Know What to Ask About Drug Abuse Treatment
While it’s well known that learning how to overcome drug addiction requires professional help, what’s not very commonly known is what questions to ask about any drug abuse treatment program being considered.
It could be argued that any drug rehab program that’s been around for years has to have something going for it, and that may be true for the most part. But the reality is that there are many different choices available to individuals who want to get clean and sober. Not every one of them will work or be appropriate for the addicts who go there.
Making sense of the situation and learning how to approach getting drug abuse treatment at a facility or center that’s best for you entails doing a bit of research. You need to ask the right questions so that you can get a better understanding of the strengths and capabilities of the facility you’re looking at before you walk through the door and go there for drug rehab.
What are the most important questions to ask? No, it isn’t how many leisure-time activities are offered, although this does fit in as a consideration after the most critical areas are addressed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that there are five main questions that prospective clients ask prior to entering a treatment program for drug abuse.
Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?
Years of scientific research have revealed documented evidence of substance abuse treatment programs that are effective. In your search for the best drug abuse treatment facility for you, it’s important to determine right off the bat if the treatment program that facility or center uses employs such evidence-based treatments.
What are effective evidence-based drug abuse treatments? According to the NIDA, they can include behavioral therapy or medications, but, ideally, the treatment that is most effective will include combining behavioral therapy and medication.
There are a number of different behavioral therapies in use today. What’s important to keep in mind is that they vary in focus and some are more appropriate for individuals with certain types of addiction than others. Some of the behavioral therapies may involve:
- Motivation – addressing the individual’s desire to make a change in his or her life
- Incentives – providing inducements or incentives to the person to stop taking drugs
- Skills – building a set of skills to help the individual resist drug use
- Replacement – substituting drug-using activities with rewarding and constructive activities
- Problem solving – helping the individual learn and become proficient at problem-solving skills
- Relationships – working with the individual to help him or her build better personal relationships
Does behavioral therapy sound mysterious and a little frightening? It shouldn’t. All you need to know is that, given the right screening and evaluation, and ongoing monitoring and modification of treatment therapies, behavioral therapy can help you make progress toward achieving your goal of steering clear of drugs following treatment.
What does behavioral therapy look like? Here are four examples.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Also referred to as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is treatment that seeks to help individuals recognize, avoid, and cope with situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.
- Group Therapy – An almost universally-used component of effective drug abuse treatment programs, group therapy helps individuals realistically face their drug abuse, come to terms with how harmful its effects have been on their lives, and helps boost their motivation to stay off drugs following treatment. A key aspect of group therapy is that participants learn how to resolve personal and emotional problems without resorting to abusing drugs.
- Motivational Interviewing – This type of behavioral therapy is much like it sounds: a treatment process that seeks to encourage rapid and self-driven behavior to stop using drugs and enter treatment.
- Motivational Incentives – The concept of rewards for positive behavior is at work in this type of behavioral therapy. In essence, motivational incentives therapy uses positive reinforcement in the form of privileges or incentives to encourage the individual to remain drug-free, to take treatment medications as prescribed, or for participating in counseling sessions.
Does the program tailor treatment to each patient’s needs?
The next question to ask in your search for the best drug abuse treatment program for you or your loved one is whether the program at the drug rehab facility under consideration tailors treatment to the individual patient’s needs.
This is vitally important, since there is no single program that will work for everyone. That means that if you choose a facility that applies the same general treatment to every patient that walks through the door, that drug rehab program is probably not right for you. It could work, but why would you take the chance?
Consider this: The best drug rehab program seeks to address various needs of the individual and not just his or her drug abuse.
How is this accomplished? Put succinctly, effective treatment needs to be broad in scope, taking into account the person’s age, gender, culture and ethnicity. How severe the individual’s addiction, length of time addicted and previous efforts to stop using drugs can also affect the treatment approach tailored for the individual.
What this translates to is matching the individual with a treatment setting, programs and services according to his or her unique problems and level of need. The best treatment program will provide a number of different therapies and other services (yes, including leisure time activities) to meet the person’s needs. Beyond specific drug abuse treatment, the person may require other medical services, family therapy, social and legal services, job training, and parenting support.
Another key consideration in tailoring a program based on the individual’s needs is addressing co-occurring addictive disorder and mental health disorders. Research has found that substance abuse and a mental health disorder frequently occur at the same time (co-occurring). When an individual with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorder comes in for screening and evaluation, each of these conditions should be assessed for the other. The subsequent tailored treatment plan needs to address both conditions, including the use of any medications that may be appropriate.
Will you need medications as part of your drug abuse treatment? For many patients, medications are an important part of their overall treatment program, especially when the medications are combined with counseling and other types of behavioral therapy. It’s important to note that different types of medications may prove useful during different stages of your treatment, for example, to help you to stop drug abuse, to remain in treatment, and to avoid relapse following completion of the treatment program.
Speaking about medications, you may be wondering what medications are available and may be prescribed to treat drug addiction.
- Treating opioid dependence – Methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are used to treat those who are addicted to opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers.
