When someone has a chronic condition, they typically visit their healthcare provider once or twice a year for a check-up. While this isn’t a typical practice for people in recovery, many advocates say it should be, especially if it reduces that initial fear of treatment and promotes more long-term support for sobriety success.
Avoiding Relapse Isn’t the Only Reason for a Check-up
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that “six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and four in ten have two or more.” As a form of comparison, let’s look at one of the most common chronic conditions, diabetes.
When someone has diabetes, there are many aspects of health management they have to be mindful of on a regular basis. If they have type 1 diabetes, they must treat their condition daily by administering some form of insulin, monitor glucose levels, perform a foot check for diabetic complications, and maintain proper eating habits. On average, they also have a check-up with their doctor every three months to evaluate their A1C (blood sugar) levels and discuss treatment progress. Someone with type 2 diabetes doesn’t have quite the daily management, but still has to modify behaviors and get regular exams specifically for that condition.
Now, keeping all that in mind, substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are classified as brain diseases: they can’t be cured but can be managed effectively. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “like treatment for other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, addiction treatment is not a cure, but a way of managing the condition. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.”
Many people who enter addiction treatment rehabilitation accomplish their sobriety goal. They may go through detoxification to rid their bodies of harmful chemicals, learn essential techniques for managing cravings and triggers, and develop vital coping skills for understanding the root causes of their addiction and how to thrive in the future.
But is treatment always a “one and done” proposition? If someone returns to rehab, why is it often viewed as a critical relapse? In fact, what if they returned to rehab before relapse occurs or met regularly with what’s known as a recovery management specialist to assess their condition and modify their care approach?
Recovery Check-up: a More Proactive Approach to Health
There are numerous advocates for taking a more detailed managed care approach to recovery. Maybe you already do something like this with a therapist or your primary care physician. But specialists in addiction medicine want to take the concept further. Here are some examples.
A 2004 study examined the value of addiction professionals expanding from “acute care models of intervention into alcohol and other drug problems to models of sustained recovery management…and the effects of proactive recovery management checkups on treatment outcomes.” Two key points included “using more assertive methods of linking clients to post-treatment recovery support resources” and “where possible, providing post-treatment monitoring, stage-appropriate recovery coaching and early re-intervention.”
Therapist and addiction specialist Michael Weiner is a strong proponent for what he calls “lifespan recovery management.” He explained the concept in a 2017 article for The Sober World magazine. Here’s one concept Weiner describes: similar to how a patient with diabetes will be monitored for a lifetime, “people with SUDS need the same. A person with a SUD would always have an addiction specialist [a professional certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine] on their medical team.” He also suggests modifying addiction language to be more progressive—for example, replace “relapse” with “recurrence” and “relapse prevention” with “recovery management.”
The Recovery Research Institute indicates that recovery management check-ups “are a long-term clinical approach to following up with patients with substance use disorder much like treating other chronic illnesses like hypertension or diabetes. Prior research has shown that this approach, which includes quarterly check-ups, helps enhance long-term recovery outcomes.”
The bottom line: you shouldn’t have to wait and react to a health crisis if you feel it’s time to evaluate your sobriety health.
Turn to the Extensive Support of Willingway
As one of the premier addiction rehabilitation facilities in Georgia, Willingway understands how critical it is to have treatment options that fit particular needs. That’s why we offer a wide range of programs to help you maintain sobriety successfully. From our long-term and short-term inpatient care to various types of outpatient services, we have the resources for you or a loved one to stay on track. We also offer alumni the CaredFor app so they stay connected to a healthy community, and continuing care support groups throughout the Southeast. Call us today to learn how we can help you.