The complexity of addiction treatment has always been recognized, even in the literature that grew up around Alcoholics Anonymous back in the 1930s. So many factors affect the success of addiction treatment that it is unlikely that a single, universal “cure” for addiction is on the horizon.
That does not mean the future of addiction treatment is not hopeful. It is. New ways of understanding addiction, new technologies, and new approaches to treatment are all already combining to make addiction treatment better than it used to be.
Perhaps the biggest challenge associated with addiction treatment in the coming years and decades is to ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it. Currently, only about 10 percent of people with substance abuse disorders receive comprehensive addiction treatment. People die every day of preventable overdoses and long-term disease that results from addiction, and improving the situation means making treatment more accessible to more people. Here is some of what you may expect in the future of addiction treatment.
A Wish List for the Future of Addiction Treatment
Preventing relapse and promoting sustained recovery will depend on several factors including:
- Treatment programs built upon evidence-based design
- Around-the-clock assessment and care, at least in the earliest stages of treatment
- Holistic treatment that accounts for body, mind, and spirit
- Tailored tools that help meet individual needs at the exact moment they are needed
- Help for addicts to maintain the healthy habits they develop so they can cope successfully with struggles to maintain their recovery
- Affordability so that anyone with the need can receive high-quality addiction treatment
It is a lot to ask for, but just as “curing cancer” involves a multi-pronged, individualized approach, with long-term follow-up, so does addiction treatment.
Possible Technological Breakthroughs
In addition to drugs like Narcan that can reverse overdoses, new drugs are being developed that give people with opioid addictions additional help in overcoming their disease. Trials are also being developed for vaccines that may be used to block the high produced by substances of choice, including cocaine. A heroin vaccine is in development as well.
These vaccines are not expected to eradicate addiction the way vaccination eradicated smallpox, but even if their effects are shorter-lived, they may prove to be powerful in people’s recovery from addiction.
An Advanced View of Addiction as a Disease
Acceptance of substance abuse disorder as a disease has gained traction, and that is because it allows treatment that actually works. It is likely that the understanding of addiction as a disease will grow in coming years, allowing society to look at “what ifs” that were not possible when “being a drunk” or “being a junkie” was labeled as a character flaw or failure of willpower.
For example, though relapse is fairly common, when a relapse is treated in a timely manner with the appropriate therapeutic tools, addiction recovery can be realized once again. Just as the cancer patient whose remission ends for unknown reasons is aggressively treated once again, so can those with substance abuse disorder receive the life-saving treatment they need should they relapse.
Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders Will Gain Prominence
The fact that substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are often co-occurring is widely known. Yet, treatment of mental illness can take a back seat when a person is struggling to detox from a substance and enter the addiction treatment process, and this needs to change.
One common relapse trigger is the significant life event, which can occur for reasons that have nothing to do with the addiction. When a loved one dies, or the economy crumbles, or natural disaster strikes, it is important to address the immediate crisis effectively, rather than waiting around to see if the person in recovery relapses. In other words, you simply cannot expect sustained good results if addiction treatment takes place in a metaphorical vacuum.
Addiction treatment has come a long way in the past decade, and there is no reason not to expect it to continue to improve as society gains more understanding about the disease, on a molecular, biological, and societal level. If you are held captive by the chains of addiction, please contact us at any time. Addiction is like any other serious disease in that the sooner you access treatment, the sooner you can return to health.