Breaking the Cycle: How to Treat Addiction
Article originally posted on thepracticeatx.com
Learning about addiction is one thing. But treating it is something totally different.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about addiction that you can read here & today I'll discuss how to treat it.
For many addicts, addiction has stripped them from love, support and connection. Too often I see those experiencing the isolation that addiction causes; from family cutting ties, employers letting them go, or simply society distancing itself from a person labeled as an “addict.” Sometimes this isolation can create a sense of desperation for the individual and in turn a desire to seek treatment but unfortunately, it can just as likely lead to overdose and death. One of the most common phrases I hear from patients is their loved ones saying “if you love me, you’ll stop using.”
But in reality this assumption falls flat.
Anyone who is an addict will tell you that they didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “today is the day I become an addict and isolate myself from my friends, family and everything I know and love.”
How do we help those suffering from addiction?
This blog's most important lesson: addiction is treated with an open mind, love, support and connection to community.
It’s the only way for someone in addiction to experience recovery. Yes, in actuality, there are numerous ways to treat addiction from support groups to treatment centers – all of which I’ll discuss briefly – but I promise you, none of those are effective if a foundation of love, support and connection isn't created.
So what do we do? We reach out and keep our arms open. Even if the person is in addiction and doesn’t want help, you make it known that you’re still there for them and you will continue to be when they do want help – You continue to love them! If you remember nothing else from this article remember that!
Why addiction detox is important
Coffee. Have you ever been without it for a few days? It’s terrible right?! The headaches you experience can stay with you and seriously put a damper on your whole day. Those headaches are a direct response to your body withdrawing from caffeine.
Now imagine what it must be like to stop taking a drug like heroin or Xanax – headaches are just the beginning and the end could result in death if not careful treated. Not everyone in addiction requires detox but coming off of/withdrawing from substances like opiates, benzodiazepines, and even alcohol can be lethal if not carefully weaned off of. So, when an addict is finally ready to seek help, their first step towards recovery starts with safety. Depending on the length of use and the type of substance being used, your loved one might need to go to a Detox facility. These facilities are designed to monitor their patient’s vitals and slowly wean them off the drug(s) they have been using.
The best way to know if you or your loved one needs medical detox is to get a consultation with a medical professional who is familiar with the signs of dependence and substance abuse.
Treating addiction: Choosing the right program
The next step towards recovery can be the hardest and most daunting for those in addiction and the people closest to them. This is because at this point in recovery there are several options to choose from and research varies widely in regards to the best option. There are some organizations that mix and match or even combine these different options but primarily treatment can be broken down by levels of care (i.e. levels of intensity/structure).
From the most intense to the least invasive types of care, the treatment options are as follows: residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and traditional outpatient counseling and psychotherapy.
How do residential addiction programs and treatment centers help?
There are countless treatments centers each with their own way of treating addiction but the best programs focus on two things; education and connection. During their time in treatment, addicts will learn the cycle of addiction, how substances affect their body, how relationships (family, friends and significant others) can perpetuate and/or prevent relapse, coping skills/grounding techniques to help manage stress and cravings, and so much more.
Depending on the program they might also learn about the 12 steps and how to connect with a power greater than themselves. The second point of focus is connection. Throughout treatment, they will be establishing and growing a network of sober social support. This network will consist of the individuals they attend programming with, the staff that work at the treatment center and the people they connect with if they attend any outside support groups for people in recovery ((i.e. Alcoholics anonymous (AA), Narcotics anonymous (NA), Cocaine anonymous (CA), etc.)) which is a critical component in the prevention of relapse.
It is up to all of us to ensure those seeking treatment for their addiction feel supported and loved throughout their recovery process.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate