When people refer to drug and alcohol rehab as a concept, they may envision it as a continued thread of care that begins when someone makes the choice to enter treatment (or overdoses and winds up in the hospital) and carries through detox, rehabilitation, and follow-up afterward. This is an ideal case, but often reality does not live up to this ideal.

Imagine if a heart attack patient were treated for the acute incident and then sent home knowing that he or she might or might not be able to receive cardiac rehab services and follow-up. Most people would consider that a travesty, because there are so many ways in which things could go wrong, with possibly deadly consequences. Yet people with substance abuse disorders frequently receive fragmented care and face life-threatening consequences as a result. A continuum of care should be the goal for which individuals and communities should strive when it comes to drug and alcohol rehab.

Three Main Predictors of Long Term Recovery Success

The scientific literature has over time come to name three main factors that predict whether someone will recover from substance abuse and maintain his or her recovery over a long period of time. Those factors are:

  • Social and community support
  • Use of 12-step organizations
  • Experience of negative consequences for substance use

If care is not provided on a continual basis, starting from the time the person presents with a crisis, there are numerous opportunities for an addict to discontinue care and over time fall out of recovery mode. As a result, the cycle may start all over again with another crisis.

When Patients Fall Through “Cracks” in the Care System

In many states experiencing an opioid addiction crisis, acute care is often disconnected from rehabilitation. That is, a person may go through medical detox, and then have to wait a period of weeks or months before he or she can get into a rehabilitation program. A lot can happen in those weeks or months, and any number of addiction issues can land the person right back in the hospital, in jail, or worse.

Why a Continuum of Care is So Important in Addiction Recovery

Likewise, when someone returns home from a typical 28-day drug and alcohol rehab program if follow-up plans are not in place, more “cracks” can open up through which a recovering addict may fall. Going home often means returning to the company of people who have no interest in helping a person with a substance abuse disorder continue improving. Lack of follow-up can inadvertently cause an addict to lapse into old habits, again resulting in an acute crisis and starting the process over.

Benefits of Providing a Continuum of Care

Some states and communities have implemented programs that attempt to bridge care at every stage of the detox and recovery process, as well as after a recovering addict returns home. For example, a person in crisis in a hospital may be immediately referred to a detox facility where he or she can go when physically stabilized. Then, while in detox, a place in a drug and alcohol rehab can be secured, so that the patient goes directly from detox to rehab. While in rehab, addicts can receive a follow-up plan for returning home and beyond, often involving local 12-step programs and resources to which the addict can turn while transitioning to everyday life.

A program documenting this “warm hand-off” approach to providing a continuum of care in Pennsylvania has resulted in a much higher percentage of patients attending their recommended level of care and completing treatment. Physician education is another important component of this program since many opioid addicts start out taking pain medication as directed and only realize their addiction after their prescription runs out. By providing “bridges” between the phases of care for substance abuse disorder, medical, behavioral, and governmental agencies reduce the chances of relapse after drug and alcohol rehab.

The work of many people is involved in helping someone with an addiction return to health and productivity. The hardest work of all must be done by addicts themselves, and without proper support throughout the journey, the possibility of relapse looms large. If you want to learn more about drug and alcohol rehab that is tailored to the whole person, we encourage you to contact us at any time.