Recovery Starts with a Plan
A patient may require heavy medical care during the withdrawal period. Depending on the substance, the individual may experience headaches, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting or cravings so intense that they drive the person back to the substance. These symptoms are signs that the brain has sent out a distress call for the drug.
Treatment of the Whole Person
Substance abuse disorders have a high rate of comorbidity with other mental disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. When patients enter a facility, they should be screened for other mental health symptoms and for any physical health problems.
Treating the whole person has become increasingly the focus of substance abuse treatment. Treating alcohol dependence, for instance, without treating co-occurring depression may set the person up for a relapse as soon as they finish treatment.
Clinics that treat drug and alcohol addiction are now incorporating treatments for the whole health of the patient, bringing together physicians and psychiatrists, as well as therapists to ensure that all aspects of necessary treatment are being addressed.
Intensive Levels of Therapy
Enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program should be enrollment into an ongoing and comprehensive level of therapy. Not only should the patient be working on new patterns of thoughts and responses related to the drug of choice, but they should be working on homework and mental exercises to ensure that they are absorbing the lessons the therapist is incorporating into treatment.
Don’t Abandon Treatment
In many cases, as soon as a patient begins to feel better or that they have sufficient tools to navigate the outside world, they jump out of treatment. This is nearly always a mistake, because for most, the recovery process takes time and support from an experienced therapist.
In other cases, patients may leave treatment programs because their craving for the substance is overwhelming their desire to stay in the program.
Support is critical to the full recovery of an addiction patient. Support groups can bolster the training learned in therapy and push back perceptions of being isolated in recovery. In addition, support groups offer reminders of goals and a sense that there is community in recovery.
Friends and family can offer important support. Loved ones can help the patient remember what they learned in therapy and convey the message that they are rooting for the patient in their recovery. Families can also remove temptations from the home environment so that the patient has a safe place to be without the substance readily available.
Expect and Prevent Relapse
Relapse is common among substance abuse treatment patients. Many who enter treatment find that they relapse soon after the program is completed. Expecting relapse and having a plan to address cravings can help patients remain abstinent.
If a patient, having completed recovery, feels overwhelming cravings, they may have a plan that includes calling another recovering patient, setting up an emergency appointment with their therapist or attending a support group meeting. Another alternative is to reenter treatment to work further at developing tools to combat cravings.