Latest Research Shows Need For Improved Long-Term Addiction Solutions

addiction-alcohol-opioidsAccording to the Center on Addiction, one in seven Americans aged 12 and older abuse alcohol or drugs. It’s no secret that substance abuse, aided by the opioid epidemic, is on the rise in the U.S. And while addiction treatment facilities have been around for decades, new research is showing that what happens after treatment is just as critical to a person’s recovery from substance abuse as time spent in initial recovery. While we have long known that mental health plays a critical role in our overall well-being, it affects those battling addiction even more, and the work to improve mental health and response to substances doesn’t stop when a person is discharged from a rehabilitation facility.

The Road To Recovery

Several major new studies are discovering that the journey to recovery is longer and more complex than researchers had previously believed. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that medication prescribed to those weaning off opioids only lasts about 55 days. This is concerning, especially considering that many patients are recommended to spend months to years working on overcoming their substance abuse. Another study at Scripps Research Institute found that electrical stimulation might be an effective long-term method for treating addiction to heroin, and a study done at Yale University found that providing medication during an initial medical visit is critical in encouraging those battling addiction to ultimately seek professional treatment to overcome opioids for the long haul.

It Starts With Rehabilitation

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are 14,500 drug treatment facilities in the U.S. that provide medication, case management, counseling and more services to those battling substance use disorders. For many, receiving drug and alcohol treatment from a reputable facility is absolutely lifesaving. Medical and mental health professionals are equipped with the tools needed to help their patients navigate addiction. Many of these facilities are starting to focus on life after rehab and true long-term recovery, understanding that the work is not done when a patient leaves the safety of its grounds. Although for many people, initial rehabilitation is a crucial step in the recovery and healing process, often the true battle lies in the work done after leaving a facility.

After Leaving The Safety Net

A recent study from Services for the UnderServed found that between 37 and 56 percent of patients transitioning from residential treatment facilities to their homes and communities relapsed within a year of leaving the program. When it comes to life after rehab, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment recommends sticking to a new treatment program called at contingency management (CM). This is a rewards-based program that has quite a bit of online infrastructure, including mobile phone apps and web-based programs. Utilizing technology to reach those battling substance abuse is becoming more critical, particularly for those who leave a recovery program, and might hold the key for continuing to develop better long-term recovery plans.

More research is needed to understand how a brain battling addiction works and how we can continue fighting to help those overcoming substance abuse. True recovery lies in helping those struggling with substance abuse to overcome their addiction for the rest of their lives.




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Last Updated on June 5, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD