According to a resource guide published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):, high-quality addiction treatment programs work from a defined set of principles, including:
Addiction is a Treatable Illness
Treatment programs must approach addiction as a chronic brain disorder that can be treated with the right types of interventions. Unfortunately, many treatment programs continue to work from outdated understandings of addiction as a character flaw, using punitive and ineffective approaches that ultimately prolong suffering. A high-quality treatment program rejects these approaches, replacing them with empirically supported, medically sound therapies that draw on the latest research to produce the best outcomes.
Effective Treatment is Holistic Treatment
Treatment must seek to treat the whole person, not just the addiction. This means addressing both the roots and effects of addiction, including co-occurring mental health disorders, physical health ailments, interpersonal conflicts, and professional difficulties. This holistic approach is critical to ensuring that the full spectrum of your needs is met, reducing risk of relapse and ultimately helping you create a richer life for yourself.
Duration of Treatment Matters
Despite the popularity of 30-day treatment programs, the duration of treatment must be tailored to your specific needs and must often extend far beyond 30 days. “Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment.” As such, your treatment program should offer programming of various lengths, including 90+ day stays, to account for the variable needs of clients.
Medications Are Invaluable
Dedicated relapse prevention medications do not exist for all types of addiction. But when relapse prevention medications are available, they should ideally be integrated in your treatment plan in order to ease or prevent withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapse. Use of medications like naltrexone, buprenorphine, disulfiram, antidepressants, and antipsychotics are not shortcuts to healing, but often a necessary part of it. It is imperative that your treatment program is licensed and staffed by medical professionals who can prescribe and monitor appropriate medications.
Treatment Must Be Dynamic
Recovery is an ever-evolving process and your needs may change throughout the course of treatment. Continually monitoring, re-assessing, and modifying treatment is vital to ensuring that treatment continues to meet your changing needs.
These principles represent the basic building blocks of successful addiction treatment. But they don’t tell the whole story.
Participating in Your Addiction Treatment Plan
One of the most important principles of high-quality treatment is the belief that treatment must be customized each person’s needs. As NIDA’s resource guide explains:
Treatment varies depending on the type of drug and the characteristics of the patient. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society.
To truly customize treatment, your care must be client-centered; in other words, it must be designed around your individual situation, addressing your needs and wants by drawing on your unique strengths. Your participation in crafting your addiction treatment plan is, therefore, an essential component of your recovery.
Participating in treatment planning means that you have the opportunity to shape your treatment according to what you identify as your needs; after all, your experience with addiction is not like anyone else’s, and what works for someone else may fail to bring you to a place of recovery. It is critical that your care is crafted and delivered in a way that is meaningful to you and allows you to fully engage in the healing process to make profound and lasting changes. Your involvement in treatment planning ensures that you receive the care you need to meet your personal goals using modalities and approaches that make sense for you.
Taking Back Control
But participating in the creation of your treatment plan also does something else: it makes you an agent of change in your own life. After all, you are not simply a passive patient receiving treatment, you are doing treatment. Having ownership of your own recovery can be a new and powerful experience for people who have become accustomed to being at the mercy of addiction. By taking part in your addiction treatment plan, you are reclaiming control of your life and making thoughtful, conscious decisions about how you can move forward to find freedom.
If you are ready to seek treatment, it is vital that the program you choose not only adheres to the principles of successful treatment, but invites you to be an active participant in treatment planning. Your relationship with your treatment provider should be a partnership in which you work hand-in-hand to create a strong foundation not only for sobriety, but ongoing personal growth, stability, and fulfillment. In doing so, you can ensure that your treatment experience is meaningful, relevant, and transformative, giving you the tools you need to create true and lasting change.
Alta Mira offers a comprehensive suite of treatment programs for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to sustainable recovery.
Image source: Unsplash user Aidan Meyer