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Be successful in an outpatient treatment program for drug addiction

Though addiction treatment should always be individualized, it is not always necessary to “disappear” for 30 days to an inpatient facility for effective treatment. Outpatient treatment options now exist that can avoid disruption in one’s life, but must be supervised with the right treatment team. Follow this expert advice in helping you beat your drug addiction by getting treatment while still being able to live your life.


Do get evaluated first

No matter what drug you are seeking treatment for, you should always get evaluated first to see what level of care is best suited for you. There are guidelines set by the American Society of Addiction Medicine that give criteria for the individualized type and level of care. A Medical evaluation by a qualified doctor should include a thorough history, physical examination, screening for psychiatric illness, and a psychosocial evaluation. These are essential to determine if one requires medical attention for the effects of withdrawal through detox, which can potentially be life threatening, especially when detoxing from alcohol and certain psychoactive drugs like benzodiazepines. Detox from heroin, pain pills, and other opiates is very painful and requires a medical intervention. Your evaluation will ultimately determine if you are best suited for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Do see the experts

Patients in need of treatment for alcohol or other drug-related disorders should be treated by qualified professionals that have additional training in addiction medicine. These are usually MD’s that are board certified in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry. Be wary of programs or facilities that offer “spa” type of services that have no clinical proof of being effective for addictions or detox. For example: sauna therapy for detox, horseback riding, balloon rides, and massage therapy all may be nice to have in a program, however what is essential for effective treatment is medical and psychological interventions from a professional guided by proven therapies.

Do attend meetings

Along with medication that will help with detox, cravings, and possible treatment for mood disorders, make sure that you have access to professional counselor and/or self-help groups to help you with personalized internal issues and create a solid treatment plan for your recovery.

Do treat other medical or psychiatric conditions

The professional or program responsible for treatment is also responsible for referring the patient to additional services that may be required as a supplement to addiction treatment. This could include medications to reduce cravings or block the effect of the drug, for example. Mood disorders also are highly associated with substance abuse disorders and should be identified and treated appropriately.

Do stay committed to your recovery

There is no cure for any type of addiction. Addictions are chronic and lifelong conditions. Detox alone is not treatment. Understanding the forces that promote addictive behaviors are important. This may mean understanding underlying mood disorders that are oftentimes life long conditions. Being engaged with your treating MD, your therapist, being proactive with communicating with your family and helping them understand what addiction is, are all essential in maintaining your sobriety.


Do not rely solely on groups

Self-help groups are a valuable community resource for many people and their families. Although helpful at every stage of treatment and as a long-term social and spiritual aid to recovery, they should not be substituted for professional addiction treatment. Your treatment program should develop cooperative relationships with the self-help groups, since they work in compliment to professionally guided treatment.

Do not rule out anti-craving medications

Breakthroughs in the field of addiction medicine have made it possible for you to reduce cravings for certain addictions like alcoholism or addiction to heroin or other opiate based pain pills. FDA approved medications like naltrexone and buprenorphine, can help keep you sober for longer.

Do not get overconfident

Detox is not considered treatment. Nor is graduating from a treatment program after 30 days. Addiction is a lifelong brain condition that has to be addressed chronically. Maintenance of disease remission is a lifelong process and should be followed even after getting treatment, just like with other chronic relapsing illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.

Do not rule out short inpatient programs

If your choice for treatment is only guided by your desire not to disappear for 30 days to disrupt work or life, make sure that your treatment team has relationships with the detox program or inpatient treatment center. Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain condition that can occur at any time over the course of the illness. “Putting the fire out” may be required for you to achieve medical stability through short detoxes or a more structured short inpatient program.

Do not think you can do this alone

Involving your family, spouse, and sometimes close friends are essential for healing for the whole family system. Addicts are not the only ones hurt during their addiction. Family, spouses, friends, are equally or many times, more affected by chaotic and irrational behaviors associated with addiction. Make sure that your addiction treatment plan includes and invites others to participate in therapy and educational classes about addiction.

Jumping cartoon

Addiction treatment programs should be individualized and tailored to give clients choices, resources, and support to take responsibility for addressing their medical and psychosocial needs.

You can get help for your addiction even if you have a busy life through outpatient treatment programs. However, keep in mind you should be supervised by appropriately trained professionals. The field of addiction medicine has developed new exciting and effective strategies that can treat your addiction at a biological level. Monthly injections to reduce cravings or completely block effects of drugs, for example, can help you fight your addiction and make it easier on you during this stressful time. More research into vaccines and other biological treatments for addictions are on the horizon. Also, counseling should always complement professional addiction treatment and can involve the whole family unit.

More expert advice about Drug Addiction

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Arturo C. Taca, Jr. MDMedical Director at INSynergy Treatment Program

Dr.Taca brings to INSynergy a wealth of experience in addiction medicine. Dr. Taca is a Diplomate and Board Certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine as well as the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Taca has been the...

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