It’s only natural to have apprehension about addiction rehabilitation. So before committing to a rehab program, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what to expect—similar to any other complex medical issue. To that end, we’re offering a two-part overview that walks you through the process.
Treating Addiction as a Disease
You’ll notice we place addiction into the medical category. This is because all current addiction science research considers substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) as brain diseases that, according to some experts, require “multidisciplinary examination.”
Doctor and professor Michael Bierer at Harvard Medical School noted in this article that a person with SUD or AUD develops an impaired ability to stop using alcohol or drugs because of “deficits in the function of the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain involved in executive function. The prefrontal cortex has several important jobs: self-monitoring, delaying reward, and integrating whatever the intellect tells you is important with what the libido is telling you.” People also have difficulty simply stopping excessive alcohol or drug use because of how the brain reacts to stress when it’s deprived of substances.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) defines addiction as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.”
So as a chronic health condition—similar to heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis—addiction can’t be cured, but it can be managed effectively with evidence-based treatment that addresses an individual’s particular needs.
A Clinical Assessment Is a Critical First Step to Rehab
Most people start the treatment process with a confidential pre-admission evaluation. Then, based on a series of factors, a medical professional—such as a licensed alcohol or drug counselor, physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist—issues a diagnosis of addiction. The criteria for diagnosis are established by the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Clinical professionals then evaluate a person’s condition, as advancing into healthy addiction recovery requires a customized approach. Some of the primary considerations include, but aren’t limited to:
- Current state of health, including possible diagnostic testing, and health history
- Proof of co-occurring conditions, such as mental health disorders or chronic physical health challenges
- Type of substances used
- Duration and intensity of substance use
- Reasons for entering treatment, such as court-ordered rehabilitation, overdose, or voluntary awareness
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Professionals might also initially inquire about other causation factors of addiction including genetic predisposition and environmental risks such as peer influence, relationship issues, legal and financial pressure, and others. The NIH indicates that for SUD and AUD treatment to be effective, it should “attend to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse…treatment must address the individual’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems. It is also important that treatment be appropriate to the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture.”
The Admissions Process
Once an addiction assessment is complete, the next step is entering an accredited inpatient rehabilitation facility or an outpatient program. There may be additional clinical components to consider, such as:
- Trauma assessment
- Recreation/leisure assessment
- Family assessment
- The features of the facility and points of procedure regarding rules, visitors, and so on
- Treatment duration guidelines, such as short-term, 30-, 60-, or 90- day programs, or extended stay
- Processes and staff guidance that help address specific concerns
- Clearly outlined costs for treatment and methods of payment, including insurance
- Type of aftercare and relapse prevention support
The chemical toxins of SUD and AUD change your physiology, resulting in numerous health issues including, but not limited to:
- Acute mental and physical dependency
- Altered behavior
- Changes in executive brain function
- Disrupted appetite and sleep receptors
- Liver failure
- Organ damage
Consequently, many people begin addiction treatment with medical detoxification, especially if they have one or more of these factors:
- Excessive abuse or a long history of substance or alcohol use
- Relapse after a period of recovery or rehabilitation
- Mixed substance abuse, such as alcohol and opiates
- An unmanaged chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes
- Co-occurring mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD
- A serious and immediately life-threatening illness
While detoxification seems initially concerning, most rehabilitation facilities specialize in a professionally monitored medical process in a safe and controlled environment. Usually, detoxification might last up to two weeks, depending on the level of addiction complexity. Some facilities might also use assistive medication to make detoxification easier in more severe cases.
A Different Kind of Healing at Willingway’s Rehab
Founded by the Mooney family more than 50 years ago, Willingway in Statesboro, GA, has provided continuous addiction rehabilitation care for veterans, women, men, and even teens in crisis. Our admissions counselors are ready to help you and your family create a path to the positive healing you deserve.