Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a relapsing or chronic condition for most people. Despite this, traditional treatment and rehabilitation models often emphasize on intensive episodic interventions for medically-supervised drug withdrawal and stabilization followed by outpatient care.
However, clinicians and private and public healthcare systems are now coming to the realization that relapsing or chronic addictions - much in the same way as such chronic physical conditions as hypertension and diabetes - typically require continued care and recovery in the long term.
As a direct result, most patients recovering from addiction will undergo continued care. This type of care often includes treatment and routine assessments customized and individualized to meet the preferences and needs of the patient.
In the same way, this type of care will ensure that the patient's risk of relapse and clinical status are both monitored longitudinally and systematically. In most cases, the intensity of treatment and rehabilitation is further adjusted as the substance use disorders and addiction (as well as any co-occurring disorders) wax and wane over time.
Continued care also sees patients receiving training and education on self-management skills and competencies, as well as links to other sources of community and professional support.
In the guide below, you will learn more about continued care and recovery for addiction, what it involves, and the benefits it carries, among others. Read on to find out more:
As you start committing to recovery from substance use disorders, co-occurring disorders, and addiction, it might seem like you a giving a huge portion of your effort and time.
This is because such commitment will mostly involve immediate treatment through an intensive outpatient or an inpatient progress. It may also require that you participate in aftercare and continue care activities for several years after you check out of a rehabilitation facility/program.
So, why is this the case? Why does recovery from addiction take so much time? Is it even worth it? These are all questions that you might find yourself asking as you try to recover from abusing addictive substances.
To answer these questions, you should keep in mind that irrespective of how long it takes, you can be sure that a life free of drugs and alcohol is infinitely better than one of addiction and dependency.
Therefore, as you work on overcoming your addiction, you should keep in mind that the first few weeks will always be the hardest. Over time, you will discover that the subsequent months and years get comparatively easier and that each new day marks a fresh beginning that will allow you to start experiencing health and a change in your life.
As you undergo recovery, it is imperative that you make a conscious choice to start engaging with individuals who will enrich your life, and allow yourself enough time to participate in those activities that you truly enjoy.
In the same way, you may want to view recovery as a change that does more than simply take away alcohol and any other drugs you used to abuse - it goes ahead and adds infinitely more to your life in the form of meaningful relationships, experiences, opportunities, and beginnings.
Through recovery, you will be better placed to turn your life from one that is restricted to and limited by compulsive drug and alcohol abuse (and other related actions and thoughts) to one where you have no limits but are free to try out new experiences. Through this new life, you will be able to mend your old broken relationships and even get to add new ones.
Although addiction recovery tends to take time and work, you will soon come upon the realization that this investment take a small fraction of the obsession and energy that your addiction did.
Similarly, you may want to remember that addiction, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders tend to consume your life while recovery is designed to help you gain your life back.
To this end, the commitment and price involved in recovery is close to naught. Although inpatient treatment takes several months while continued care and recovery will require a couple of hours a day - then a week before this goes down to a month - these are minimal commitments and they pale significantly in comparison to the energy and time you would otherwise have lost to hangovers, blackouts, negative experiences, and even more negativity.
That said, addiction hardly ever happens overnight. Similarly, most of the factors which contributed to your addiction may have existed even before you started abusing alcohol and drugs.
To this end, one of the reasons why addiction treatment and rehabilitation tends to take so much time and usually requires an investment in continued care and recovery revolves around the fact that it often co-occurs with a variety of other physical and mental health concerns.
According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), addiction is a chronic condition of the brain that typically occurs with other mental disorders. Today, close to 6 out of every 10 individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) also suffer from other mental illnesses.
Among these individuals, it becomes even more difficult to treat one condition when it is intertwined with another condition. These conditions are best treated through thorough rehabilitation - which means that care and continued care may lengthen the road to recovery and require more time.
