May 18 2013

Why Drug Treatment Centers Don’t Work and What Does

Vol.201, May 18, 2013

Every few months we hear of some celebrity who has overdosed after repeated stays in drug rehabs. More recently Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston have senselessly died of drug overdoses.

I for one have been hitting my head against the wall wondering how people can even believe that drug rehabs are a viable solution for drug addiction, when the wealthiest of people with access to the top level of care, end up routinely dying of drug overdoses.

I did a bunch of reading of various blog postings by those who have asked the same question be it a person with an addiction history, a reporter, a doctor or one who runs a facility. Each had their own notions why these failures occur. I don’t believe anyone would argue with the addicts who stated, when forced to go into rehab by a boss, spouse or parent it isn’t going to work. The addict has to make the choice to become “clean” or there is no personal investment for a positive result.

For someone who is looking at drug rehab centers from the outside as Anne Fletcher did in her book “Inside Rehab” the truth is a bit hard to take. First, she recognizes that there are few requirements for addictions centers so anyone can open one up. Many times they are owned and run by ex-addicts themselves, many without formal training. Further more, there are few ways for one to prove the excellent results that are claimed by these facilities. Ms. Fletcher states that much of the patients’ time is spent watching videos telling them the dangers of drugs and alcohol and sitting in groups speaking about the programs, neither which have been proven to be effective. In some programs the addicts are to be “broken” out of their addiction by being humiliated. This is an absurd notion especially given that addiction is a potentially deadly medical condition due the same care and concern of any other medical condition.

Most facilities will force their patients to participate in 12-step programs where they are told that a power higher than they is to be trusted to take care of their problem because they have no control over it. Additionally, they are told that if they refuse the principles of the 12-step program they will end up dead or in jail. Why is it that we ask 7 year olds to take responsibility for their behaviors? Yet, adults are told they have no control over themselves and to give it up? This is contrary to any understanding of what it takes to be a responsible adult in this world.

Particularly upsetting is that the 12-steps are the treatment of choice in most of these programs given the dismal success records of research done by AA itself.  AA membership surveys (all self-reported) from 1977 to 1990 reported that 81% of  alcoholics STOPPED attending after a single month. Only 5% attend for a year. Deborah A. Johnson reported in her 2005 article in the journal “Addiction” that the spontaneous recovery rate for alcoholism is 24.4%. This means that 24.4% of alcoholics got to the point where they were so tired of the negative ramifications of their alcohol abuse, they gave it up all on their own without any help of any sort.  With these facts known, my question is: How did AA and NA become the most used method of recovery on the planet? My answer is that it is readily available with the cost being minimal to none so anyone can attend. When we add to this those who swear by its success in their individual cases for the past 80 plus years, you have the world’s largest program regardless of its lack of efficacy.

The most important problem that I have with these drug treatment programs as if the above weren’t enough, is the fact that stopping the use of the drug is one thing. Keeping a person from returning to their drug habit is a whole other issue, especially if they are left with the urges to use, even when once off the drug(s) of choice. This is where the drug rehabs fail miserably. It is readily known that for an addict to have any real sense of being in “recovery”, a year of being drug free is required at a minimum. So a 30 or even 90 day treatment center away from the addict’s real world is not going to help them to remain sober or clean.

As a hypnotist I have great issues with the notion that by repeatedly telling yourself and the world that you are an addict, worse that you will never be anything but an addict – with the thoughts and behaviors that come with it. Why would anyone want to brainwash themselves in this manner? The way to healing is to allow one to realize that they can and must indeed give up that label and focus on healthier and the meaningful aspects to living. That is the way all healing of any other problem is done that is successful. It never helps to harp on the issue that is the problem, does it?

Lastly, Dr. Nora Valkow director of NIHDA, would like you to believe that one needs to take a drug like suboxone to keep you off of the “mind altering”drugs. Well, if one doesn’t have urges or desires, why would someone need to take a drug for the rest of one’s life that has to be detoxified by the liver or kidneys? I would say that this is a result the pharmaceutical companies brainwashing our society that pills and injections will take care of all ills,

A Better Solution:

So why would someone look to a hypnotist to stop an addiction? Well, for one thing if the practitioner is knowledgable at all, they will know how to help the client to withdraw from the drugs with little to no withdrawal symptoms. This will make the process of withdrawing easy while allowing the person to have few if any urges to “use” going forward.

Secondly, if one is doing an individualized treatment, the client’s thinking can be reframed using hypnotic technique to refuse the old life style, allowing them to create a new life away from drugs, drug addicts and dealers. This has to be done or there is no way the addict will be able to stay clean.

Third, given that many addicts began their addiction early in life, social and behavioral maturity has to be part of the process. Most of the addicts I have worked with have noted that the reason that they found it so hard to live without their drugs was because they had no idea in how to comfortably interact with people of their age group. So boundaries need to be taught and what better way to do it then over the year or so of treatment as different life experiences come up. In this way the client is learning new ways of coping with life’s ups and downs.

Lastly, and this is the most important of all, the cause of the problem must be addressed; the addict has to learn how to love him/herself. This includes forgiveness for anything that was done under the influence of the substance.Without that, there is no healing that can be achieved on any deep or permanent level.

With all of this in mind, doesn’t it make more sense to use an individualized and respectful manner for healing the whole person? Wouldn’t it make more sense to be far away from the usual “drug speak” of programs? Would it be better dealing with the reality of every day life? However, this will only work if he addict is ready to become a non-addict committing the time and attention required to make these lasting changes.

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