Why Isn’t Rehab Working While Costing $35 Billion Annually?

November 24, 2017, began my 42nd year of continuous addiction recovery. What a life. I love it. In my 3rd month of recovery–January 1977–I was held in my mind at the edge of a huge canyon. I called AA members all day, one after the other. Everyone was home. Everyone told me that I wasn’t losing my mind but to just hold on. Then they started talking to me about treatment. All the Marine officers’ wives went to a country club center in North Carolina. But I knew that I needed to stay local and live in a very modest home where I had attended in-home AA meetings.

The home was very progressive I realize now. We had individual and group therapy, AA meetings out of the home and in the home, meditation techniques, 12 step group work through the first 3 steps, and work therapy–we did all the work needed and rotated jobs.

I went into that home, Maranatha Home, the next day. I have never drank again. Although I had been sober since Thanksgiving, 1996, I know that that home plus working the 12 steps gave me the foundation I needed.

My individual counselor was an Episcopalian priest. He told me during one session that there was a 3-5% recovery rate. All that week I stewed about it. Classic case of the poor me. The next week I asked why he had told me that. He said, “It never entered my mind that you wouldn’t be in the 3-5%.” Wow–just wow. Did I luck out on my foundation builders or what?

Today, 42 years later, the recovery rate is not much better. Why?

From Dan Munro, Forbes magazine: “Inside the $35 Billion Addiction Treatment Industry”:

  • Addiction Treatment Costs $35 Billion Annually to Treat 11% of Addicts
  • 24,000,000 in active addiction
  • $35,000,000,000 spent for treatment annually
  • 11% of active addicts receive treatment
  • 10% continue 12 step programs after initial introduction

My thoughts on why rehab isn’t working:

  1. Addiction recovery is complex and addiction treatment needs to be individualized for each patient. Individual therapy isn’t enough. More help in rebuilding a life has to happen. The social model of treatment–helping with jobs, aptitude tests, parenting, financial training, etc.–needs to happen for the first year.
  2. Instead of expensive “resorts”, money needs to be spent on 12 month programs–mostly outpatient–but engaged in helping patient in concrete ways to rebuild a life.
  3. Talk therapy has to have goals developed by counselor and patient with time frames. Talking endlessly about the past is not therapy.
  4. My first job as an alcohol counselor was helping clients come into treatment. I did it by identifying the family role they had played in his/her family of origin. Because I had studied what each of these roles gave the client, I was able to build a bridge of understanding that helped them to see they weren’t bad people. I showed them how his/her role had helped the family unit. Connection is the cure for addiction. It has to happen in order for treatment to boost motivation for change.
  5. The treatment industry MUST lead the way with MAT–medically assisted treatment. Opioid sufferers don’t have time for talk therapy or the 12 steps. They are days away from death. Alcoholism takes 20-30 years to be full blown generally. Opioid addiction takes weeks or months.
  6. If patients are referred to 12 step programs, they MUST be all inclusive groups. If any 12 step meeting is not inclusive, it must be avoided. Rejection is the last thing suffering addicts need.
  7. Dual diagnosis screening has to happen at intake. I had to diagnose myself, which is normal, and it took 15 years.
  8. Little progress has been made from that 5-10% recovery rate, so why is so much money being spent on conferences in fancy locations?
  9. I have found some bright innovations:  The Rat Park FoundationCatalyst NetworkPhoenix MultisportStand Together

Photo is from Pinterest.

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