Treatment and rehabilitation for addiction and substance use disorders (as well as for co-occurring disorders) should start as soon as you discover that you are addicted or that your substance abuse is getting out of control.
However, the treatment of all the factors that may be interrelated to your addiction might have to wait until your recovery from addiction has significantly progressed to a particular point.
In most cases, you may even find that some of the mental health issues underlying your SUDs and addiction might not have been identified easily at first. According to the LA Times, in fact, brain scans taken of recovering addicts now support the fact that the substance you used to prefer continues making changes 3 or more months after you undergo treatment.
In the same way, chronic drug use and alcohol abuse tend to damage the brain. More particularly, this condition reduces the number of dopamine receptors 'in the brain. These receptors are the chemical pathways that allow for normal human thought.
When you experience changes in your brain during your time in recovery, you will realize that you have started thinking more clearly and honestly. At this point, the therapists you have been working with may discover that you have other problems - such as mental or physical health problems, gambling issues, eating disorders, relationship problems, as well as a history of molestation or abuse.
As we mentioned above, although addiction tends to grow slowly, it is still a chronic problem. In most cases, it may also be spurred by co-occurring or preexisting traumatic experiences and mental health concerns.
As you can probably imagine, these issues will not be addressed until you allow your addiction to start loosening its grip on the brain. In the same way, while all types of treatment should be integrated to help address more than just the addiction, even the experts may not be able to identify some of the symptoms, signs, and results of your addiction. They will only be able to do so once these addiction symptoms begin clearing.
Addiction also tends to share most of the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression. This is often one of the reasons why most experts are not able to fully determine those disorders that you may be suffering from unless some of the symptoms of your addiction abate and your brain starts functioning normally.
That said the slow but sure healing of the changes that drug abuse made to your brain is just one of the reasons why addiction treatment doesn't always involve the quick fix mentality.
As your brain continues changing, therefore, the level of support you receive and the treatment types will have to change at the same time. In the same way, your continued care and recovery program should remain flexible and start evolving and progressing as your recovery starts doing the same.
At the end of the day, you should keep in mind that treatment will not just stop after your stay at an intensive outpatient or inpatient program has ended. Instead, you should continue focusing to ensure that you work well with your recovery team until you receive the best kind of continued care and recovery help.
This type of continued care and recovery may take the following forms:
The following are some of the optimal - albeit less frequently available - options for continued care and recovery:
At the end of the day, continued care means that you will need to continue with the recovery that you already begun. This means that you will get help trying to reintegrate back into life after your treatment. You will also receive at any and all moments when you feel challenged, stressed, and doubtful along your path to full recovery.
Continuing care and recovery programs for addiction are essential in the treatment and rehabilitation process, as well as to wholesome sobriety. They can, for instance, help you get sober and clear through detoxification as well as through healthy coping strategies, life skills, and counseling.
However, some treatment centers fall short with respect to providing care after you undergo treatment. To this end, it is imperative that you remember that continued care and recovery are both essential because of the need for guidance and support during your time after rehab.
That said, continued care and recovery refer to the process of monitoring recovering addicts after their treatment and rehabilitation is complete. This process is vital to recovery because recovering addicts are usually far from full healing even after they have spent some time receiving treatment.
Through a continuing care program, your progress will be monitored following treatment and rehabilitation. Some of the components of the program may include, but are not limited to:
In most cases, you will find that continued care and recovery are both based on the belief that maintaining abstinence and sobriety after intensive treatment requires patients to continue contacting other recovery services.
Research also shows that you should go over and beyond stopping chemical use. This is why only one step of the 12-steps to recovery revolves around chemical use. Most of the rest of the 12 steps have to do with changing your life, building a spiritual nature, and finding other sources of inspiration to help you stay sober.
You should also keep in mind the fact that returning home means that you will be going back to a lifestyle where chemical use might have been a normal aspect of your everyday routine.
