The patient population that is seeking help for addiction and walking through the doors of rehabs and addiction treatment center is not the same patient population that sought out treatment years ago. Decades ago, the typical patient that sought treatment for addiction or alcoholism was a middle aged Caucasian male, typically with a career and family. However, as society has changed so has the patient population that now suffers from addiction, alcoholism and co-occurring disorders. Today’s patient is younger, typically between 18-35, often without having acquired a career or family and typically lacking necessary life skills. Additionally, the complexity of the cases entering treatment has changed, becoming more complex and suffering not simply from a single diagnosis but often dealing with a multitude of other issues including mental health or psychiatric issues, eating disorders, trauma, gender identification and sexual issues and complex family systems issues. Very rarely does a simple textbook case walk through a rehab’s door.
Therefore, as the complexity and severity of cases have changed, so must the addiction treatment industry change and adapt to meet the needs of those patients. Even more important, a rehab or addiction treatment facility must be clinically sophisticated and well-trained enough to meet each individual case that walks through its front door or have the wherewithal to assess each case and refer out to another provider that may specialize in those specific patient needs.
So what does this mean? It means that the approach taken for many years by centers must change with the times to meet the needs of the current patient population. It means that the old school approach of “only treating addiction” and not other co-occurring disorders needs to go by the wayside. For many years “dual diagnosis” was a term rehabs used to market themselves as different or better within the industry. Currently, if a center is not treating a dual diagnosis population, they are doing patients a disservice. It is almost impossible to treat addicted patients now without treating dual diagnosis issues or co-occurring disorders. It means that therapists must be able to work with patients of all issues and have the licensure and training to meet a patient’s needs. It means that psychiatrists are available regularly to treat patients and offer necessary medications. It means that the clinical staff is keeping up with the most recent trainings and therapeutic approaches. It means that members of the clinical staff are specialized in specific clinical issues patients may present with during their time in treatment. It means that admissions and clinical staff needs to be aware of the clinical needs of patients and know if they are not able to meet those needs that they know quality resources that they can partner with or refer to when a patient needs specific or specialized service.
Additionally, treatment centers and rehabs need to be able to offer a necessary component in treatment to patients that addresses and supports their need of not only building life skills but also transitioning them back to college, a vocation or the workforce. One of the biggest issues facing patients in treatment is lack of direction and purpose. They do not have the skills to go out into the real world post-treatment and the issues that arise from being unprepared often drive them right back into addiction. A center needs to be able to guide and support patients while in treatment to a place where they are ready to reenter daily life once treatment ends.
Finally, rehabs and centers need to understand that addiction as a chronic, progressive illness requires long-term care. That can come in a variety of ways, but it means that treatment facilities need to be supporting patients with long-term solutions, whether through their own continuum of care or through partnerships with other facilities. We know that nothing magical happens after a ten day detox, a 30 day residential program or a 12 week outpatient program. Patients need continuity of care through a long-term transitional model of treatment. That means that residential facilities need to work closely with quality extended care treatment centers or intensive-outpatient (IOP) programs so that patients can continue treatment at discharge. That means that the old way of doing things (going “away” for 30 days and then getting handed a list of local therapists and/or AA/NA meetings) is not sufficient in creating a true comprehensive aftercare plan that supports a continuum of care. 12 Step Fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are excellent and for many patients that enter treatment absolutely vital for them to maintain and grow their recovery. However, AA and NA are not necessary for EVERY patient that goes to treatment for addiction, nor should they be dumping grounds for rehabs and used as “aftercare.” This may be taboo to say, but not every person that seeks help at a drug addiction is an “alcoholic” or “addict” as defined by the 12 Step Fellowships (many or even most may be, but certainly not all.) Substance Use Disorder is a spectrum and not everyone that needs help via treatment is at the same place on that spectrum. So rehabs and treatment centers need to be insightful and sophisticated enough to work with each patient and identify their issues regarding substances and underlying conditions and then establish a treatment plan that meets those needs.
The issues that patients entering treatment today is changing and becoming more complex and therefore treatment centers and rehab facilities need to make sure they are changing and evolving to meet the needs of those patients. It is absolutely the responsibility of the rehab to make sure that if they are admitting a patient through their doors, that patient will be safe, well cared for and that the clinical needs they present with are able to be met and addressed by that rehab ethically and appropriately.
If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a rehab or provider that better fits your needs.