Addiction is claiming lives daily in the U.S. and abroad, regardless of age, ethnic background and gender. It has been declared a public health emergency whose end remains to be seen.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports (NIDA) there was a 3.1-fold increase in the total number of national overdose deaths between 2002 and 2017.The opioid epidemic, which plays a significant role in the number of overdoses, claims more than 100 lives a day by itself, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The agency also has reported that nearly 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, an increase of almost 22 percent from 2015 reports.
As Anne Schuchat, M.D., the CDC’s principal deputy director, told ABC News earlier in 2018, “No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic – we all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids.”
It is clear that professional addiction treatment is the sure route to go for many who want to break free of the hold that drugs and alcohol have on them. Fear and denial make it difficult for many to commit to entering a program that could save their lives, and judgments from others, whether family or strangers, also make the option of getting treatment a hard one to consider.
But if it is the right step for you or your loved one, then there are many addiction specialists, medical professionals, and a supportive recovery community that can welcome you to work toward changing your life and leaving addiction behind for good.
NIDA asserts that an effective treatment program can help people overcome addiction. Before that can happen, one must be willing to step into their recovery and be willing to work to make a needed change.
What Is Addiction?
Defining addiction is not an easy thing to do, but it’s a good place to start when trying to understand the millions of people who have this condition. There are many stigmas and stereotypes about substance addiction. These can be harmful as they deter many people from seeking help for substance use that has reached the point of dependence or addiction. Let’s first look at what addiction is.
Scientific study about addiction has evolved over time and is still being studied today. Having an addiction was once linked to having a moral defect of character or a lack of a commitment to follow through to end the abuse of substances. Scientists and researchers now focus more on the brain’s response to addiction and the behavior that results from chronic use of addictive substances.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine offers two definitions of addiction. Its short definition says that addiction is “the primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestation. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also has weighed in on its definition of addiction, which says it is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.”
It also adds, “Addiction occurs when a person cannot control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences—the defining characteristic of addiction.”
Some people view addiction as not a brain disease but a series of repeated habits that change how the brain works. While there is some disagreement on what addiction is, there is a general consensus that stigmas, or views that do not promote education and understanding about addictive disorders, only serve as barriers to treatment for people who need addiction recovery.
The gradual acceptance that addiction is a disease has come a long way from how it was once viewed. Nearly a century ago, it was thought that lack of willpower or interest was the main reasons people fail to break the pull that substances have on them. Science now supports that addiction is a physical and psychological disease that affects the brain, the body, and one’s behavior.
The Causes Of Addiction
It is not easy to pinpoint one specific cause or reason that addiction occurs. It’s an individual thing, and many factors come into play in who will develop a psychological dependence on a drug. Many people abuse drugs and alcohol, but not everyone will become addicted to them. The risk factors involved include:
A genetic predisposition to addiction “results from specific genetic variations that are often inherited from a parent,” writes the U.S. National Library of Science. “These genetic changes contribute to the development of a disease but do not directly cause it. Some people with a predisposing genetic variation will never get the disease while others will, even within the same family.”
Brain characteristics are unique to each person. These differences mean someone is more vulnerable to becoming addicted to certain substances than others.
Psychological factors also vary according to the person. Some of these factors include stress, depression, and anxiety. Personality traits, such as risk-seeking, or disorders involving eating and other psychiatric disorders also can make some people susceptible to addiction.
These include settings where one is exposed to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or trauma, substance use or addiction in the family or among peers, access to an addictive substance; exposure to popular culture references that encourage substance use).
Early Start To Substance Abuse
Some people start abusing substances when they are still in the middle-school and high-school ages. Some may event start at younger ages. adolescents and teens, even young children, can abuse alcohol, nicotine or other drug use at a young age or early life stage.
Signs Of Addiction
Many people who abuse substances and are addicted to them can hide their problem for some time. Some people are better at hiding it than others, but there are signs and ways to tell if someone has a substance use disorder.
