Wed. Oct 28th, 2020
The Importance of Aftercare

The Importance of Aftercare

Recovery is a tenuous thing, very hard to achieve and even more difficult to retain. Even the decision to seek recovery requires courage and a tremendous sense of purpose. The addiction treatment community and society at large places a high value on getting addicts to a point of sobriety and spends a lot of money to get them there. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the point at which we start to fall short. Imagine a car company. It spends a considerable amount of time developing a new model, from blue-prints to 3D imaging, testing and engineering, finally culminating in the rollout of a shiny fleet of vehicles off a modern assembly line. Everything is teed up, all is perfect, but they then decide to spend absolutely no money on marketing. I’m sure we’d all view that as a terrible decision, as the fancy new cars sat idle on the car lots, wasting away and depreciating with each passing day. Well, in many ways, our system for addiction treatment is doing just that. Most addicts get serious about recovery only after they’ve hit rock bottom. They go to Detox, 28 day programs, or any number of in-patient or out-patient facilities to begin the expensive process of getting clean. Even when the treatment is covered by insurance, the medically supervised hand-holing of people through acute care, at the beginning of treatment, is done at great cost, and rightfully so. After all, what wouldn’t you do to save a life? However, once the patient is out of the woods and standing on his own two sober feet, he may look a lot better, but his disease of addiction is far from gone. Yet, like that car company that tried to save money by going cheap on marketing, we do a disservice to patients and the entire recovery process, right at the point that treatment is most cost-effective. The average relapse rate can vary depending on the type of addiction and the type of treatment, but generally is in the 50% range. Most people in recovery relapse a few times before recovery finally takes hold. However, that relapse rate goes down markedly, to below 15% (an 85% success rate), when addicts stay in a supervised aftercare program for at least 4-5 years. The numbers speak for themselves. Several treatment centers have rolled out aftercare programs, but only as an adjunct to their primary treatment. Moreover, the insurance industry is not giving aftercare the funding nor the priority it deserves. Greater adaptation of the disease model of addiction is helping to re-shape public opinion, but not nearly quickly nor effectively. That’s why it is so critical for families struggling with addiction to get involved and put a human face on the issue. 28 million Americans are abusing illicit drugs or mis-using prescription drugs, which also deeply affects families and friends. Imagine what a political movement of over 100 million people could accomplish if we marshaled together all the people truly affected by addiction. So, recovery may be tenuous, but the good news is that there’s something we can do about it. If you or a loved one is in the midst of recovery, then ask for, no, demand a comprehensive aftercare program. Review it to make sure it makes sense to you. don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be shy about getting involved. No one is going to look out for you better than YOU. Also take the time to make your voice heard in Washington by contacting members of Congress and Senators on the issue. Let them know that medical care MUST include addiction treatment with ongoing ‘aftercare’ as a key component. Congress passed a $1 billion program at the end of 2016 and that was a good start, but it realistically is just a drop in the bucket, in the grand scheme of things. You have already made a major investment in getting sober, so see this through to the end and reap the rewards you surely deserve for all your hard work.

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