To answer the question of ‘what is addiction treatment?’, it is important to understand what addiction actually is and who is affected by it. There is so much stigma attached to addiction, yet despite attitudes slowly changing, many people still have a negative opinion of both it and the individuals who are affected by it. They believe that addiction is a lifestyle choice and that those who suffer from it are somehow responsible for their own fate. These misconceptions are dangerous and damaging because they usually lead to judgement and discrimination, which often prevents those in need of help from reaching out for it.
But Just What Is Addiction?
Most are unaware that addiction is an illness. Instead, they believe it to be a consequence of bad behaviour. Therefore, in their mind, the alcoholic is an alcoholic because he or she chooses to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. And the drug addict has an addiction to drugs because he or she chooses to use illegal substances.
There is no denying the fact that everyone has a choice of whether to use drugs or alcohol in the first place. Nevertheless, not everyone who chooses to use these substances will go on to develop an addiction. When an addiction does take hold, the affected person has no choice over his or her consumption of mood-altering substances. He or she is compelled to use them and is powerless to resist, even when knowing that there will be terrible consequences.
Addiction is an illness of the brain. Therefore, continued regular abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs can lead to structural changes within this organ that can impair the individual’s ability to make good decisions or choices. The person with the addiction cannot be blamed for his or her illness any more than the person with a heart condition can be blamed for theirs. This is an important thing to remember if addiction affects you; you have nothing to be ashamed of and you should never let shame prevent you from getting the help you need to get back on your feet again.
How Does Addiction Develop?
If everyone who used mood-altering substances were to develop an addiction, the world would probably be overrun with addicts. Nonetheless, this is not the way it works. The reality is that not everyone who uses these substances will become consumed by them – in fact, the majority will not.
However, there are some people for whom chemicals such as alcohol and drugs become a destructive force. There is no single cause of addiction that anyone has been able to pinpoint as yet, so it is impossible to tell who will and who will not be affected. Nevertheless, certain risk factors such as family history of addiction, traumatic experiences, and early exposure to drugs or alcohol can all make it more likely for an individual to be affected.
As previously mentioned, the first time a person uses alcohol or drugs, he or she has a choice. This individual may decide that he/she likes the feelings they get when using these substances and so choose to use it again. Making this choice does not guarantee that the person will become addicted. Most of those who drink alcohol never have a problem while there are many others who can use drugs recreationally without these having a negative impact on their life.
Nevertheless, in some people, continued use of substances like alcohol and drugs can cause an increased tolerance to the effects. Over time, they may start to increase their consumption, often without even realising. When they start to use these substances habitually, they are losing more of their ability to control their consumption. They may use these substances without even thinking; before long, it simply becomes a habit.
The more the person drinks or the more drugs he or she uses, the more chance there is that their body will adapt to the substance being consumed. When this happens, the body craves the substance whenever the effects wear off. Over time, he or she will have little to no control over their ability to stop. Even when knowing that using drugs or drinking alcohol is going to cause problems for themselves or those they love, when the urge hits them, they can do nothing to stop themselves from giving in.
Could You Have an Addiction?
It is hard to accept that your use of a substance such as alcohol or drugs has spiralled out of control and that you are an addict. Most people feel a sense of shame or embarrassment when coming to the realisation that they have an addiction. Nonetheless, there are many who choose to bury their head in the sand rather than face up to this harsh reality.
Denial is a common characteristic of the addict. For many, it is far easier to deny the problem exists than to admit it and have to do something about it. Some believe that if they pretend as if nothing is wrong, they will not have to give up the substance they have come to rely on. Others are afraid that life would be boring if they were not using drugs or alcohol; some are simply afraid of detox and rehab, so they act as if they do not need help, when deep down they know they are in bother.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If you know that your use of drugs or alcohol is getting out of hand then you should think carefully about your next steps. Do you want to continue abusing chemicals that are destroying your life? Do you really want to get to a point where you are affected by long-term illnesses that cannot be reversed? And all because you were too ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.