Among them are:
- Strong cravings for drugs and alcohol
- Intense focus on obtaining/using substances
- Strong need to use an addictive substance(s)
- Spending excessive money on a substance
- High drug tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Turning to addictive substances to cope
- Exhibiting high-risk behaviors
- Feeling unable to stop using despite earlier attempts
- Continuing to use despite the negative consequences
- Engaging in “doctor shopping,” or illegal behavior
- Social isolation, hiding habit from friends, family
- Spending recklessly on drugs, alcohol
All of these signs that substance abuse and addiction are affecting one’s life and well being. Getting professional addiction treatment is the next step.
What Is Addiction Treatment?
The words “addiction treatment” may bring all kinds of images to mind, such as a detox in a bleak hospital room or an extended stay in a facility that looks more like a prison than a place of healing. Neither of these scenarios actually capture what addiction treatment looks like. That’s because it depends on the place and the kind of treatment administered.
Addiction treatment comprises behavioral therapies and pharmacological approaches that are used to deter people from using harmful, addictive substances and help them live the life they want without the drugs and alcohol. The term “treatment” can apply to the various substances people abuse and it can take place in different environments with different arrangements in place. Much depends on who the treatment program has been designed for. Whatever the final program is, it should first and foremost address the individual’s needs on all levels–physical, psychological, emotional and social needs–so they can address their substance abuse issues as honestly and effectively as possible.
Why Is Addiction Treatment Necessary?
Recreational drug use often leads to addiction when the person uses over and over again to get high. This happens when dopamine floods the brain and activates the reward center, which is responsible for pleasurable feelings. Addictive substances change the structure and function of the brain. The longer one uses, the more the effects of drug use take over. Frequent drug users will eventually show impaired judgment, learning problems, memory problems, and more. The longer the abuse goes on, the higher the chance that damage to the brain and body become irreversible.
People who attempt to stop on their own may find themselves trying multiple times to stop without success. For many, the destructive cycle can be broken only through professional addiction treatment.
Treatment involves a series of steps before a person is placed in a setting for recovery. They are:
Clients typically complete a medical detoxification (detox for short) when they enter into professional addiction treatment. Drug withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they can be uncomfortable as well as unpredictable. Clients who are recovering from substance abuse are best served in this kind of setting because health care professionals are on hand to monitor them around around-the-clock to ensure they are kept safe and comfortable as their addictive substance(s) and toxins are removed from the body. Detox can last from three to seven days or longer, depending on the severity of the situation.
Some people who quit drugs will try to work around a medical detox handled by professionals, but at-home remedies are not foolproof and going “cold turkey” on a drug after using it for a long time isn’t recommended. Quitting drugs abruptly can lead to serious injury, relapse, overdose, or even death, especially for clients whose withdrawal symptoms are severe or life-threatening. This is especially true of withdrawals that involve opiates/opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.
Once clients are medically stable, they will be presented with treatment options that support their recovery. Addiction treatment specialists strongly recommended that recovering users enter an alcohol or drug rehab services at a licensed facility for long-term recovery.
During this stage, clients meet with medical and mental health professionals for a checkup to assess their well-being. Clients are asked questions such as:
- How long have drugs or alcohol been used?
- What, if any, are other medications taken?
- Is there a family history of addiction?
- Are there other mental/chronic health problems?
Clients also receive a complete physical examination and a urine test to determine if other health problems are present. Any mental health issues a client has is also discovered at this stage. If it is found that the person has a mental health issue present at the same time as a substance abuse disorder, dual diagnosis treatment will be recommended to encourage the client to address both disorders at the same time.
Entering a Treatment Program
After the assessment is finished, test results will be reviewed. Treatment program recommendations will be based on those initial results. Clients also are given information on what to expect during the treatment process.
Much is at stake if people don’t get the help they need. There are many supportive people and resources in place in addiction treatment, but one’s chances of having a successful recovery hinges upon their commitment and responsibility to their own sobriety.
Kinds Of Addiction Treatment Available
The options are nearly endless when trying to determine the best route to addiction recovery. Professionals are with clients every step of the way to help them figure this out. Common treatment settings operate on a continuum from the level of care with the highest intensity to the one with the lowest intensity. The addiction treatment program types are:
Inpatient treatment (which is also known as residential treatment at some centers) is a high-intensity level of care. Clients who need intensive monitoring receive detox and rehabilitation services for substance addiction in medical clinics or hospital units designed for these purposes. This treatment setting serves people with serious medical conditions and those who have mental health disorders.
