Nay-Sayers say, “Recovery doesn’t work,” because they know someone who relapsed just a few weeks or months after rehab. Recovery is possible, but it takes more than a 30-day fix. In fact, millions of people have found successful recovery and rebuilt their lives using these 7 keys.
1. The Patient Wants A Successful Recovery
Can you force the patient into treatment? People ask us this question daily. Ultimately, yes, in some cases patients can be forced into treatment. But a better case scenario is when the patient is ready to get help. We understand how hard it is to watch another person’s addiction. You feel helpless and beyond scared. While you wait, you can set boundaries and research treatment options. Once the patient is ready, you’ll be able to present lots of information.
2. The Patient Gets A Complete Physical
Every day people have a beer or take a pain pill without getting addicted, so why did this patient get addicted? Genetics, past abuse, trauma, and mental health issues can all contribute to addiction. When the patient sees a physician for an honest and complete physical exam, all of those factors can be addressed. Each patient deserves a personalized, comprehensive evaluation prior to treatment. Patients who have the most success talk to their doctor about:
- Any prior diagnoses of substance use
- Mental and general health problems
- Family, social and environmental problems that could affect the course of care and potential for relapse
3. The Patient Has A Long-Term Treatment Plan
Like most other chronic health illnesses, substance use disorders require ongoing treatment. When a patient is first diagnosed, care is often intensive. The first phase is detox. Once their condition and cravings are stabilized, patients upgraded to either inpatient or outpatient treatment. Sometimes outpatient treatment lasts 12-36 months. Depending on the severity of their disorder, some patients have more months of outpatient care than others. In all cases, on-going treatment solidifies successful recovery.
4. The Patient Sees A Doctor During Treatment
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 8 million Americans with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Common mental health problems include:
Likewise, substance use and long-term alcohol consumption lead to many physical health problems like:
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Infectious illnesses (e.g. HIV, HCV, TB)
Your physician is a key team player. Doctors can recommend alternative medicines that won’t compromise your recovery. Likewise, doctors can help get your physical health back on track.
5. The Patient Gets Counseling
Behaviors play a big part in addiction, but therapy can help. Patients need to learn new coping skills, and they need to learn about boundaries. Additionally, they need guidance in navigating relationship conflicts. All of these types of therapies help the patient learn healthy new behaviors:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Individual Supportive Psychotherapy
- Families and Couples Therapy
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy
6. The Patient Takes Meds
Some patients use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate chronic pain while others are escaping a painful past trauma. According to SAMSHA, two out of three people in treatment were victims of child abuse. Others might be suffering from a co-occuring mental health problem. Anti-depressants and other meds can help. Also know as MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), doctors can prescribe meds that help reduce cravings. Some of these medications even create an adverse reaction if the patient relapses.
7. The Patient Has On-going Recovery Support
The first 30 days of treatment intensely focus on saving a patients life and changing a gripping habit. Unfortunately, the patient still needs help tackling these three issues:
- Where to live
- Where to work
- Who to live with
For a successful recovery, the patient needs help transitioning back into life. Group meetings like NA and AA have helped many. Other patients may want to stay in a half-way house or have ongoing outpatient treatment. Most importantly, patients need a strong support system. Recovery doesn’t happen all alone.
* This Recovery Guidance Exclusive was adapted from 2016 Surgeon General’s Report.
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Leslie Glass is the founder of Reach Out Recovery and the winner of the 2016 ASAM Media Award. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. Leslie is a journalist, director/producer of award-winning documentaries, and the author of 15 bestselling novels. Leslie has served as Chairman of the Board of Plays For Living, was a member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America. She has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, as a VP of The Asolo Theatre, and was a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation.