By Patrick O’Neil
“Research has long shown that the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs is the single most serious health problem in the United States,” writes Nels Ericson, editor and writer for the Department of Justice. “Straining the health care system, burdening the economy, and contributing to the health problems and death of millions of Americans every year.”
Of course Ericson made that statement pre-covid, but still the numbers aren’t going away just because there’s a pandemic. In fact with the forced isolation of shutdowns and the fear of an uncertain future the numbers are getting worse. While there are no statistics yet to convey this increase, the pre-pandemic data revealed that over 23 million Americans were struggling with addiction and alcoholism. Yet with thousands of substance abuse treatment facilities operating in the US, only a quarter of that 23 million actually accessed treatment. Leaving nearly 18 million with untreated addiction fending for themselves—and this is where the disinformation problem arises.
If you follow the news it seems as if everyday there’s another miracle cure for alcoholism and addiction. Alongside a plethora of psychologists, researchers, harm reduction proponents, and disgruntled recovery groups bashing traditional treatment modalities and self help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Much like the information landscape regarding practically everything in this “information age,” the recovery field is inundated with overabundance of websites, publications, and journalists advising people what to do. While the internet is filled with quick fix “solutions,” conflicting research, and questionable therapies. Touting everything from brain neurotransmitter blockers, psilocybin-assisted therapy, and deep brain stimulation as the next big breakthrough for addiction treatment. The latter of which requires the implantation of electrodes in the brain, and whose inventor Dr. Olivier George cautions, “I am not sure that patients with alcohol and tobacco addiction would necessarily accept such treatments because it is associated with some risks due to the surgery.”
Americans are obsessed with immediacy and addicts and alcoholics seeking help are even more inclined to wanting sobriety now, rather than later, as it plays right into the instant gratification of substance abuse. And therein lies another problem—recovery takes time, hard work, and commitment—and for the majority of people that are sober that means entering treatment and engaging in the proven methods of recovery. “People who get treatment and stick with it can stop using drugs,” proclaims the National Institutes Of Health. “They can change their lives so they don’t go back to taking drugs. But they have to try hard and follow the treatment program for a long time. Recovery from addiction means you have to stop using drugs AND learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and dealing with problems.”
So how does one navigate through all this information to find treatment that actually works?
“Most professionals recognize a dynamic interplay of factors as contributing to addictive tendencies involving alcohol and other substances,” writes Clinical Psychologist Dr. Johnna Medina. “This is why, in addition to detoxification and rehab, psychosocial treatments are critical for recovery from a substance use disorder,” especially when used in combination with group therapy, individual counseling, and evidence based behavioral therapies—such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI). Both of which involve the client and therapist working together in a therapeutic relationship to explore the client’s patterns of behavior leading to self-destructive actions and identifying their negative beliefs in order to establish alternate thinking.
At CAST Centers the outpatient treatment programs are designed to provide the addict and alcoholic with exactly that kind of help, guidance, and support as they learn to improve their mental, emotional, and spiritual self. In addition to group therapy, CAST Centers includes a weekly one-on-one session to focus on intimate and challenging topics. CAST Center’s clinicians guide clients in addressing both life-limiting conditions, as well as the underlying factors. The CAST Alignment Model (CAM) draws from evidence-based practices like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Motivational Interviewing to create a customized, integrative treatment experience for our clients. This combination of traditional methods and evidence-based practices has been proven to produce the best results.
Working through addiction is a journey, and it can be a challenging one. But it’s also an incredibly important and worthwhile path. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction CAST’s substance use disorder and addiction treatment center can help.