The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, [with] continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.”
“The chronic nature of addiction means that relapsing to drug use is not only possible but also likely,” explains NIDA. “Relapse rates are similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses such as hypertension and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioral components. Relapse is the return to drug or alcohol use after an attempt to stop.”
One reason relapse rates are high is that substance use disorders (SUDs) are frequently driven by underlying mental health conditions that are undiagnosed or improperly diagnosed. These co-occurring conditions can be difficult to accurately define since proper diagnosis requires psychiatric expertise not all providers possess.
In general, the more sophisticated the treatment approach, the better the outcome and long-term prognosis for the client. The highly qualified treatment team at Recovery Ways includes two psychiatrists. Their medical director, Duy Pham, MD, is a board-certified Addiction Psychiatrist specializing in addiction and substance use disorders. He is certified by the ABMS® Member Board: The American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology specializing in Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry. To better serve the complex patients he works with, he has received advanced training in ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and VNS (vagal nerve stimulation).
“Roughly 50 percent of our patients get diagnosed with a mental illness that hasn’t been diagnosed before. That’s one of the reasons they relapse. They’re self-medicating their mental health condition,” says Dr. Pham. “We also often re-diagnose patients who have been diagnosed improperly.”
Gold standard psychiatric care makes a big difference in addiction treatment. After a thorough assessment, the Recovery Ways specialists look at the medication regimen of the patient to optimize it. “We’re taking care of some of the most complex psychiatric patients across the country,” explains Pham.
Recovery Ways is fully licensed to treat both mental health patients and those seeking addiction treatment. Recovery Ways is an Optum Platinum Provider, as their outcomes post-treatment are exceptional.
Approximately 75 percent of Recovery Ways patients are “dual diagnosis,” a term used to describe the presence of a SUD and other co-occurring mental health conditions. Once the substance use disorder is stabilized, the focus turns to the underlying issues—often the real driver of the SUD. If the mental health issue(s) driving a patient’s urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol is not adequately addressed, the chance of relapse is high.
At Recovery Ways, the team of professionals supports patients with severe mental health issues. “Many facilities are not capable of taking the patients that we do. People with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, for example,” explains Pham. “Once they are stabilized, we can take them. We have the ability and the personnel to continue to improve their medication and their symptoms while they are here.” To promote continuity of care, Recovery Ways clients are connected with professionals and resources when they return home to be sure the hard work they’ve done in treatment continues.
Effective treatment of co-occurring mental health issues is a crucial element of addiction treatment.. In acute cases, Recovery Ways also relies on support from the University of Utah and Salt Lake Behavioral Health. In addition to his role as medical director at Recovery Ways, Dr. Pham supports patients at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI). Additionally, he supervises adult psychiatry residents through the Recovery Center at the University of Utah.
Patients, families, and referring professionals can take comfort in the knowledge that Recovery Ways is deeply committed to providing the highest quality care. “Many of our patients would not be accepted by other places—or receive treatment for a mental health condition overlooked in the past. We’re treating the whole patient the whole time,” says Dr. Pham.