Last Updated on March 25, 2020 by Dr. Alberto Solà

For people mired in drug addiction, entering a rehab facility can seem like the final step in turning their lives around. However, while the decision to seek treatment for substance use disorder is a major one, it is one step in a lifelong journey of recovery and sobriety. Addiction does not have a “cure”; rather it is a daily commitment to staying clean. Because of that, it is important to look at the long-term ramifications of rehabilitation treatment for addiction.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is one of the final stages on the continuum of substance use disorder. This is an umbrella term for misuse and abuse of drugs, as well as alcohol. There are many different factors that can contribute to substance use disorder, ranging from mental health issues to trauma to a genetic disposition for addiction.

At first, drug use may seem harmless, such as one-night-only recreational use. But people write off this kind of drug abuse as mere experimentation at their own peril. Different drugs have different effects on the body—stimulants such as cocaine provide an immediate and powerful rush, while opiates such as heroin supply an intense high that is almost blissful. But what they all have in common is that they impact the brain’s chemistry. Drugs can affect how the brain’s neurotransmitters communicate with each other, and when that communication is disrupted, it sets the stage for potential drug abuse.

For instance, the brain’s reward center in the basal ganglia is usually triggered when people experience pleasurable activities, such as spending time with friends, and that releases a flood of the feel-good chemical called dopamine. However, drugs can cause an overwhelming amount of dopamine to be released in the brain. This trains the brain to link drug use with a pleasurable high, and activities that release a normal amount of dopamine can’t begin to compete with that. In order to feel that euphoric high, people may be tempted to use drugs again.

That can be the beginning of a downward spiral into substance use disorder. Repeated drug use can negatively affect the brain’s capability to make decisions, assess risk, problem solve, or deal with stress or mood swings in an appropriate way. As those functions decrease, the drugs continue to assert control over a person. Cravings can develop, and drug use may begin to take priority over school, work, family, and other obligations. Soon, those obligations may fall completely by the wayside as the user becomes singularly focused on chasing the high, a compulsion that is reinforced as harsh withdrawal symptoms become more prominent when the drugs aren’t in a person’s system.

Often, a person won’t admit to their growing substance use disorder. They may start lying to friends, family, and coworkers to cover up their drug use, or fall into financial or legal trouble as a result of their problem. What makes matters worse is that repeated drug use can lead to increased tolerance—as a person uses drugs habitually, their body adapts and becomes used to that sensation, which means the person needs to take more of the drug, and take it more frequently, to get the desired high. This can lead to increased drug use, which also carries with it a high risk of dependency—soon, the user can’t imagine getting through a day without taking drugs. As the risks, lies, physical and psychological symptoms, and drug use spin out of control, the user has reached the stage of drug addiction.

Unfortunately, drug addiction is an all-too-common problem in the United States. More than 27 million people abuse illegal and prescription drugs, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. It is a problem with grave consequences, for both the individual and the community. In 2017, more than 70,000 people in America died from drug overdoses (almost 48,000 of those deaths were from opioids). And the costs of drug addiction and abuse, which include legal and court fees, missed work days, and healthcare expenditures, are a whopping $193 billion annually. Treatment can be an integral tool in reducing the toll of drug addiction, but not everyone who needs rehabilitation gets it; the Surgeon General says roughly 10% of people with a substance use disorder enter a treatment program. Meanwhile, about 40% of people who acknowledge they have a problem aren’t ready to get help, and about 30% say they can’t afford a treatment program. But rehab treatment for drug addiction can have a profound long-term impact on a person’s health and well being.

Drug Addiction Rehab Treatment

There are many different kinds of treatment programs available for people who are dealing with drug addiction. In fact, there are over 14,500 drug treatment centers in America. Some people can get help from their doctor, or from a clinic. Depending on their needs, people can enter a residential program, where they stay for a period of time (about 30 days) before entering outpatient treatment, while some people start with an outpatient program. These residential programs can include an initial stay to detox the body from drugs, and there are also places that only do detox. However, some long-term results have been mixed: in Delaware, Washington, and Oregon, it’s been reported that 27% of people who did detox only had to be readmitted for that treatment again within a year.

Often, the greatest chances for long-term success in recovery can be found in a program that offers a continuum of comprehensive care. This can start with detox, followed by a treatment plan that can incorporate medication management, therapy, support groups, and, if needed, dual diagnosis care for co-occurring mental health disorders. These types of programs address not just the drug addiction, but also its underlying causes. Participants are given the tools to make healthy life choices that don’t involve drugs, in order to create positive and lasting life change. These programs typically include a clinical assessment when a patient enters a rehab facility and an individualized treatment plan that targets each patient’s specific needs and concerns. Once the residential/inpatient portion of treatment is concluded, there should be the opportunity to engage in outpatient or after care, which can be as simple as meeting with support groups each week or continuing therapy services. Ideally, comprehensive treatment encompassing all these stages should last at least one year after entering rehab.

For those people who commit to treatment for drug addiction, the long-term benefit is well worth the work. According to the Surgeon General’s Office, about half of the people who had ever been diagnosed with substance abuse have been in remission for a year or more. This takes consistent and continuous work, however, in order to avoid relapse—between 40% and 60% of people treated for substance abuse relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For many people, relapse is a normal part of recovery, and it signals that they need to re-focus their efforts to achieve sobriety, perhaps by attending more support groups, learning stress management tools, or re-entering an outpatient treatment program.

Drug addiction should not be taken lightly. It is a serious problem, and it deserves the serious attention that can be provided at a professional rehab facility. Clear Sky Recovery specializes in safe, medically based ibogaine treatment for substance addiction issues; contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

Drug Addiction and Long Term Rehab Statistics