In the same way, you may encounter most of the problems that you experienced when you were addicted and before you left for treatment. These problems may be related to your employment, relationships, family, emotions, finances, and the law.
To this end, a comprehensive continued care and recovery plan may help you make the adjustment from rehabilitation back to normal, everyday living.
The purpose of any given continued care and recovery program is to provide you with the additional support you need as you continue making the transition to a life of sobriety and abstinence.
This program will, for instance, emphasize on responsibility and accountability while also encouraging you to continue using alternative therapies. By so doing, it may help you reduce the urges and temptations to start using drugs and drinking alcohol again - thereby lowering your risk of relapse.
Irrespective of your age, social background, or level of education, you may want to keep in mind that most of the principles of continued care and recovery apply to everyone who was addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and who has successfully undergone rehabilitation.
To this end, continuing care (which is sometimes referred to as after care) is an umbrella term that applies to all the services and activities that you should consider engaging with after you complete your formal addiction treatment and rehabilitation. These services and activities might include:
However, the most optimal aftercare options may include several other services. These include, but are not limited to:
However, there are so many services and activities for you to consider. As such, you may want to start planning for your continued care and recovery program even while you are still undergoing treatment.
You can also talk to group therapy session leaders, counselors, and other members of staff at the rehabilitation facility you are in and ask them for firsthand experience and insight about the different options. By so doing, you will be better placed to make an informed decision about the continued care and recovery program that would work best for you.
If the treatment and rehabilitation facility is not able to help you create a comprehensive and effective continued care and recovery plan, you should work with a medical professional or trained counselor to create one. The new plan should include such elements as:
From time to time, you may also want to adjust the continued care and recovery plan based on the progress you have made. Making such adjustments will not only acknowledge the progress you are making, but it will also address any other needs that might have cropped up on your journey to recovery and sobriety.
So, what would be included in the continued care and recovery program? In most cases, you will find that these programs involve constructive activities such as exercise, yoga, and meditation to help you cope with the struggles you are going to encounter when you start working your way to full sobriety.
By attending 12 step meetings and self-help groups, for instance, you will get the opportunity to connect with other individuals who are experiencing the same struggles and trying to overcome similar problems. When you move in with the groups, you will be better placed to eventually work your way to sponsor status, acquire more responsibility, and eventually start helping others fight their addictions and substance use disorders.
That said, it is imperative to keep in mind that continued care and recovery programs are integral continuations of the addiction treatment and rehabilitation process. These programs continue the treatment process and ensure that you are able to perpetuate those gains that you previously made while you were completing your inpatient or intensive outpatient rehabilitation.
These programs are also available to those who have completed the primary treatment regimen and who are ready to return or relocate back to their home environment. In particular, the programs might even provide random urine drug testing and monitoring, case management assistance, as well as encouraging participation with other outside sponsor meetings, as well as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
In most cases, you will find that these continued care and recovery processes often include the following types of therapies:
Continuing care often takes various forms. Therefore, the type of program that you eventually choose to take part in should be one that you have arrived at through the advice and guidance of a skilled counselor. Through this advice, you may be in a better position to choose the one that will be the most logistically feasible and effective for you.
Although it might not make sense to over-commit to a particular continued care and recovery program - particularly if you think it is going to be too unrealistic and stressful to maintain, you may want to approach the process with an attitude of gratitude, seriousness, and commitment.
In the same way, you may want to carefully balance between effort and practicality. This is the only way the continued care program will prove to be sustainable and reliable over the long haul.
Depending on a variety of factors, your discharge plan may refer you to any of the following types of support or services when you start looking for the right continued care and recovery program:
Otherwise referred to as PHP, the Partial Hospital Program is one of the ideal continued care and recovery options for those who would benefit from highly structured levels of care after they complete residential addiction treatment.
In most cases, you will find that PHP features full days of undergoing therapy on weekdays. After that, the participants either return to their homes or to supported living programs after the treatment day as well as on weekends.
