Anyone who’s dealt with addiction, either their own or that of a loved one, knows how hard it is to get clean and stay that way. Setbacks and relapses are unfortunately common, and there is no one-size-fits-all cure.
However, no matter what your situation or recovery plan, there are several factors that, according to the available research on the subject, are important. Here are some of the fundamentals.
If someone suffering from an addiction isn’t ready to address the problem — or won’t admit that there’s a problem to address — it won’t get solved. It’s so commonly stated that it’s become a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true — the first step is admitting you have lost control.
That doesn’t make that first step any easier, and you can’t force someone you love to admit that they need to change. They have to come to that realization in their own time and, when they do, they should be commended for the courage it takes to admit they’ve lost control.
In psychology, the term is “self-efficacy,” and refers to a person’s belief that they can make things happen. For recovery from addiction, it’s vitally important — once you decide that you need to get clean, you have to also think you can do it.
It’s a challenge to keep a positive mindset, especially if you have a past history of poor decision-making. But every day clean and sober is a reminder that you can change, even if it’s slow and difficult.
The links between addiction, anxiety, and depression are well-documented. Addiction can be alienating and cause a breakdown in social bonds, which leads to anxiety and depression. If the addiction is treated without addressing the other facets of mental health, people overwhelmed by their symptoms will seek relief in their substance of choice.
A comprehensive addiction recovery plan will also address the accompanying mental health issues, whether they’re a cause or an effect of addiction. Untreated mental health issues can result in relapse, undoing all your hard work.
The value of support from others in addiction treatment can’t be emphasized enough. Getting sober and staying that way isn’t easy — social stigmas, fear of relapse, and shame at having become addicted in the first place are hard enough to fight through, and that’s without even mentioning the potential physical effects of withdrawal.
That’s why it’s so crucial that people recovering from addiction are able to surround themselves with supportive people — loved ones, people who care about them, people who know what they’re going through, and people who have gone through it before.
Addiction can interfere with a person’s ability to live a structured, balanced life — sometimes debilitatingly so. For a recovery program to be a success, routine and a structured environment are important to re-establish.
What does this mean? It means having a consistent routine and sticking to it — going to bed, getting up, eating meals, and exercising at the same time every day. It means taking care of the basic aspects of daily life, balancing work and recreation, and keeping sobriety in the front of your mind. Support is extremely helpful here too — it’s much easier to stick to a schedule if someone’s holding you to it.
A major trigger for relapse among those recovering from addiction is a simple one: boredom. Anyone who’s struggled with addiction, either their own or a loved one’s, can attest that in many cases, substance misuse becomes simply a way to pass the time.
That’s why it’s so important to stay busy. Research suggests that people who stay engaged — whether it’s a job, a hobby, exercise, intramural sports, volunteering, or some sort of creative expression — tend to stay sober for longer.
Hopefully this list is helpful, but it’s by no means exhaustive. Various techniques will work better for different people, so it’s important to seek the help of a sponsor or mental health professional that can help you. Remember, whether it’s your own addiction or a loved one’s that you’re concerned about, you are not alone.
When you have a child, you recognize that there’s an enormous amount of responsibility that comes with it. Most parents believe that every choice they make on their child’s behalf will play a role in the kind of adult their child becomes, and to an extent, they’re right.
When your child becomes an adult and starts making choices that are not in their best interests for a healthy, successful future, the burden that a parent feels can be overwhelming. Parents start to wonder where they went wrong, whether they disciplined their child correctly, and what their level of responsibility is.
If you’re the parent of an addicted child, you may want nothing more than for them to ask for help. Maybe they came to you out of the blue and confessed that they had a problem. Maybe you’ve been trying to nudge them toward asking for help for months or even years. Or maybe you’ve recently become aware that they have a problem and don’t know what to do next.
Admitting that you need help with drug or alcohol addiction is one of the most difficult steps a person can take. Addiction doesn’t just appear overnight — it’s a gradual process of losing control over an activity that the addicted person once had control over or even enjoyed.
As such, it can be very hard for an adult dealing with substance misuse to admit that they’re no longer in control of their own habits. No one likes to admit that they’ve let their habits get away from them. Additionally, there’s a strong stigma against addiction in much of society — many people incorrectly think that becoming addicted reflects some moral failing on behalf of the addict, when in fact addiction is better described a disease with genetic, environmental, and parental factors.
