One of the most unfortunate aspects of drug recovery is the rate of relapse. The treatment process often involves uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as well as the psychological discomfort of having to confront the root causes of the substance abuse. After detox and considerable work in a treatment program, some substance abusers end their physical dependence on drug(s) and are on the path to recovery. Although this is a time of great hope, vulnerability to drug abuse often remains. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses, addiction is a treatable disease, but it has no cure; hence, the risk of relapse remains.
As PsychCentral notes, the relapse rate post-detox ranges from 65 to 80 percent just one month after the detox program ends. However, the good news is that people who continue treatment are up to 10 times more likely to maintain sobriety. Detox is not enough; a comprehensive treatment program must follow it. This statistic also makes clear that while relapse is a reality for many, one of the best ways to combat it is to have a strong and well-structured aftercare treatment program.
The Need for an Aftercare Program
From an academic and practical treatment standpoint, it is important to look at what other countries are doing about drug abuse and review their study findings. America is not alone in facing addiction, providing treatment, and working towards developing new rehab methodologies. On the other side of the pond, the UK is also grappling with addicted citizens, and their statistics are similar to the US when it comes to relapse. Addiction Today, the most widely read journal on alcohol and substance abuse in the UK, discusses the necessity of providing recovering substance abusers with a well-designed aftercare program. As the journal points out, one of the negatives of life post-treatment is that a high percentage of relapse happens during the vulnerable first three months of being drug-free. For this reason, one of the best ways to strengthen the recovery process is to implement a structured aftercare program. In fact, aftercare is so critical to recovery that well-known US interventionist John Southworth reportedly has a policy where he will not send a substance abuser to rehab unless there is an aftercare plan in place. Southworth is not putting the proverbial cart before the horse; he just knows the realities of addiction and relapse all too well.
Features of an Aftercare Program
Both formal and informal plans should be implemented as part of an aftercare plan. An informal plan for recovering substance abusers is one they can establish on their own and includes helpful personal strategies to avoid relapse, such as:
- Map out prevention measures, including an understanding that unhealthy thoughts about wanting to use again will pass and do not have to be acted upon.
- Review the success of current efforts and be adaptable to making positive changes as necessary, such as attending a recovery group if not doing so already.
- Learn to live with greater awareness and evaluate decisions to see if they are helpful or harmful (for example, choosing not to attend a social gathering that features past triggers for drug abuse).
- Know that the more you create a balanced life, the more you learn how to healthfully care for yourself and the less likely you will be to slip into old unhelpful patterns of abuse.
Formal aftercare measures involve other people, services, and resources, and they are intended to support and augment one’s own actions. A formal aftercare program may include the following forms of support:
- Psychotherapy and recovery groups. Attendance at individual and/or group sessions can be most beneficial when it is regular, and the groups are stable and supportive.
- Outpatient treatment. This resource is ideal for recovering substance abusers who are available in the day and will take advantage of on-site services, such as individual therapy and group recovery meetings.
- Residence in a sober living home. Living in a safe, drug-free environment with other recovering individuals can provide the mutual support and access to group recovery meetings that recovering substance abusers need to overcome environmental relapse triggers.
- Step-down residential care. This program may be ideal for recovering substance abusers who do not yet have a supportive network in place. With this kind of care, recovering addicts have the ability to live in a structured environment, but they enjoy greater privileges than found in a standard residential drug treatment program, such as the ability to maintain a job.
Futures of Palm Beach provides specialized treatment that is tailored to the individual substance abuser’s needs. We understand from years of clinical experience that the goal of rehab is not only to achieve abstinence, but to also maintain it through a comprehensive treatment and aftercare program. Call us today to learn more about our offerings.