Mental Health Disorders & Drug Relapse

Untreated Mental Health Disorders Can Cause Addicts to Relapse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) has estimated that drug addiction relapse rates could be as high as 60%. They say it is comparable to what occurs in treating other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and asthma treatment. However, I am not sure that shortcomings in treating other types of chronic diseases compared to those typically found in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

For example, as far back as 2013, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University concluded that “the vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.” The report added, “only a small fraction of individuals receive interventions or treatment consistent with scientific knowledge about what works.” Other chronic diseases typically lack this basic premise.

The Columbia report found “that most addiction treatment providers are not medical professionals and are not equipped with the knowledge, skills or credentials needed to provide the full range of evidence-based services, including medication and psychosocial therapy.”

What’s Evidence-Based Practice in Drug and Alcohol Treatment?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is defined as adherence to psychological approaches and techniques that are based on scientific evidence. You would think that EBP would be the norm for most drug and alcohol treatment centers, but it is the exception.

Most often EBP are comprised first of Pharmacological Therapies like the use of Methadone and Suboxone™ to stabilize and suppress cravings. Secondly, of Behavioral Therapies that encourage individuals to remain abstinent, change their actions related to abusing drugs and teach them life skills needed to handle stressful situations that can trigger them to relapse. Effective medication management and behavior therapy help individuals sustain treatment.

How Do You Select a Treatment Center?

The first thing to be done is to determine what kind of treatment is needed based on where an individual is in their addiction. Seeking the advice of mental health counselors, social workers and interventionists are a great place to start. Especially, if they are not affiliated with a particular treatment center. Their counsel will best determine whether an individual should be treated, residentially or outpatient. Finances and practical access to the treatment center are also to be considered.

Secondly, search as to the type of professional credentials and past experience of the treatment center’s professional staff. The higher the level of credential and diversity will help assure the most qualified and comprehensive treatment possible. Also, inquire as to whether recovered Peer Support Specialists assist in the program because there is nothing like one addict being able to relate to another.

Third, arrange a meeting or telephone call with the Medical, Clinical and Spiritual Directors at the treatment center who will be treating you or your loved one. Inquire as to their treatment approach and whether they simultaneously treat co-occurring mental health disorders in addition to treating the addiction. Inquire as if the treatment program adheres to the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program and if that agrees with you.

Fourth, search out programs that use evidence-based practice techniques, like Medication Management, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management Interventions, Motivational Interviewing, Therapeutic Group Counseling and Family Behavior Therapy. Try to assess how much scientifically based treatment is going to be performed versus strictly non-conventional methodologies.

And finally, what is the length of treatment to be expected and what would a month or more of treatment cost. Inquire as to how much out of pocket expenses will be required to be paid and what insurance is likely to cover. Inquire as to whether scholarships are available.

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