Do you realize that many of the treatment modalities that are in place today were started in the 1930s? Did they work? Yes. Do they work? Sure, for some, but not for most! Just as disease treatments for cancer and diabetes evolve, shouldn’t we advance and change our care for those struggling with addiction? Don’t you think it’s time for an evolution in how we treat addiction, especially now that we know more about what it is, how it works, and the best ways to treat it?
In order to cause such a dramatic transformation, we must first identify and defeat the main myths of addiction and cause a conversation to happen. I want this conversation to be among other treatment centers, among parents of those struggling with addiction, among family members, doctors, lawyers, social workers, educators, corporations – and those individuals who are struggling with or who have healed from the disease of addiction.
There is a different kind of recovery out there today. This recovery is not based on being labeled an “addict for life”. It’s not based on constant meetings, relying relentlessly on sponsors, and it is not based on believing that relapse is supposed to happen.
One of my Vertava Health employees, Brian, said it best, “I got sober to live, to be free, to fall in love, to have a family, and to go to work every day. I didn’t feel the need to avoid my brothers if they had a few beers while we took a family trip together. If my wife wants to have a glass of wine in the evening, she does. I don’t. I didn’t want to cut myself out of a world where those things are around and I didn’t want to cut the world out of my life. I didn’t want ‘recovery’ to be my future. I wanted to recover from the disease of addiction and for my future to be MY future. Was it easy? Not at first. But now, I am in control and I am living the life I wanted”.
This is what we want for people who come to us for help.
Allow me to get this conversation started for all of us. What follows are the biggest addiction myths in the industry today. Read them. Think about them. Discuss them. Help me cause a real change in the addiction treatment industry by rethinking how we’re looking at it and participating in it.
Top 5 Myths of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
1. ADDICTION IS A CHOICE
While the first step in using drugs or alcohol is a choice, becoming hopelessly addicted is not. Not everyone who makes the decision to use drugs or alcohol becomes addicted. But some do. Science doesn’t yet know why some do get the disease and some do not – but they do know and have proven that it IS a disease. We are trying to lead the public in addiction education to help society embrace the fact that addiction is a treatable disease. Just like cancer.
2. ONCE AN ADDICT ALWAYS AN ADDICT
90% of the treatment centers in American still tell clients this distressing message. This is one of the main problems with traditional drug rehab in the United States. If you are constantly told you will never be free – you will never be free. If you’re constantly told you are bad – will you never feel good again? This message of “always an addict” is irresponsible and false. Millions of us are living proof that addiction is a curable disease. I am one of those millions. Many leaders of major corporations are living proof that addiction is a curable disease.
Of course, you must find the right program for you and your family to succeed. They ARE out there. We are one of them.
3 ADDICTION IS A CHRONIC DISEASE
This goes hand in hand with number 2. Again, once an addict NOT always an addict. With the right program and commitment, addiction is curable as we have seen from my employee Brian and countless others who have RECOVERED from the disease of addiction. There is hope for everyone struggling with addiction, no matter how long they’ve been using and how many programs they’ve been to. Don’t start out believing it won’t work. Believe it will…because it does.
4. INDIVIDUALS MUST BE READY FOR TREATMENT FOR IT TO WORK
If we wait for everyone to be ready, our death statistics will continue to increase at staggering rates and our communities and family systems will continue to suffer.
Interventions are a great way to introduce someone to the help they need even if they don’t want it or recognize they need it. It’s not easy. But think of it this way – if someone had cancer in front of you but refused to get treatment would you just let him or her die? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to get them to see they can live? Treat the disease of addiction the same way. There are amazing interventionists out there who have great success in getting people into treatment. We know this because those are the interventionists that we work with.
5. I CANNOT AFFORD ADDICTION REHAB
We get this one a lot. Yes you can.
Simply put, if your loved one had cancer or diabetes, you would find the resources needed to help them. Insurance can cover some or all of treatment in certain cases. There are private pay options. There are scholarship options. Consider this – the average cost to bury your loved one ranges from 15 – 25K. Is that a better option? You may not have planned for rehab but saving a life is worth any money that you’d spend on the death of one.
6. RELAPSE IS “PART OF THE PROCESS”
Relapse only became “part of the process” of addiction treatment because of shoddy treatment programs that are too short and not focused or accountable to the results of the patient.
Have you ever noticed how most treatment centers won’t or don’t post their success rates? If they do post that information, it’s usually around 10% – a pretty sorry number. In addition to that – let’s face it -treatment centers make money off of client relapse. So, if you do happen to fall off the wagon, they are there to welcome you back into their program.
For one of our treatment campuses we did a quick, impromptu survey of 100 patients, one year later after treatment. We wanted to know how they were doing a full year later after attending our long-term treatment program. We are thrilled to report that at Vertava Health of Tennessee, we had an 85% success rate! Our plan is to do more impromptu patient surveys at our other campuses to measure and benchmark our success rate so that we can monitor and improve up on it. That’s how we know with the right program, the right tools, and the right support system; relapse does not have to be part of the equation.
America needs education on the disease of addiction. This year in our country, nearly 4 million people will die due to addiction and addiction related issues. To date approximately 10 people in America have died of Ebola. Which do you think is the bigger epidemic?
–Brent Clements, CEO