The disease of addiction is to a certain extent like others disease where the person afflicted is required to do something in order to overcome their illness. It can be thought of in the same vein as other illnesses that are linked to unhealthy lifestyles, such as diabetes or hypertension, and like these illnesses, in order for a successful recovery to take place, there must be a willingness to change on the part of the patient.
Yet, unlike these illnesses, drug addiction often gets a bad rap. The same understanding for relapse into unhealthy habits that are afforded to people afflicted with diabetes or hypertension is almost never given to those afflicted with drug addiction, even though the rate of relapse and recidivism back to treatment is similar. But due to the stigma associated with drug addiction, we evaluate the success of addiction treatment differently than we do other disease and so the standard that must be met in order for people to believe that it works is set almost impossibly high.
A recent study showed that between 40-60% of people who attended addiction treatment relapsed back into addiction. When compared with diabetes, which has a relapse rate of 30-50%, or hypertension, which has a relapse rate of 50-70%, it would appear that addiction treatment is on par with other medical treatments for illnesses, but it very rarely gets the credit it is due.
I will admit that the addiction treatment industry leaves much to be desired and there is always room for improvement, but when looked at, on the whole, treatment most certainty does more good than harm.
This is not just my own personal opinion but also the experience of many of the people that I know. There a number of people that I have met in my time in recovery that may not be sober today if it were not for treatment. But like many things related to drug addiction, understanding why treatment is effective means having to break down social stereotypes of what addiction treatment is.
Addiction treatment is not a place to go and get cured. No treatment center, besides Passages in Malibu, offers a cure for the disease of addiction and the widespread misunderstanding that going away to addiction treatment means that the person will be cured of their addiction leads to unrealistic expectations of what will occur. Addiction treatment merely is a place where people can go and learn the tools that they need in order to get and stay sober. It many times is just a safe place in which to detox and assimilate back into society, all while receiving therapy and an introduction to 12 Step programs.
For myself, the most important part of addiction treatment was the safe environment that it offered me while I was attempting to get sober. It gave me the ability to be safe for 6 months while I attempted to put the pieces of my life back together and without this time I am not sure how I would have turned out. Unfortunately, though, many people now do not have access to such long-term treatment and most treatment center stays have been significantly reduced over the past 5 years.
Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act insurance companies have begun to authorize fewer and fewer days for drug treatment and for many people the 30 days, if they are lucky, that are being authorized are not long enough. Imagine being addicted to drugs for 10+ years and then you are given 30 days to experience withdrawals and begin the process of rebuilding your life. If you can manage that, then that is incredible, but most people who suffer from addiction are not capable of this and so we set them up for failure and return visits to treatment because we did not offer the care necessary the first time. Often times, though, this is not taken into account and we see the relapse back to treatment as a failure of the treatment industry and not as a failure of offering the care necessary to achieve success.
The reality is that most people do not even have their head clear by the end of 30 days and you can see this in the once thriving recovery communities in South Florida. People do not make the choice to stay down in South Florida after rehab as often as they did 5-10 years ago and this is because they are not given the opportunity to actually heal. After 30 days they are released and many return back to their home states, with no support, only to experience relapse and a return to treatment within the year. Yet if longer-term treatment was offered this problem could probably be averted.
There is no simple solution to the problem of drug addiction in this country, but the majority of what we do as a culture does not help. We punish drug addicts for having a disease and then we rebuke the industry established to help them for not producing better results under impossible circumstances. We ask for cures in under 30 days when no cure exists and then we view the rate of relapse and recidivism, not within the context of other medical treatment, but by a non-existent standard that no other medical procedure is held to.
Rather than berating addiction treatment as an unequivocal failure we should be looking for ways to improve its effectiveness and people’s ability to get access to it. Addiction treatment is not the only way to get clean and sober, but any tool we have to fight the deadly disease of addiction should be employed. Rather than let insurance companies dictate the quality of care that addicts receive, we need to let trained professionals do this. So the next time that someone tells you how awful the rate of recidivism is for addiction treatment, explain to them how the measuring stick they are using is rigged and given all that drug addicts have against them, it is a miracle that any of us have remained sober.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.