IOPs are somewhat similar to the previous program in the sense that the patients will receive therapy for specific amounts of time (during the day) after which they are required to return to their homes (or any other residence) during those times when they are not limited to engage actively in continued care and recovery.
Although this level of care is relatively less intensive, it typically features fewer hours of treatment per day and even fewer treatments per week. That said, some addicts are able to make the transition from residential rehabilitation care and straight into the IOP while others step down from rehab through to PHP and finally to IOP.
Examples of the most common types of traditional outpatient services provided for continued care and recovery include:
If you had been seeing a therapist, counselor, or any other professional on the outpatient basis before you checked into rehabilitation and you still give your permission, the aftercare facility may still be able to coordinate the care with referrals to ensure that you make a seamless transition back to a traditional outpatient resource.
Groups such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) are both based on the 12-steps model to recovery and sobriety. As such, these groups are essential forms of continued care and recovery after the recovering addict starts seeking help with continued care and recovery.
In this type of housing, you will learn vital recovery and social skills. During this stint at a halfway house, you may have to obtain your old job back or work for another organization, volunteer your time, and apply for school - or any other activity that pleases you.
During the evening, you will be required to attend 12 step meetings, lectures, and therapy. You may also be provided with psychological services if you are in need of psychiatry and individual therapy.
Other types of continued care and recovery programs that have been found to be effective include, but are not limited to:
After you make it through rehabilitation, the next question to answer would be to ask would be to find out what you are going to do next. You may also worry about jumping back to your daily life and choosing to remain free of drugs and alcohol.
The exit counseling you will receive as you leave the inpatient rehabilitation program, for instance, will advise you to include highly detailed strategies of you are planning to continue maintaining your sobriety even as you make the transition from rehab treatment back to your daily life.
A crucial aspect is that you should develop a solid continued care and recovery regimen to help you extend treatment even once you get home while simultaneously preventing the chances of a relapse happening - even if they may get to a level that is quite high.
That said, some of the advantages you stand to gain when you participate in continued care and recovery after residential rehabilitation comes with many benefits. These advantages may include, but are not limited to:
For starters, the effective continued care and recovery program you sign up with may help you avoid a relapse. If you have ever experienced recovery, you probably already know that overcoming an alcohol or drug addiction is a lifelong process.
In most cases, you may be succumbing to temptation and relapse once. However, you can overcome this single relapse and get back on the road to full recovery. Still, this may always come with the danger that a relapse will eventually pull you back to the throes of addiction.
Since most relapses tend to occur within the first 3 months (or 90 days) after you complete a treatment program. To this end, it is essential that you go directly from rehabilitation and into an appropriate continued care and recovery regimen.
Through the support provided by the continuing care plan - as provided both for you and for your family - the chances of a relapse tend to decrease dramatically.
The continued care and recovery regimen may also help you make the gradual transition back to daily life. In most cases, you will find that residential addiction centers are excellent places where you can take the first few steps towards cleansing your body of drugs and alcohol, as well as helping you stay stable.
However, residential treatment and rehabilitation is quite different from ordinary life. As you undergo rehabilitation, for instance, you will be required to live in a secure location without all the access you may need when you start craving your drugs of preference.
You will also get the opportunity to participate in individual and group therapy, as well as other activities to build your ability to start life in a healthy and substance free way. The combination of such an environment with frequent support and daily groups will eventually provide you with the fertile soil where you can plant the seeds of recovery and full-time sobriety.
However, since you cannot live in this facility forever, you will need continued care and recovery to help you overcome your addiction completely once you get back to ordinary society.
At the end of the day, you should keep in mind that continued care and recovery programs are designed to help you understand your triggers and temptations, learn how to battle with them and emerge victorious, and still be able to go about your day to day life without having to worry that when you feel the urge to drink alcohol or take drugs you are going to succumb. The earlier you start on the continued care and recovery program, the easier it will be for you to eventually recover and fight off your addiction for good.