Longer Treatment May Prevent Relapse

Longer Treatment May Prevent Relapse

Longer Treatment May Prevent Relapse

Longer Treatment May Prevent RelapseTeens entering treatment for substance addiction often face a difficult time upon exiting. When returning to the situation they were in when they were using the only difference may be that they are sober and trying to remain sober.

Relapse is common. The National Institute on Drugs Agency (NIDA) reports that approximately half of individuals that finish drug treatment relapse once the treatment is complete. For some individuals, the cravings are so intense that they return to the substance and begin and cycle of recovery and relapse that can go on for years. 

In an article posted on the site Drug Rehab Treatment, Meghan Vivo discusses the benefits of longer treatment programs documented in multiple research studies. While 30 days has been the typical time period used to jumpstart an individual’s recovery from drug addiction, research shows that longer may be better.

The argument hinges on the belief that, when it comes to the relapse-and-recovery pattern that many addicts fall into, 30 days is too short a time to address all of the areas needing healing, ranging from stress coping skills to repairing damaged relationships.

There is research supporting the use of longer therapy. NIDA studies show reduced relapse rates for those participating in a 90-day program. While that’s not a guaranteed time period for recovery, it may offer benefits that cannot occur in 30 days. In the first 30 days the patient may be so overwhelmed by withdrawal and cravings that they are not able to adequately address the underlying issues related to the addiction.

A 90-day program allows for more healing time, and then gives the patient time to explore the root of the addiction and learn new ways of responding to the emotions that lead to the destructive behavior.

As reported in the article, there are additional studies that support the use of longer treatment programs. A study that appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry showed that 35 percent of individuals in a shorter treatment program relapsed in the following 12 months, compared with 17 percent of those that were treated for 90 or more days.

A study conducted by the NIDA found that patients treated for fewer than 90 days had similar relapse rates as patients that were treated for less than a week. However, patients that remained in the treatment experienced a decreasing likelihood of relapse for each day they remained in treatment past 90 days.

The article explained that longer treatment programs make sense because of the nature of addiction, which is not a quick-fix situation but instead a chronic disorder with relapse a possibility. Ongoing treatment, with a gradual decreasing of therapy and support may help prevent relapse, rather than a concentrated solution.

Patients leaving treatment continue to experience cravings, enter into environments where drugs are available and encounter emotions that are strongly tied to that substance, explains NIDA’s Lisa Onken. Individuals trying to remain sober have to continue to develop skills and appropriate reactions with each situation they enter.

Vivo explains that the first 30 days of treatment in a 90-day program allow for the patient to establish ties to the therapists, recover from withdrawal symptoms and therapists get a better picture of the full extent of the addiction. Once these items are addressed new habits and responses to situations can be learned.

Unfortunately it may be some time before long-term programs that specialize in treating teenagers are available for most patients. There are few current programs that address specific teen treatment strategies. But parents and therapists can implement some of the insight from these findings to address treatment as an ongoing process, rather than a quick solution.

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