If you have tried to quit or cut back on your alcohol or drug consumption but have not been able to, you need to act now. If you have been steadily increasing your consumption to the point where it is having a negative impact on your life, now is the perfect time to get help. Ignoring the problem will do you no good. All that is going to happen is that your addiction will progress to the point where you are in danger of losing everything.
What Is Addiction Treatment?
Although addiction is a destructive illness that wreaks havoc on the lives of those affected and anyone close to them, there are a number of treatments available. The first is a detoxification, which aims to separate the individual from the substance to which he or she is addicted.
Detoxification starts when the person stops drinking or taking drugs and when the body realises that no more of this substance is forthcoming. The first withdrawal symptoms typically begin around six to twelve hours after the individual has quit. As the body tries to get back to normal, it will work hard to eliminate the remaining toxins and chemicals, and it is this that causes the various withdrawal symptoms.
A detox can take place at home or in a supervised facility, but for your safety and comfort, it is best to choose a dedicated facility where professional staff can carefully monitor your progress throughout. The reason for this is that detoxing from alcohol or drugs can be complicated. The risk of severe withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening, is present for everyone and there is no way to know if a person will be affected or not before the process starts.
In a supervised facility, you can expect a detox programme to last for around seven to ten days. During this time, the patient will be taken care of by fully trained and experienced staff who can ease any withdrawal symptoms with appropriate medication prescribed by a medical professional. In some cases, the worst symptoms can be prevented by administering specific medication or nutritional supplements.
Once detox has been completed, the patient can begin a programme of rehabilitation, which will tackle any psychological or emotional issues relating to the illness. Rehab programmes take place in either an inpatient or outpatient setting and are provided by various organisations including the NHS, private clinics, local support groups, and charities.
A rehab programme will vary in length, depending on whether it is an outpatient programme or a residential one. The needs of the patient will also be a factor. For example, in an inpatient facility, programmes tend to run for around six to eight weeks. However, if the patient has more complex needs and is suffering from more than one addiction or has a dual diagnosis, this could be extended to around twelve weeks. It is not advisable for patients to stay in a residential clinic for much longer than this though, as there is a risk that he or she could become institutionalised and then find it difficult to make the transition back to daily, ‘regular’ life.
Outpatient programmes are different in that they are not as intensive as inpatient programmes. As a result of this and the fact that the patient does not stay in the clinic, these programmes can last anywhere from a few months to a year or more.
Treatments for Addiction
Regardless of the type of treatment programme you choose for addiction, you can expect to be treated with a combination of therapies to ensure you overcome your illness and have the tools required to avoid a return to it in the future.
Most treatment providers use the bespoke treatment model that is designed around the individual needs of the patient. The reason for this is that as everyone is different, their treatment needs will also be different. Tailored plans of care are created with a combination of traditional treatments and holistic therapies that are expected to work most efficiently for the patient. Traditional therapies include:
- individual counselling
- group therapy
- 12-step work
- cognitive behavioural therapy
- motivational interviewing
- contingency management
- dialectic behavioural therapy
- family therapy.
These therapies are designed to help the patient get to the root cause of his or her addictive behaviour. Workshops and seminars may also be used to help with life and work skills as well as relapse prevention. Providers that use holistic therapies as part of their treatment plans, do so to ensure that the whole person is healed, rather than just the illness. This whole centred approach works on the premise that the mind, body, and spirit are all affected equally by addiction and must therefore all be treated. With that in mind, various holistic therapies are used to improve wellbeing and reduce stress. These include:
- art therapy
- music therapy
- sports and nutrition
- equine therapy.
The type of programme and treatments used will depend on the individual and his or her specific requirements. The important thing about bespoke treatment plans is the fact that these can be changed as and when needed. If one element of the programme is not working as expected, it can simply be replaced with something else that could prove to be much more effective.
For more advice on treatment for addiction, please contact us today. Middlegate can provide information and advice to addicts and their families, and should you require help accessing a programme in an inpatient or outpatient facility, we can help. All you need to do is get in touch with us right now to find out more about us and what we can do for you.