When people arrive at an addiction treatment center, they typically don’t want to be there. They’re agitated and apprehensive, and they doubt whether they even have a problem, especially one that is as bad as their families, employers or the courts believe.
In many cases, the last thing they want to do is sit down for talk therapy or attend a support meeting, though both are essential elements of treatment. What they do want is relief from the discomfort of withdrawal.
There is no better way to begin building rapport with a client – and to keep them in treatment – than to listen attentively and help them feel better as quickly as possible. This is where complementary and alternative therapies can be of great value to the addict, particularly in the early stages of recovery.
Whether a client agrees with the therapist’s perspective or not, they are appreciative of any intervention that addresses their insomnia, anxiety, muscle cramps and other withdrawal symptoms. Not only are these symptoms unpleasant, but they are also major factors in relapse.
Once the therapist shows an interest in the problem as the addict defines it, the addict is more willing to talk about the problem as the therapist defines it. And so a relationship begins.
Addiction science has come a long way, but old ideas are still hanging around. Regrettably, one-third of Americans still regard addiction as a moral failing or a lack of willpower rather than a treatable disease. People still want to see addicts punished rather than rehabilitated, and addiction remains more stigmatized than depression, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions.
Widespread misunderstanding about addiction exists even in the treatment field. Despite all of our sophisticated brain imaging techniques, our knowledge about genetic predispositions to addiction, emerging theories about how drugs work and the hundreds of compounds being tested that promise to “cure” addiction, we still don’t have a single treatment that works more often than not.
Here are three common misconceptions that are preventing people from getting the help they need:
Scientific research has established that the dopamine system in the brain is the reason people experience pleasure when they take a drug. Based on the assumption that people will no longer use drugs if the rewarding effects are reduced or eliminated, scientists have sought to develop treatments that block dopamine receptors in the brain, mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain and stimulate the production of dopamine.
Last month, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University released a five-year study assessing the state of addiction treatment in the U.S. Among other findings, CASA reported that only one in 10 people in need of addiction treatment get it, and of those who do, most “do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.”
Evidence-based care does exist in a minority of treatment centers, but how does one go about finding it? What exactly is evidence-based care? In short, evidence-based care is treatment that is backed by scientific research. According to CASA, it includes the following elements:
Comprehensive Assessments – To understand each individual’s specific needs, CASA advises physicians and other health professionals to complete a comprehensive assessment. This assessment should evaluate the individual’s medical, psychological, social, family and substance use history, current health status, addictive behaviors, personality traits, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders.
Based on this assessment, the team develops an individualized treatment plan that contains specific goals and interventions. As the patient’s needs change, the treatment plan is revised accordingly.
One unexpected benefit of finding your way into recovery is that you pretty quickly learn who your real friends are. During active addiction, you are ironically both socially isolated and part of a drug-abusing community. You may spend a lot of time together and feel a bond based on your shared preoccupation with drugs. But that doesn’t mean those people are your friends.
Not surprisingly, when an addict gets clean, their “friends” don’t always have their back. In fact, some become downright toxic to their recovery. Here are a few reasons the people you thought were your friends may end up sabotaging your recovery efforts:
• Addiction drives away most of an addict’s true friends.
• Whether they use drugs or not, your friends may not understand the disease of addiction. Even if they want to be supportive, many are in denial or don’t know how to stop enabling.
• Your sobriety spells the end of the friendship. Drug-using pals don’t want to lose a friend, but even more, they don’t want to stop using drugs.