Residential treatment is often recommended for clients whose addictions are moderate-to-severe and who would benefit from a structured environment that promotes a full-time focus on recovery. A residential setting provides 24-hour medical and moral support. Addiction care and medical professionals are available around the clock to help clients with their needs. These programs can run from a month to 12 months. Residents move through the program in phases and complete counseling and therapy.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
Partial hospitalization programs are ideal for people who don’t need the 24-hour supervision that comes with a residential environment but need more supervision than what an outpatient program provides. This medium-to-high-intensity setting offers four to eight hours of treatment a daily, or 20 or more weekly, while clients live at home or another off-site facility, such as transitional housing. PHP clients are required to attend intensive therapy sessions weekly. Clients with co-occurring disorders may find the PHP setting beneficial.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)
IOP clients receive between 10 hours and 20 hours of treatment weekly at a center while living off-site. It is usually medium to high in intensity and offers evening or weekend schedules so clients can take care of their personal responsibilities. This treatment setting is ideal for people who require multiple services or have accompanying medical or psychological illnesses along with a substance use disorder. IOPs also are ideal for people who require a higher level of care than outpatient treatment but need less supervision.
Outpatient Treatment (OP)
This treatment program is low to medium in intensity. Outpatient clients typically attend nine or fewer hours of treatment a week at a specialty facility while continuing to live either at home, a sober living home or another place. Some facilities offer evening or weekend outpatient services to make it easier for people to tend to personal obligations like a job or school.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Clients who are recovering from opioid or alcohol abuse (or perhaps both) undergo medication-assisted treatment, which combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). A MAT program treats substance use disorders with U.S. government-approved medications, such as Suboxone and buprenorphine. Medical staff oversees the administration of these medications in a specialized outpatient setting. Clients receive counseling and other treatment services as well.
What Happens During Treatment?
Treatment programs offer a diverse set of services to ensure various groups of people can receive what they need. The services offered depend on the treatment center itself, but here are some common ones.
Addiction Education Classes
These courses teach lessons about substance abuse and addiction and the effects that addiction can have on one’s physical and mental health and relationships. They also include relapse prevention strategies.
People who have a substance use disorder also may have a mental health disorder that also needs to be addressed. This condition is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Common mental health disorders include depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Addiction treatment for dually diagnosed people offers therapy techniques that treat symptoms of specific mental health disorders.
This kind of therapy involves a shift in thinking. Clients will be taught how to change the negative thoughts and behaviors that often accompany addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular option.
Personalized treatment for clients can help them address emotional and social issues that are specific to their situation and motivate them to change their actions.
Addiction recovery often is about more than just one person. Families are involved, too. Family therapy sessions can help everyone move forward to recovering from substance abuse.
Group therapy sessions bring together people of like mind and similar experiences. In these sessions, people learn from their peers and participate in outlets for personal growth. They also help each other get better.
Life Skills Training
As people in recovery rebuild their lives, they will need help to get started. Life skills training offers assistance in helping them achieve and maintain job skills, social skills, and communication skills. They can also receive help with working on themselves. Goal-setting, anger management, stress management, and money management are important to have in hand as people new in recovery reenter the real world.
Aftercare Or Continuing Care
Support does not stop after a treatment program ends. Recovering clients may want to join a center’s alumni group or join or continue with a 12-step group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous among many others.
Finding An Addiction Treatment Center
With 14,000-plus specialized drug treatment centers in the U.S., it’s good news that there are plenty of places that offer a new chance at sobriety after substance abuse. But with so many choices available, it also means choosing just one–the right one–just became more challenging.
Before committing to any facility, clients, their families and friends, doctors, and others are all encouraged to seek the answers by first asking questions that give clarity as to whether the center being considered is the right one.
Federal agencies offer some guidance in this area as well. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says there are five critical areas that can help prospective clients assess the quality of treatment offered at a facility. These areas are accreditation, medication, evidence-based practices, families, and supports.
- Accreditation: Has the program been licensed or certified by the state? Is the program currently in good standing in the state? Are the staff qualified? Does the program conduct satisfaction surveys? Can they show you how people using their services have rated them?
