Major Shortcomings in Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program Policies: Part 1

For many people drug and alcohol treatment, and the beginning of the recovery process, can be the beginning of a whole new chapter and a better life. Those of us that work in this field wish for everyone to be happier and healthier, and that is often possible. Those people who reach incredible programs like those offered at Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center in Panama City often rave about the individuals who helped them succeed in early recovery. This is a pattern I see all the time. There are great people all over the world working to help people recover from alcoholism and addiction, and at places like Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center there are policies which match those goals and were designed by professionals with recovery in mind. There is a different reality reflected at other treatment facilities in this country. A reality more shaped by the war on drugs than the core principles of programs like AA. A reality that reflects the views of law enforcement task forces, rather than the views of scientists and clinicians.

How Recovery Began Before Medications Were Used

In the beginning stages of Alcoholics Anonymous as a movement, Bill Wilson, or Bill W. as he is referred to, was able to build a program of recovery that worked for many people. Before Bill began his work, alcoholics and drug addicts would be locked in institutions for lack of a decent treatment for their ailments, and this seemed to be the fate of Bill Wilson himself until a fateful meeting with an old friend and drinking buddy. That is another story, but AA showed some efficacy with some patients early on, and progress continued; eventually there were medications available that could help people who were beginning the process of recovery, and they could be combined with 12 step programs. Medications were also a vital part of the history of addiction treatment because of the severe damage many alcoholics and drug addicts had done to their bodies by the time they began treatment. Without medications and treatment for various problems in tandem with addiction and alcoholism treatment, many people would not have survived their first years in sobriety. It also must be said that many people have underlying mental and physical health challenges that require medication before, during, and after whatever treatment program they might enter for addiction and alcoholism. Medications were not the entire story from the beginning, but they have made themselves vital to the process, and clinicians depend on good medications every day in the top substance use disorder treatment programs in the world, Florida Springs being one of the best drug and alcohol rehabs in the world. These medications often include Librium, methadone, buprenorphine, clonidine, Seroquel, and many others, not to mention stock of over the counter medications that are considered vital to the detox process for many patients.

How Substance Abuse Treatment is Improved by Medications

The reason I wanted to start by discussing Bill W.’s AA program and its successes is that it shows that a powerful treatment regimen can work for some people even without any medications. Unfortunately, there are a greater number of people who would be helped by AA only in tandem with other types of treatment. To take one huge and important example, most alcoholics absolutely should not stop using alcohol without the help of a doctor, and that is because drugs like Librium are necessary at relatively low dosages in order to stop the body from experiencing seizures. There are many other people who need various other medications while undergoing any form of mental health treatment, and the best drug and alcohol rehabs, like Florida Springs in Panama City, are able to bring the best of both worlds; Florida Springs brings the medical side and the proven methods and tools that have helped others recover from the disease of addiction. Most importantly, Florida Springs has incredible people who care about each patient, and many other substance use disorder treatment facilities have great people as well. I find it sad that because certain medications are needed, the addiction treatment field has been invaded by bad policies meant to misguidedly lower drug crime, rather than help people recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Tomorrow, in part two of this article, we will delve into the ways that DEA and law enforcement policy eventually changed addiction and alcoholism services for the worse. Many of these policy shifts are still in place to this day, and this is a prime reason, along with stigmatization of substance use disorder and mental health challenges, that people seeking treatment for substance abuse are not treated like any other medical patients. Beyond the rampant abuses of patient privacy and medical ethics, we have simply forgotten, as a society, that all medical illnesses require the same levels of empathy and understanding. Do not misunderstand me, the many medical professionals: therapists, techs, nurses, doctors, and others who work in addiction medicine have more empathy and understanding than maybe any other profession in America, but the policies that are handed down from government bodies and decision making entities have for too long been concerned with a losing war on drugs, rather than trying to help those great people win a war against the insidious disease of addiction.

By Tim Cannon (Contact me at