If your child comes to you for help or admits that they need help on your suggestion, acknowledge how brave they’re being. Give them credit for the vulnerability it took to admit they have a problem, and make it clear that you don’t think they are a bad person for becoming addicted in the first place.
After acknowledging how difficult it was for your child to ask for help at all, make it very clear to them that you’re available for emotional support. Recovering from addiction is an arduous physical process, but it can also be tremendously difficult emotionally.
Show your child that you care about them, that you want them to be healthy and happy, and that you’ll be there to support and encourage them. Having a source of emotional assistance can be a powerful motivator to seek and follow through with treatment.
At this point, you can start your search for a rehabilitation center. If your child came to you asking for help, it’s a good idea to look together to make sure you find the best fit. Looking for a rehab program together is also a powerful step for your child in admitting that they need help, rather than feeling forced into change by you, their parent.
Not every rehab program is a good fit for everyone. Each addict’s situation is unique, and it will be important to consider your child’s specific needs or co-occurring conditions when deciding where they should go. You’ll need to think about insurance coverage, location, reputation, and whether the facility has certain specializations when it comes to substances or other medical conditions.
Addiction affects everyone close to the addicted person, from friends to siblings to you, their parent. Those effects can even go beyond the people in immediate contact with the addicted person, including your spouse or significant other.
Addiction support groups are available to help the spouses, parents, children, and siblings of addicted loved ones, and you might find it helpful to talk to people who are in a similar situation or have experienced it before. You can’t help your child if you burn out yourself, so make sure you’re getting the help you need as well.
In order to treat a substance addiction, it’s important to fully understand the ways in which it impacts the addicted person’s life. While two people might be addicted to the same substance, there are countless other details — their history, social status, family situation, age, overall health, and plenty of others — that will affect how they react to various forms of treatment.
That’s why individualized addiction treatment plans are so important. A treatment plan designed for the individual can give a person access to a specific program, tailored to their exact needs, which will help get them through the physical and mental demands of addiction.
There are over 23 million individuals in the United States alone who suffer from some form of alcohol or drug addiction. Other than that, and the fact that they live in the same country, they share basically nothing in common.
The truth is that addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every addicted person’s usage, habits, history, and perception is unique, so their cases are unique too. Even two people addicted to the same substance might have come into their addiction by completely different paths, so their paths to getting clean will be equally dissimilar.
According to the Delaware Health and Social Services, “A diagnosis is a necessary, but not sufficient determinant of treatment. A patient is matched to services based on clinical severity, not placed in a set program based only on having met diagnostic criteria.”
What that means is that knowing the problem is not the same as knowing the solution. Each patient who checks into a drug rehab program needs to be carefully evaluated. Treatment professionals take into account which substances are used and how often, the severity of addiction, the physical health risks of usage and withdrawal, underlying causes of addiction, related health problems, triggers that might influence use and relapse, stressors, and more.
Some people with addiction problems might benefit more from group therapy, and some might benefit from one-on-one time. Some need an immersive inpatient program, whereas some addictions can be treated by regular outpatient meetings. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine what works best for each person.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Criteria and the Locus Level Of Care Utilization System are the two main assessment guides for gauging addiction and recommending treatment. While their criteria are similar, their guidelines vary.
The ASAM Criteria
The ASAM criteria uses six dimensions to assess an individual and recommend service and treatment. The six levels are:
Acute Intoxication and/or Withdrawal Potential
Biomedical Conditions and Complications
Emotional, Behavioral, or Cognitive Conditions and Complications
Readiness to Change
Relapse, Continued Use, or Continued Problem Potential
The ASAM system also includes a continuum of care, expressing gradations of the intensity of services needed along a spectrum from 0 to 4. Patients can move up or down the spectrum in terms of the intensity of care needed without necessarily needing a new benchmark of care.
The Locus Level Of Care Utilization System
The Locus system first assesses the risk that the person’s addiction will bring harm to themselves or to those close to them, in order to judge their level of functionality before beginning treatment. Comorbidity (the simultaneous occurrence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions) is also assessed.
The next step under the Locus system is to assess the recovery environment, including the level of stress inherent in the environment as well as the amount of support available. Some patients will be able to handle the stresses of everyday life, work, and so on while they undergo treatment, for example, while others will need a more relaxed environment.
Finally, the patient is assessed for their treatment and recovery history. What has been tried before? Has it worked? Did they relapse, and why? This assessment includes the patient’s level of engagement — in other words, how dedicated are they to recovery?
