What Makes Addiction Treatment Effective?

A person who enters drug treatment and who later relapses might feel that the treatment they experienced was a failure. They might, as a result, return to their old life and continue to using drugs or drinking. However, it’s important to know that even when a person participates in thorough treatment, relapse might still occur. This is because treatment must be ongoing and address every aspect of a person’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.

It could be possible that there are addiction treatment forms that are ineffective. However, this is the case because the treatment itself was not thorough. For instance, ideally treatment should return a person living a productive life at home, work, and within the community. Ideally, treatment should address a person’s basic needs, such as shelter, food, and clothing. Treatment should help a person realize his or her behavioral and thought patterns and assist that person in making healthier choices. Furthermore, someone who also has a mental illness will need his or psychological illness tended to simultaneously while the addiction is being treated. These factors in treatment help make treatment thorough and facilitate the healing for a recovering addict attempting to get sober and stay that way.

In fact, research indicates that when a person is in treatment for an extended period of time, he or she is more likely to stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their daily functioning. Essentially, treatment helps to counteract the harmful effects that addiction has had on the brain.  When addiction is severe enough, the brain begins to respond to the substance as though it needs it to survive, which leads a person to neglect all other things in life except for the substance they are addicted to. Yet, with ongoing treatment those effects on the brain can be disrupted and a person can slowly gain control of their lives.

Extensive studies that have followed the experiences of individuals going through treatment show positive results. If a person chooses to continue to participate in treatment, his or her emotional, psychological, and occupational functioning almost always improves. If a person does not continue in treatment, because of the addiction’s effect on the brain, it’s likely that that person will return to drugs or alcohol.

However, it’s very possible that a person might relapse even if treatment is thorough and complete. Many experts agree that relapse is a common part of the healing experience. Yet, it’s up to the individual to gather up the courage to return to treatment and learn from the relapse versus allowing the relapse to bring them back into an old way of life.

It is interesting to note that relapse rates for addiction are similar to relapse rates for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. In fact, today, addiction is seen as a chronic illness, meaning that it is an illness that one may need to manage for the rest of life. There is no cure; there is only ongoing treatment and relapse prevention.

If you or someone you know is experiencing the harmful effects of addiction, contact a mental health provider today.


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