- Treating alcohol dependence – Acamprosate (Campral), disulfiram, naltrexone and Topiramate (Topamax) are used to treat alcohol dependence.
- Treating addiction to tobacco – The medications of bupropion (Wellbutrin), and varenicline (Chantix) are used to treat tobacco addiction, along with nicotine patches, gums, lozenges and nasal sprays.
Another important consideration in the tailored drug treatment program is whether you’ll require medical detoxification. For certain addictions, especially addiction to opioids and alcohol, medical detoxification is required as a first step prior to the actual treatment program.
Do not be under the mistaken impression that simply drying out or getting detoxed is all you need to do. Countless studies have found that detox alone does little to change long-term drug use. Without counseling and behavioral therapy to help address the underlying reasons for drug use, you’ll likely revert back to your drug-using ways.
Does the program adapt treatment as the patient’s needs change?
No matter which therapies and services are begun during treatment for drug abuse, the reality is that they only stand a chance of being effective if the patient is monitored and the treatment approach assessed and modified based on the individual’s changing needs.
This stands to reason, since you’re not the same all the way through treatment as are when you first enter treatment. An example is built-in drug monitoring so that the treating professionals can adjust the treatment plan in the case of relapse.
This is called the continuing care approach, which ensures that the treatment level is adapted to the individual’s changing needs.
Let’s say that you know you will need support services in any drug abuse treatment facility that you choose. This may mean that you need child care services in the form of day care, or that you require transportation to and from treatment. Perhaps you’ll need assistance with housing or financial aid. Educational services, HIV/Aids services, and vocational services are other changing needs that comprehensive drug abuse treatment should provide for its clientele.
What about relapse? How does that affect modification of a treatment program? The fact is that relapse to drug abuse is very possible in the case of chronic addiction. Similar to other chronic medical illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension, chronic addiction has both physical and behavioral components.
If you have diabetes or a heart condition, you know that continued monitoring, evaluation and adjustment of your treatment is part of the overall effort of learning how to manage the disease. It’s the same principle with treatment for drug abuse after relapse. Getting back into a clean and sober lifestyle requires re-evaluating your treatment and modifying it, as necessary.
Is the duration of the treatment program sufficient?
Not only do you need to gain assurance that the drug abuse treatment program you’re considering is evidence-based, tailored to your needs, and adapted according to your changing needs, you also need to know if it will last long enough to have a chance of being effective.
According to research studies, NIDA says that most addicted individuals need at least three months in a drug abuse treatment program to really able to reduce or stop drug use. There’s also ample evidence that longer treatment periods produce better outcomes.
Of course, the length of time that you will require will be different than that of other individuals, again, depending on the type and degree of your particular problems and needs.
Remember that overcoming drug abuse is an ongoing and long-term process. For many individuals, this means repeat returns to treatment as well as cultivating and maintaining ongoing support from family members and/or community and self-help groups.
Most importantly, if you relapse, it doesn’t mean that your drug abuse treatment failed or that you failed. What it means is that there’s a need to reinstate or adjust the treatment that you did have so that it has a chance to be more effective for you in your goal to live a life that’s drug-free.
How do 12-step programs (or similar programs) fit into drug addiction treatment?
One point you’ll hear stressed over and over again is that you never recover alone. Stated another way, you never are alone in recovery. What these statements refer to is the support and encouragement that many newly-sober individuals find in the 12-step programs and self-help groups. The most widely-recognized and oldest of such groups is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but there are many others that have been developed based on the 12-step AA approach. These self-help groups include, but are not limited to, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Marijuana Anonymous, and others.
Where does participation in 12-step or similar programs fit with drug addiction treatment? This is something for you to ask before you enter a particular drug abuse treatment program. Many drug rehab facilities encourage patients to become involved in and remain participants in group therapy both during treatment and following successful completion of drug abuse treatment. The reason is simple: with the support and encouragement of others in the community, the newly-sober individual has help in maintaining sobriety and other healthy lifestyle goals.
After you find out the answers to the five key questions to ask about drug abuse treatment that you are considering, what you do next is very much up to you. How committed are you to getting free of drugs? Are you determined to make the all-important decision to go into treatment?
If so, there are a number of things to do next. You’ll need to line up your finances or gain some financial aid, get a loan, inquire about your health-care coverage for drug abuse treatment. If you are employed, you’ll need to arrange for an absence or a leave that’s covered, perhaps, under an employee assistance program. Make arrangements at home (or put this into your plan if the treatment program you’re considering offers day care).
Most of all, if you’re sincere in your desire to make this change in your life, get into treatment as soon as possible – and stay with it to the conclusion. Remember that you’re about to embrace a lifestyle that will help sustain you for the rest of your life. This isn’t a one-stop, one-time visit to a spa, nor is it a cure. You’ll need to commit to doing the hard work of recovery in order to maintain a drug-free life.
But this is absolutely something you can do. Even if you’re fearful and uncertain that treatment will work for you, go into it with confidence and do the best that you can at all times. You will emerge from treatment equipped with skills that will help you maintain your sobriety, get on with your life in a productive manner, and offer you the opportunity to find happiness and meet your goals, whatever they may be.