A quality addiction treatment program has several characteristics. It employs qualified and experienced medical and counselling staff, it uses evidence-based treatment methods, it has clean, safe, and comfortable facilities, and it incorporates aftercare for when you leave. Another important factor, perhaps the most important, is that a great program will create an individualized treatment plan for each patient. This requires patience, expertise, some trial and error, and a good staff-to-patient ratio. Here are some of the top reasons why an individualized treatment plan is so important.
One size doesn’t fit all.
Everyone has a different history and different resources for dealing with addiction. Any program that doesn’t acknowledge this will have limited effectiveness. Consider 12-step programs, for example. They essentially use the same method to treat everyone, and for people who rely solely on the 12-steps, results appear to be mixed. About a third of people do really well and maintain abstinence for a long time, about another third get some benefit from it, and the final third get no benefit at all. That’s not to say 12-step programs aren’t helpful. They can be a great way to build a sober network and help you keep focused on recovery, as can other mutual aid programs like SMART Recovery, and Refuge Recovery. However, the assumption that one program will work for everyone is unrealistic and lets many people fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, many private treatment programs don’t do much better in terms of individualized treatment.
Most people have a dual diagnosis.
The biggest reasons addiction treatment must be individualized is that so many factors can complicate treatment, such as a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis means that you have a mental health issue in addition to a substance use issue. Common dual diagnoses include depression, anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder or panic disorder, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, and borderline personality disorder. These can all lead to substance use disorders in different ways. For example, people with autism spectrum disorders might drink because they are depressed or they might drink because it is a way of fitting in socially. What’s more, every dual diagnosis requires a different sort of treatment. For example, depression might be controlled with cognitive behavioral therapy, while ADHD can usually be controlled with medication. Two people with a similar dual diagnosis will often have different treatment needs and it’s impossible to know what those are ahead of time.
Health issues can complicate treatment.
Unfortunately, substance use often causes medical complications. For example, heavy prolonged drinking can lead to malnutrition, liver damage, and cardiovascular disease. These can make you vulnerable to complications while detoxing, so it’s important to be able to monitor your health and know what to look for. Medications are also a particular concern. For example, someone detoxing from heavy drinking might benefit from limited use of benzodiazepines, but if that person has also struggled with benzodiazepine addiction, another approach is clearly necessary. Someone who is already on medication for a health problem has to watch out for drug interactions, which may require modifying treatment of a dual diagnosis.
Many people have multiple addictions.
In addition to a dual diagnosis, many people have multiple addictions. Often, people are addicted to alcohol and something else. It’s crucial to attack both addictions at once. For example, if someone is addicted to both alcohol and cocaine and only tries to quit cocaine, she is likely to relapse on cocaine if she starts drinking again. One addiction is often a trigger for the other and alcohol is especially dangerous because it impairs your judgment, making you more likely to get into a dangerous situation. Even tobacco can be dangerous. One large study found that smokers were almost twice as likely as non-smokers to relapse within three years. At the moment, few treatment centers offer help to stop smoking, but it’s an issue that’s getting more attention.
Age makes a difference.
That factors that cause a substance use disorder in a 20-year-old are likely different from those that cause a substance use disorder in a 60-year-old. People face different challenges at different phases of life, including health status, family support, career, and length of addiction. It should be no surprise that people in very different phases of life require different approaches to addiction treatment. People of different ages can certainly learn from one another, but for most of treatment, it’s better to be around people roughly your age who can understand what you’re going through. There will be plenty of opportunities for intergenerational sharing in aftercare activities such as alumni gatherings and mutual aid meetings.
Knowledge is power.
Perhaps the best defense against addiction is a thorough understanding of yourself. Most people are not fully aware of the reasons for their substance use. As noted, there is often another mental health issue behind it, such as self-medicating for depression or anxiety. Uncovering and treating these issues takes patience and practice. Even more importantly, understanding yourself will help you stay sober after you leave. It’s important to know what your triggers are, how you react to them, and how you can regulate your response. It’s crucial to know how to say no to people who might pressure you, or that you’re prone to entering codependent relationships. Learning these things is not easy. It’s far easier to understand others than to understand yourself. It helps to have the help of a good therapist who has the patience to help you understand your own needs and motives better.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848