Drug treatment programs are not created equal. The primary focus of all of them is to provide permanent recovery from a drug addiction, but often that’s where their true similarity ends. Detailed study abstracts available from a variety of treatment programs, however, only show the factual breakdown of each particular study—the percentage of male to female, ages, time, etc. Using those to judge differences in drug treatment programs isn’t the best way. The best way to see the difference is to look at each program’s philosophy of treatment.
Drug treatment programs that believe drug addiction is chiefly a neurological disease that’s caused by chemical reaction and purely (or mostly) physical reactions to the drug focus on physical and chemical treatments. Approved drugs may be used to help ease the symptoms of detoxification, and then other drugs might be used to help fight the addiction. Most who follow this philosophy of addiction and treatment believe that the addiction will always be there even when the person does not use the drug, much like a disease that merely goes into remission. And just like a disease that goes from remission to being active in the body, the addiction is believed to be something mostly out of the person’s control and something that can threaten to reoccur at any time.
Other drug treatment programs follow the philosophy that addiction to any substance is more psychological than physical. While they understand the body’s dependence on the drug and the physical manifestations of using the drug and going without it, they believe that the addiction itself begins because each person is trying to escape something by using the drug. A person unable to cope with painful feelings of inadequacy, grief, codependency, stress or any number of other emotions turns to drugs to help them cope or to help them escape their pain.
Drug treatment programs that see addiction as a psychological problem still help ease the very real physical symptoms, but focus on counseling and helping the patient understand why they began using drugs in the first place, and why it’s hard to stop. They believe that once these things are revealed, each addict can completely recover from the addiction.
There are a variety of drug treatment programs available that follow both philosophies, and some programs even combine the two, believing that the addiction begins for psychological reasons and then triggers a physical addiction that makes it difficult for the addict to ever overcome the disease of addiction.
Programs can be shot-term, which typically last 30 days or less, or long-term, which sometimes require an initial in-patient stay of up to 3 months. Short-term programs generally follow the neurological approach and believe that once the drug is physically removed from the system, recovery is well underway. Long-term drug treatment programs, however, take more time helping each person adjust to daily life without the “help” of the drugs they were addicted to, and are aimed at preventing relapse when the negative feelings that caused the addiction return.