We have made great strides in the recognition and acceptance of addiction. I think of addiction on a continuum starting from the point when addiction was totally unrecognized and hidden from others to today when the term "rehab" is part of our everyday vocabulary. What do we know today that can make a difference in the lives of those addicted to drugs?
What we know is that addiction is a complex disease. It is a disease of the mind, body and soul. Addiction forms from a progression of interrelated factors and those factors are unique to each person. In plain and straightforward words, addiction is a symptom and a solution and because of this there is treatment available. What makes drug use a solution is the reality that drug use is self-medication.
What the individual is self-medicating is the crux of treatment.
What constitutes successful treatment is attending to the reasons that make use a solution. Anyone who has reached adulthood understands that there are no simple problems or easy solutions. There are no quick fixes or cures to eliminate the drive and need for the addict to use. And if someone promises this, know that you are not in the right place.
Many knock the concept of what has been now called "rehab" and in its current state there is justification to knock. Hopefully the knocking will become loud enough to lead to uncovering false claims that lead to unrealistic expectations.
Brain research and scientific investigation has given us valuable information on the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and body. Science can tell us what happens when addiction takes hold and even why the effects of drugs and alcohol hold appeal.
We also know that the most effective method of treating addiction is through treating the whole person which means understand each person from their start. Understanding what makes addiction the solution is a dual diagnosis perspective to treating addiction.
Getting addicts into treatment is exceedingly difficult and getting them to stay once there, is equally hard. Many question why we should care so for a group of people who seem so determined on destroying themselves? With one in four people being affected by addiction and hundreds of billions of dollars being spent, or lost each year, we begin to see the reasons why. And above and beyond the numbers are the people who are suffering before us.
There is no doubt that the treatment of addiction has become a big business and a largely unregulated one at that. Because of this it has become a predatory endeavor where those that are most vulnerable are promised a cure and end to their or their loved ones addiction. For those that have struggled so long and so hard the promise and sometimes the "guarantee" of relief is too much to resist. We want to believe that somewhere somehow someone has found the solution to end the suffering. Unfortunately in these empty promises and the eventual failure the addict and their families fall further into the misconception that there is no solution.
This phenomena of the vulnerable being taken advantage of is not unique to the field of addiction treatment. It can be found wherever there are those that are suffering from long term degenerative disease. Addiction is a long term disease that can be successfully treated when using a dual diagnosis approach and managed with thoughtful attention to establishing a long term program. In the dual diagnosis perspective relapse prevention is built in while going through the process of knowing the whole person from the point that substance use began.
As an adult child of an alcoholic and a treatment professional for more than 28 years I can assure you that while it may appear hopeless that those that are addicted will be able to achieve and maintain sobriety- it can indeed happen. Over these many years my belief in the unlimited potential of people to grow and change to accept life over death and help over giving up has been tested, but I remain optimistic. Because the road to recovery is long, hard and complex, it has to be wanted. This road must become the solution that is chosen each day.
It has been said the optimism is the foundation of courage and indeed courage is needed. Courage is needed to see addiction in a new light so that once that light is trained on the formation of substance use, we will see how self- medication forms abuse.
As a society we can take leaps forward by recognizing and addressing the factors that form substance use. Preventing substance use and abuse will be much more successful with addressing these factors and understanding that when addiction does occur, it is indeed self-medication at its core while accepting that what drives this self-medication is different for every person. While we all know there are no quick fixes or cures there is dual diagnosis treatment available that will lead to recovery for those who have suffered with addiction.