Fighting fire with fire just makes more fire. There’s a different way
Outpatient treatment is effective, by and large, because it’s highly customizable. The modern outpatient treatment center takes care in understanding the individual’s needs, addiction history and motivations. Some addicted individuals use outpatient treatment because they suffer from mild substance abuse. Others, meanwhile, may turn to outpatient addiction treatment to follow up on inpatient care.
Outpatient Treatment: More Effective Than You Think
Outpatient treatment gives patients the freedom to work, spend time with family and pursue life goals. A severe addiction to specific substances, like oxycodone or heroin, is typically treated in an inpatient program—so as to help patients manage withdrawal and detoxification.
Meanwhile, mild abuse problems—caught early on—are completely manageable in outpatient settings. Sadly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that approximately 90 percent of people who need rehabilitation never receive it.
The fear of treatment—and lacking options—contributes to this statistic. A lot of outpatient alcohol & drug rehab centers are simply never contacted. Similarly, individuals with budding addictions may not consider outpatient addiction treatment to be effective. About 114 people die, per day, because of drugs—as per the Centers for Disease Control.
Rehab Is Rehab—No Matter the Setting
Outpatient substance abuse recovery is startlingly similar to inpatient recovery. While its fundamental components are different, its recovery approaches rely on the same psychology. Addicted individuals can be treated, and they can be treated in multiple ways.
According to Time magazine, no standard definition of “rehab” exists. Thus, the metric of rehabilitation center success doesn’t exist either. While some facilities measure the number of patients who complete their programs, others conduct follow-up tests to gauge sobriety and relapse potential.
It isn’t rare to see an outpatient treatment center supporting individuals with substance abuse before they ever engage an inpatient center. Similarly, some use outpatient treatment to circumnavigate the lengthy process of inpatient recovery. Every individual’s case is different—and so is every program.
Is Relapse Tied to Lack of Medication?
In outpatient alcohol rehab, medication is rarely used. For this reason, a lot of outpatient drug rehab centers study it as a model of drug-free outpatient opportunities. By and large: Outpatient treatment programs can be 100 percent drug-free. Not every patient needs medication. In some cases, a medication-free environment can even be beneficial to patients.
Outpatient alcohol & drug rehab relies on the individual’s inner strength, external support and frequent visits. Relapse isn’t necessarily tied to lack of medication. Rather, it’s tied to a lack of formalized treatment programs. Scientific American covers this phenomenon, citing that medicines should only be involved in treatment if they’re helpful.
While medication can reportedly be more effective than therapy, it isn’t necessarily needed. In fact, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol studied chronic drinkers who were capable of walking away from addiction due to willpower alone. These individuals were capable of developing physical aversions to alcohol, navigating life-changing experiences alongside outpatient substance abuse recovery resources.
Spontaneous Recovery and Outpatient Treatment
Recent studies on addiction, meanwhile, suggest that addiction has “tiers,” wherein some cases may be less serious than others. While willpower certainly plays a role in outpatient alcohol rehab—as well as in outpatient drug rehab centers—other factors play a role.
“Spontaneous recovery,” or an individual’s ability to overcome addiction via their own willpower, is more complicated than it seems. Unfortunately, many addicted individuals resort to “do-it-yourself” cures, only to relapse months later.
Here, outpatient rehab centers are incredible resources. Those who use outpatient treatment have a higher rate of recovery than those who don’t. Studies additionally suggest that the greatest amount of personal change occurs within early treatment stages. More importantly: Those who have a successful rehabilitation don’t use one-size-fits-all treatments. Rather, they engage a treatment which fits their own needs.
The reason medication-free outpatient treatment programs work is due to the growing prevalence of evidence-based treatments, or EBTs. Facilities which use research-based therapies have higher recovery success rates than their counterparts who rely on tradition.
Many outpatient treatment programs have adopted evidence-based treatments as well, combating the dangers of relapse with scientifically proven approaches to recovery. Sometimes, these approaches don’t include the use of drugs. In mild addictions—and in some substance abuse cases—medication doesn’t have much of an impact.
Assessment and Addiction Medicine
Addicted individuals lucky enough to find an outpatient treatment center which uses EBTs must be assessed, first, before they begin treatment. Even outpatient alcohol rehab requires such testing. An assessment can be received from a psychiatrist or psychologist trained in addiction medicine.
Then, a doctor can formally determine how severe an addiction is—as well as targeting the existence of co-occurring psychological disorders. Depending on the diagnosis, medicine may be prescribed. In other cases, it might not be. Evidence-based outpatient addiction treatment is highly effective. To remain effective, it needs to apply medicine where medicine is needed.
Another Time magazine study supports this, discussing the categorization of addiction as a disease. Like other ailments, addiction needs to be treated on a person-to-person basis. Understandably, outpatient drug rehab centers have formulated entire treatment plans—and even “partial” plans—to help recovering individuals by offering custom-tailored support.
A big chance in medication approach comes from the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which describes an addiction diagnosis as either “substance abuse” or “substance dependence.” While the former may be treated with non-drug-related intervention, the latter is more likely to require the presence of medication.