In short, yes. Tailoring treatment plans to each patient is rigorous and difficult, but necessary in order to facilitate successful recovery. Among the many benefits of individualized addiction treatment are:
Viewing addiction as a disease, not a moral failing, and treating it accordingly
Managing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health concerns that addiction causes
Creating a variety of therapy options that use different tactics and approaches
Allows almost anyone, regardless of personal circumstances, to find a treatment plan that will work for them
Treats other physical and mental health problems that may have occurred alongside addiction or because of it
Builds a social recovery network to fix the alienation that often accompanies addiction
If you or a loved one needs access to individualized addiction treatment, don’t hesitate to reach out. Talk to a specialist who can give you all the in-depth information you need, and don’t hesitate to ask for help getting through these difficult times in your life.
People seeking addiction treatment for themselves or their loved ones are bombarded with online ads that promise miracle treatments, rapid detox, and cheap and easy solutions to alcohol and substance addiction.
Unfortunately, most of them are scams — a waste of time and money at best, and actively harmful to people who need serious care at worst. Addiction can be a dangerous and difficult problem to deal with, and the safety of you and your loved ones is too important to entrust to a program without doing your homework first. Here’s what to look for.
There are several organizations that evaluate treatment facilities, but the two most prominent are the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the Joint Commission, previously known as JCAHO. Most addiction rehab programs seek accreditation from these two organizations.
CARF is a non-profit organization that evaluates and accredits substance abuse programs. CARF covers a broad range of programs, including assistive technology for employment, child and youth programs, respite services, and mental health rehabilitation programs.
CARF has granted accreditation to 90 specific types of programs, including over 25,000 individual programs in 3000 organizations across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
The Joint Commission
The Joint Commission, formerly known as JCAHO, is the nation’s largest accrediting body for hospitals and medical facilities and the second largest accrediting organization for addiction rehabilitation.
The Joint Commission offers accreditation for many types of health care providers, including home health care providers, physicians’ practices, mental health treatment facilities, assisted living and nursing facilities, and large hospitals.
Accreditation is an intensive process — it requires a substantial investment of time, money, and a detailed examination of a program’s operations, staff, and policies. Accreditation is an indication that the facility or program is dedicated to following best practices in addiction therapy.
The facility itself will go through onsite visits and an audit of management, staff credentials, program practices, and treatment outcomes. The accrediting body will also ensure that the facility meets acceptable standards of care for client addiction therapy, as well as meeting safety standards for clients and staff.
The staff will be evaluated too. Staff should have educational experience that’s up to the accrediting body standards, operate according to a standard set of procedures and best practices, and be well-trained in HIPAA compliance.
The faculty workforce should also be culturally sensitive to a potentially diverse client population. This includes specific training in sensitivity to racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, elderly patients, non-English speakers, the physically and mentally disabled, and other minority groups.
When you arrive at an addiction treatment center, you want to be confident that you or your loved one will be treated with dignity and respect, and that they will receive a personalized treatment plan that best fits their particular situation and needs.
While many states have their own licensing requirements, an accreditation from CARF or the Joint Commission often holds facilities and programs to an even higher standard. In addition, these accrediting bodies hold the same standards across the board, so you don’t have to learn the nuances of individual states’ standards.
In addition, the fact that a facility has made the commitment to seek accreditation is an indicator of their dedication to their clients. The accreditation process is exhaustive and involves complete transparency for months on end, so you can be assured that any facility or program that starts that process is genuinely trying to help.
Safety is another key consideration. Addiction and the accompanying problems of other diseases, withdrawal symptoms, and mental health issues can be very dangerous to the health of your loved one. If you’re entrusting them to a program or facility, especially an inpatient facility with limited outside interaction, you want to be confident that the staff’s credentials are up to the standards of an accrediting body.
In 2013, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services cataloged 13,339 addiction treatment programs willing to provide information on their programs. Of those, 21.8% were accredited by CARF and 19.2% by the Joint Commission.
That leaves 56.9% of treatment facilities that are accredited by neither organization. Does that mean that the standard of care at those facilities is insufficient? Not necessarily. But since the reason for lack of accreditation — whether it’s lax standards or simply not having started the process — isn’t known, it’s hard to quantify or compare the services that these facilities provide.
Accreditation is especially difficult for smaller treatment centers to undergo, and is voluntary under the National Institute of Health — it’s not required in order to operate a treatment center. But facilities with accreditation meet internationally accepted standards for treatment, so use caution when using a non-accredited facility.