What is substance abuse treatment?

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Alcohol and drug rehab is a process of several components. Substance use treatment includes building new relationships, experiencing life without the use of alcohol and drugs over an extended period, and developing life skills to prevent a return to problematic substance use.

Treatment is moving beyond the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual changes that occur when the body is detoxing and the mind is clearing up from alcohol or drugs. Sometimes “withdrawal” is physical as with alcohol, heroin, and prescription drugs. Treatment is offered to provide patients the experience of making necessary changes while receiving professional support, guidance, and therapy. Education is provided during treatment, but it is the experience of gaining awareness, insight, and improved judgment.  Substance use treatment is a group therapy process, rather than a “class.”

A reason for the belief that “treatment doesn’t work” is because the patient stops the process too soon or doesn’t follow the treatment and aftercare plans. When the treatment recommendations are followed thoroughly, the success of positive long-term effects is likely. If the treatment and aftercare plans are thoroughly followed, there is usually a successful outcome and long-term recovery. When treatment plans are not followed through to the end, success rates are low. Convincing clients and families to follow the treatment plan through to its end are a difficult task treatment providers face.

Frequently the patient will become upset or angry during the treatment process.  Patients rarely understand that the withdrawal has disguised itself as anger, anxiety, depression, or other emotions. The patient will not understand or believe that their being upset is a craving to use or drink. The substance user will likely have dreams about using their drug of choice.

First Step Services has three levels of treatment: Individual/family, Outpatient, and Intensive Outpatient. Inpatient treatment could be necessary before entering an outpatient program to ensure the person has “detoxed” in a safe environment with resources to deal with withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient begins with a detox period of 1 to 4 days, a process of allowing the majority of the drugs to process out of the patient’s body. With certain drugs, measurable amounts may linger in the system much longer than the detox period, especially marijuana. It could take 6 weeks or more for marijuana to no longer show up on urine drug tests. the patient is usually ready to function after a few days. Detoxing from alcohol and “benzos” like Valium and Xanax is the most dangerous.

When a person comes to First Step Services for help, a counselor will evaluate the level of use, and any negative effects of use, to determine the level of treatment recommended by completing a Comprehensive Assessment with the client. Once the recommendation is made, the person may be admitted immediately.  First Step Services has the resources to enter all patients without a waitlist.  Treatment begins when the patient reports beginning the program by attending the first group. For those with less use history, general outpatient treatment might be enough to create a desire to stop overuse or problematic use. For those who are using a lot of a substance, using more than one substance, or are getting in trouble resulting from the use an Intensive Outpatient Program will likely be the best solution.

Our goal at First Step is to help all program participants never have another problem with alcohol or drug use. For some, long-term. maybe a lifetime, abstinence is necessary. For those with few negative consequences from their use, no physical or mental withdrawal, and no history of significant use the goal is to not “relapse” into problematic behavior.

The Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOP) consists of a minimum of 9 hours of treatment per week. Clients generally start off attending three 3-hour groups per week. The Intensive Outpatient Treatment Group therapy. Group of people sitting close to each other and communicatingprogram generally lasts for about 3 months after which an aftercare program is recommended consisting of 1 or 2 groups per week. Sessions should be attended regularly to build on the momentum created by regular participation. Missing a few groups here & there distracts from the momentum and makes for poor treatment. Once beginning Intensive Outpatient treatment, the participant should make the treatment the priority for as long as it takes.

Outpatient treatment consists primarily of group counseling. Counselors talk with patients & families individually on a regular basis but most of the work is done in groups. Patients gain an amazing amount of insight from their peers.

The changes people go through in just a few sessions of outpatient treatment can be almost miraculous. When patients come in they are sometimes physically ill. Their families have been put through a long nightmare. Patients and their families are mentally and emotionally injured by addiction. Often they are in trouble with their employers or the police. The drugs and alcohol have taken so much from them. Sometimes it takes everything – materially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

After successful completion of treatment, patients become much healthier physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Most have begun to practice a new life that they never knew existed for them. For those in need, they have places to live and Vocational Rehabilitation counselors help them get jobs so they may learn to be responsible for their own lives. They learn that they have skills to live and work in the world skills they either did not know they had or that they had forgotten how to use.

In addition, recovering people usually do not commit crimes or need frequent emergency medical services that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Recovering addicts and alcoholics pay taxes and live responsible lives. Treatment not only works for the substance abusers and their families, it saves individuals and society many times as much money as it costs. For every dollar spent on treatment, a savings results worth seven dollars for each dollar spent on treatment. It gives people new direction and the human value is beyond measure!

Henry Tarkington, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS

“Treatment at First Step got me to open up about my addiction and my past. My overall communication skills improved. I made connections with others in recovery and was motivated to succeed in my recovery due to accountability and as a way to help others in their recovery, I was also motivated to go to AA meetings and communicate there as well. I learned several coping skills that stuck as relapse prevention, which is very necessary to my recovery success and I gained more confidence and trust within myself. I am less fearful of recovery, but understand more clearly the consequences of relapse, and feel empowered and motivated to succeed in recovery, achieve my long-term goals, and make my family proud.” Anonymous program participant’s comments








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