Every year, millions of Americans seek drug treatment. Many of them get better. Some of them don’t. For chronic drug abusers trying to get sober, understanding why some drug treatment programs succeed and some drug treatment programs fail can be the difference between life and death.
A 2004 study found that almost twelve million Americans showed signs of an unhealthy dependence on at least one-habit forming substance. In other words, the study found that almost twelve million Americans showed symptoms of a substance use disorder like drug addiction. Any way you cut it, that’s a troubling number.
Drug addiction is not a thing to be trifled with. Drug abuse ruins families and relationships. Untreated drug addiction destroys individuals from the inside out, ultimately leaving them unable to find meaning in anything except their self-destructive drug habits. Drug addicts, in the end, are stripped of the very humanness that makes life worth living. They lose the hope, faith, and joy that make tomorrow a thing to be celebrated. Instead, drug addicts may constantly be fearful and resentful.
The good news, though, is that drug addiction doesn’t have the last word. As noted above, drug rehab has helped millions of Americans get sober and stay sober. Competent drug treatment salvages lives: It restores freedom, and helps drug addicts rediscover themselves as they used to be. But how does it work? How does drug treatment help drug addicts achieve a meaningful state of long-term sobriety? And, again, why do some drug treatment programs succeed while other drug treatment programs fail?
At The Watershed, we’re committed to helping all of our patients meet their drug recovery goals. To that end, we’re in the business of helping people understand what exactly drug treatment is, what it means to be addicted to drugs, and what it means to overcome drug addiction. With that in mind, the information presented here is designed to give prospective patients and their loved ones a broad understanding of the drug treatment process, and to hopefully provide a foundation upon which real healing can be built. There is, in the end, no drug treatment more powerful than the truth. At The Watershed, we know how drug rehab works, and we’d like nothing more than to make it work for you.
Before you can get better, you’ve got understand how and why you’re sick. Unfortunately, drug addiction is often misrepresented in the public imagination, and drug addicts often lack a clear vision of themselves and the obstacles they face.
Take a moment to consider the statistic noted above: In 2004, twelve million Americans showed signs of drug addiction. Twelve million Americans constitute almost five percent of the total United States population. If nothing else, you should know that you very definitely aren’t alone in confronting drug abuse, and that no one is immune from the insidious reach of drug addiction. Many people assume that drug addiction is a moral problem. It isn’t. Many people believe that drug abuse is a product of personal weakness, and that drug addicts have the power to stop using drugs whenever they want. Well, it’s not, and they don’t.
Before you pursue a drug treatment program, it’s essential to understand that drug addiction is a disease. Drug addiction is not a moral problem; drug abuse is not a product of personal weakness. And drug addiction is not a choice.
Physically, drug addiction becomes drug addiction when an addict’s body comes to rely on a drug to sustain its “normal” metabolism. Prolonged drug abuse is associated with changes in the chemical composition of a drug addict’s brain, ultimately creating conditions under which an addict literally needs a drug to survive.
The psychological dimension of drug addiction is no less important, and no less problematic for drug addicts. Ultimately, an addict’s mind comes to rely on a drug as part of its routine emotional processing. Chronic drug abusers, you might say, lack the capacity to confront the world or themselves on sober terms, and thus “need” drugs to function in any kind of meaningful way.
It’s one thing to develop an academic definition of what drug addiction is; it’s quite another to recognize it in yourself or someone you love. Obviously, drug treatment can’t work if a drug addict never enters a drug rehab facility. Before that can happen, the addict must admit that he has a problem, and admit that he can’t solve it on his own. Before a drug addict can get better, in other words, he’s got to know that he’s sick.
In the broadest sense, drug addiction is characterized by increasingly compulsive patterns of behavior. Because drug addicts are so beholden to their drug habits, they will do anything to use. That which facilitates drug use becomes paramount in a drug addict’s life; that which impedes it is systematically eliminated. Remember, you can’t get better if you don’t seek help. Untreated drug addiction can ruin lives, but qualified drug treatment can make all the difference in the world. If you or someone you love has a drug problem, there’s no excuse for inaction.
It perhaps goes without saying that drug treatment aims to combat drug addiction in all its forms. As drug addiction is a two-headed disease, so must drug rehab mount a two-pronged assault upon it; effective drug treatment programs are those which address both the physiological and emotional underpinnings of the disease.