- Medication: Does the program offer FDA-approved medications for recovery from alcohol and opioid use disorders? At this point in time, there are no FDA approved medications to help to prevent relapse from other problem substances.
- Evidence‐Based Practices: Does the program offer treatments that have been proven to be effective in treating substance use disorders including medication management therapies, such as motivational therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, education about the risks of drug and alcohol use, and peer support? Does the program either provide or help to obtain medical care for physical health issues?
- Families: Does the program include family members in the treatment process? Family members have an important role in understanding the impact of addiction on families and providing support.
- Supports: Does the program provide ongoing treatment and supports beyond just treating the substance issues? For many people, addiction is a chronic condition and requires ongoing medication and supports. Quality programs provide treatment for the long term, which may include ongoing counseling or recovery coaching and support. It also helps in meeting other basic needs like sober housing, employment supports, and continued family involvement.
SAMHSA advises that “good quality programs will have a good inspection record and both the program and the staff should have received training in treatment of substance use and mental disorders and be licensed or registered in the state.”
One key area that should be looked at closely is accreditation, as outlined above. Check the accreditation of a facility you are considering with the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
The Joint Commission (JCAHO) is a nonprofit organization that provides independent accreditation and certification of health organizations. Organizations that seek and receive accreditation must demonstrate high quality and performance levels before JCAHO issues its seal of approval. You can find accredited organizations on the Joint Commissions’ website.
Paying For Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment is the answer in many cases involving substance abuse and addiction. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy option to pick. It does cost, and this is one reason many people pass it up and take the risk of staying in a life of addiction that can bring them harm or end their lives.
Data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that about 19.3 million people age 12 and older who were classified as needing substance use treatment did not receive it at a specialty facility in 2015. It’s not a stretch to think that cost likely stopped many of them from getting help.
It is strongly advised to pursue treatment despite the financial costs. Cost should not deter anyone from getting help with a substance abuse problem, especially when it has reached the point where the person has developed a physical and/or psychological dependence on a drug. There are options available to help with the costs and many treatment centers offer payment arrangements that can be made to make sure the bills are paid.
Even people who have health coverage may run into challenges in paying for treatment. Cost is even an issue for people who have health insurance. Not all insurers cover the costs of health and addiction services the same. In some cases, a treatment center may not accept some insurance carriers. It is advised that people who have insurance call their insurance provider to find out exactly what’s covered, what’s not covered, and what options prospective clients have in receiving the services they need.
If you or your loved one don’t have insurance coverage, SAMHSA says every U.S. state has funding for people who don’t have health coverage. Find out where to call and inquire about payment services on SAMHSA’s website.
As you consider which rehab facility to go to, review these factors first to get an idea of what the treatment program you’re considering will cost. Consider if it is:
- Residential treatment or outpatient treatment
- A private treatment center, hospital, federally funded clinic
- If amenities are provided (luxury treatment center)
- If dual diagnosis treatment is needed
- If post-drug rehabilitation services are needed/for how long
- If medical maintenance therapy/MAT is needed
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that substance abuse treatment last at least 90 days or three months for it to be effective.
Tips To Improve The Treatment Experience
Here are some things you or your loved one can do to ensure you are matched up with the treatment center that best fits your needs.
- Contact and meet up treatment center staff members, such as a counselor or adviser, to get a feel for what kinds of programs, services, and amenities are offered to clients in recovery.
- Not all centers approach treatment exactly the same. To get an idea of what the facility offers, ask how it approaches alcohol and drug addiction treatment. If you require additional treatment services, ask the facility offers customized programs.
- Review any brochures, information packets or pamphlets the center may have about its programs or its website. Talk with members of alumni groups who have attended programs or facilities you are interested in.
- Ask about post-treatment support, which is crucial to people who are new in recovery and need the motivation to keep going. Are 12-step meetings offered? Does the facility have an alumni group?
Start Your Recovery From Addiction At California Highlands
California Highlands Addiction Treatment (CHAT), a Delphi Behavioral Health Group facility, specializes in helping people who are battling substance addiction. We don’t just treat the substance addiction; we also treat the thought patterns and behaviors that can prompt individuals to abuse substances. We do this by using effective treatments that focus on the roots of your addiction and mental health condition and help you or your loved one start healing from substance abuse.