Posted by: dopaminedialogue | 12/11/2009

Toronto news article

Recovery is a journey, not a destination

This from today’s news on addiction:–more-care-for-addicts-badly-needed

This article out of Toronto states what is very obvious to me, but perhaps not obvious to everyone and that is that the current state of addiction treatment in our country (and apparently other countries as well) is insufficient and largely inaccessible for those that need it the most.

This is a struggle that I witness every single day. So many patients would go to treatment if there were options readily available to them, but there aren’t. Without large amounts of money, many patients have to wait for long periods (3-8 weeks) to get into low-cost or state-funded treatment. With relapse rates at a high level (around 80% during the first year after a person has been through treatment), this leaves a person with this disease in a very vulnerable position.

Imagine this scenario: a person comes to a detox facility and spends 3-5 days there. Physically they experience extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, headaches, trouble sleeping, restlessness, and all-over body aches, among other symptoms. Emotionally, they are anxious, depressed, ashamed, fearful, irritable, with moods that swing in every direction. Mentally, their mind is racing with thoughts about all of the things they have done due to their mental state while using or in order to continue to use, as well as thoughts about what they have to face once they discharge. Maybe they’ve lost their job? Maybe they’ve lost their spouse or custody of their children? Face legal charges? Spiritually, they feel totally bankrupt. Hope is the farthest thing from their mind.

Treatment is what they need to begin the slow start down the road to repairing their life – and many of them do want treatment. They need a place to settle for a while. A place to stay focused on their recovery; to wake up every day and have a routine; to be re-taught (or taught for the first time) how to live a different way of life – a recovery-focused life instead of a life driven by an addiction. Most of all, they need time for their brain to heal from the neurochemical damage that has been done so that they can begin to make better decisions, cope with their emotions, control their impulses, etc.

So, they are presented with some options. Most insurance policies (the ones that do indeed cover inpatient treatment) will cover about 14-28 days or less. Most research indicates that 90-day treatment gives a patient their best chance at recovery. A large majority of people do not have insurance coverage for treatment. When a person has been using substances for a long time, oftentimes they lose their job and consequently they lose their insurance coverage. As the disease progresses, it takes more and more away from the person. So, you can imagine that many people with this disease find themselves without a job, money, or insurance coverage for treatment.

Without insurance coverage, low-cost or no-cost treatment are the only options left.  Due to the high demand for this treatment, most of the programs are over-run with people trying to get in.

So, this hopeless, bankrupt, emotionally overwhelmed, person going through intense withdrawals is told to fill out an 8-page application and start calling treatment centers to get their name on a waiting list. Then they are told that they must wait 3-8 weeks to get in and call regularly to check in or their names will be taken off of the list. In the meantime, they are expected to put their life on hold. After all, they’ve got to change almost everything about their life as it was before seeking help but they don’t yet know how to do that. They also probably can’t get a job because that’s hard to do when you haven’t worked in a while and/or have legal problems and will need a 28-day leave of absence in the near-future.

The entire experience can feel like an uphill battle for the person seeking help. A battle that, unless hard-fought with every ounce of their being, they are likely to lose to relapse.

Do we wonder why – for them – using seems like the easiest thing to do?

Does your insurance policy cover inpatient treatment for addiction?

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