In one sense, drug treatment works by ending the physical dependency that characterizes drug addiction. Because chronic drug abuse entails the substitution for drug byproducts in the body’s normal systemic processes, the early stages of drug treatment can be physically difficult for drug treatment patients. During drug detox, doctors and caregivers seeks to alleviate the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal with an assortment of advanced medical techniques. With properly managed detox treatment, a recovering drug addict can expect to pass through detox with his health and his spirit intact.
Remember, though, drug addiction isn’t just a physical disease; it exists in a psychological dimension as well. With that in mind, a successful drug treatment plan must address a recovering addict’s emotional health, with a particular emphasis on rebuilding the will power and self-esteem destroyed by addiction. In this sense, drug rehab is a process of personal discovery, and personal growth; to achieve a state of long-term sobriety, an addict must first learn to be at peace with himself as he actually is.
But to this point we’ve given a broad overview of drug rehab and drug recovery without examining the nitty-gritty details. In practice, drug treatment starts when a patient chooses a drug treatment center. Although there’s no single standard by which to judge drug treatment centers, it’s fair to say that the most successful drug rehab programs are those which cater to the specific needs of their individual clients. As no two addicts are alike, so is it true that no two addiction cases, and no two addiction recovery plans, are exactly the same. As such, a competent drug treatment plan must be sensitive to the particularities of a patient’s case, and in choosing a drug treatment facility, it’s essential that you find a place that will give you exactly what you need.
That said, drug recovery doesn’t end with the first stage of drug rehab. Indeed, drug rehab is in many ways a lifelong journey, and so it’s important that recovery patients have access to continuing mechanisms of support upon leaving a drug treatment facility. Aftercare programs help bridge the gap between intensive drug rehab programs and independent sober living arrangements, and can be vital to a recovering addict’s physical and emotional well being. The best drug treatment facilities are those which facilitate aftercare services for their clients, and it’s important for anyone entering drug rehab to be mindful of the continuing care available to them after their first month of treatment.
Remember, drug recovery is a lifelong undertaking. A drug addict might stop using drugs, but he is never actually cured; once an addict, always an addict, as they saying goes, and so the key to long-term sobriety lies in learning to cope with the gnawing pangs of addiction in the real world. In that sense, all recovering addicts should plan to find local support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, once their drug rehab programs are complete. Such groups are extremely popular throughout the country, and have proven effective in helping recovered addicts stay sober for the better part of a half a century. Their success lies mostly in the fact that they give a recovering addict someone to talk to, and laugh and cry and celebrate with; groups like Alcoholics Anonymous remind recovering addicts that they aren’t alone in their trials, and that millions of other people face the same challenges they do. For individuals struggling to maintain their hard-won sobriety against the tumult of everyday living, a support group can make a world of difference.
In the end, for all the talk of drug treatment facilities and aftercare programs and local support groups, it’s the people you love who will be most instrumental in making your drug recovery experience a successful one. The fact that drug rehab is a lifetime proposition means that you never really get away from it; drug rehab is always there, shaping who you are and how you live long after you’ve checked out of a drug rehab center. Drug treatment never ends, is the point, and so it’s vital that you enlist the people around you in your ongoing fight against drug addiction.
Spouses and children, parents and friends: Everyone is a potential ally in the war against drug abuse. To that end, successful drug treatment is that which establishes a viable support network around a recovering an addict, ensuring that his life beyond drug treatment is peopled by individuals who understand his struggle and are invested in his long-term health. There is no drug treatment, you might say, like that practiced by the people who have the most to love, and the most to lose.
Is drug treatment easy, a journey that can be undertaken lightly, or a battle that can be won with little effort? No. Of course not, but drug treatment is very much worth whatever costs it might entail, and successful drug recovery is, ultimately, a real thing. The key lies in resolving to make drug treatment work, and, of course, in learning how to get by with a little help from the people who love you.
For more information on the drug treatment program at The Watershed, please visit our main page.
For immediate assistance call The Watershed anytime at 1-800-861-1768.
To speak with one of our trained alcohol treatment and drug rehabilitation referral counselors, call The Watershed’s 24-Hour Addiction Helpline at 1-844-550-8829.
It’s never too late to call.