Drugs Aren’t the Only Answer
Before we cover the many non-drug-related options patients can turn to, we’d like to nod to Columbia’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which recommends a careful approach to substance use and addiction problems. Constantly calling for revised substance abuse approaches, CASA has repeatedly promoted treatment systems which are “drug flexible,” or programs which don’t rely on medication to cure addiction and prevent relapse.
What Other Options Do I Have?
Natural addiction recovery options do exist—and they’re rather popular, too. Many outpatient rehab centers understand their use, and they’ve incorporated them into effective, long-term treatment plans.
- Any successful recovery process has four key ingredients:
- A sustained effort
- The restoration of purpose
While medication can be an effective tool in combating addiction, anxiety, and depression, you can still beat addiction without them. Outpatient alcohol & drug rehab, first and foremost, is about harnessing one’s inner potential. Many addicts have found effective alternatives to overcome addiction—and many programs have studied these alternatives to offer full support.
Science thoroughly supports exercise as an effective addiction treatment method. CNN, for example, reports an animal study in which lab animals exposed to exercise wheels were less likely to consume cocaine. Other studies have found similar results, helping patients understand exercise’s many benefits on the brain, cognitive function, emotion and addiction recovery.
Humans are hard-wired to depend on routines. Abusing alcohol or drugs reduces this function, but physical fitness can replace it. Regular exercise also increases dopamine—a brain chemical which is commonly sought by addicted individuals.
Exercise’s “natural high” greatly reduces stress and anxiety, too, reducing the need for isolation—and, thus, the possibility of relapse. Outpatient substance abuse recovery often involves running, swimming, hiking, weightlifting and team-oriented sports. Leading outpatient rehab centers connect patients, creating a proactive network of recovering individuals to exercise with.
Some exercises, like long-distance running and yoga, help recovering individuals achieve mindfulness. Clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Bowen at The Huffington Post has recorded the high capacity of mindfulness exercises. Rather than reaching for substances, an individual can learn to focus on the moment, overriding the mental processes involved in addiction.
Make Sure You Include a Healthy Diet
While nutrition may not offer the same chemical responses as pharmaceutical substances, it helps recovering individuals get the most out of their exercise. It can also balance the body, reducing fatigue, depression and anxiety while increasing one’s confidence.
In most cases, addicts use drugs to help themselves cope. As destructive as they are, substances serve a purpose to the addicted individual. It’s important that suffering addicts understand this—and it’s even more important that they understand how to reverse the cycle.
When Is Medication the Answer?
It’s important to understand the fallacy of “clinical illusion.” Most research conducted on drug addiction is done on individuals in treatment programs. By definition, there is a skewed population being studied. The full universe of people isn’t represented, nor are the benefits of non-drug-related recovery methods.
Meanwhile, the positive benefits of exercise, a healthy diet, and professional therapy can be recorded in a much larger population. For some people, addiction and withdrawal can be intense. For others, stopping substance abuse merely requires mental and emotional guidance.
This isn’t to say drugs don’t serve their purpose in addiction recovery, however. Alcohol, MDMA, methamphetamine and inhalants are neurotoxic. Cocaine, meanwhile, can result in micro-strokes. It’s possible to suffer brain damage before help is ever acquired.
Meanwhile, some addicted individuals have cue-reactive memories. For example, someone may be memory-reactive to stimulants—if they have a history of stimulant abuse. In these cases, medication may be needed to gently “reverse” the way their reward pathways work. A Scientific American interview covers this reactivity, discussing the situations in which medication, truly, is the answer.
Finding a Brighter Future
At the end of the day, it’s important to acknowledge your personal needs. If you suffer from substance dependency, you likely don’t need medicinal intervention. A comprehensive outpatient treatment program can help, and it will likely be effective. Plenty of rest, exercise, a healthy diet and socializing—too—can aid recovery.
Your future is a bright one, but it requires inner strength, acknowledgment of past mistakes and a healthy approach to recovery. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, and if you fear you need chemical assistance to aid your recovery, absolutely contact a professional for assistance.
If you want to avoid medication, however, you can still find help. Outpatient addiction recovery programs can assist you with therapy, mental exercises, accountability partners and more. Many outpatient rehab centers also offer support group assistance. By connecting with like-minded individuals, you can circumnavigate the dangers of relapse.
Change Comes from Within
Your life’s choices are yours. While professional help is available, your decision to overcome addiction matters the most. Talking with a trusted professional is the first step. By seeing things in a new perspective, you can increase your resistance to addiction. Make routine appointments, and make sure you’re constantly held accountable for your choices during recovery.
Meanwhile, engage hobbies which excite you. The road to recovery is long, but it’s easier to travel if you engage the things you love. Focus on what fulfills you, and remove the chance to think—and act—on your addiction. As you begin to feel better about yourself, you’ll further increase your resistance to addiction.
It’s never too late to ask for help. If you’re struggling with the first steps, contact a professional today. Sometimes, the first step needs a little help. In most cases, you’ll have a choice to use medication. Medication isn’t the only way—and it shouldn’t be proposed as such.
Form a close bond with your addiction recovery team, and give them as much information as possible about your particular case. By nurturing healthy relationships, you can build your energy, resistance and motivation. Step by step, you can recreate your life for the better.