There are countless different diseases and health afflictions that we face today. Fortunately, most of them can either be treated and or cured, allowing people to regain their health and return to their normal lives. In fact, there are even a number of serious and potentially deadly diseases from which they’re able to recover, effectively pushing the diseases into remission through a combination of treatments and techniques. Although the many potential health problems we face today can be treated, there are some illnesses that aren’t so simple to treat. One such affliction is the disease of addiction.
It’s only relatively recently that we’ve come to understand the true nature of addiction. Before we accumulated the research studies we have at our disposal today, the consensus was that people who suffered from addiction were bad people who were weak in will and character, lacking in a relationship with God. As a result, people who would be unable to control their substance use were often sent to prison or insane asylums. The idea was that being incarcerated would force them into sobriety while the fear of additional incarceration would encourage them to remain abstinent. However, we soon realized that there was more to substance abuse than met the eye.
Since those days, an entire addiction recovery industry has grown. There are now a wide variety of resources available to help people suffering from addiction to get their lives back. However, that’s not to say that our current methods of addiction recovery are perfect. In fact, there are still a number of critics who are skeptical of alcohol and drug rehabs, preferring to, instead, believe that the only way a person can overcome an addiction is from within. Some have even gone so far as to say that getting sober in rehab is virtually the same as being brainwashed. So let’s discuss whether rehabilitation is or isn’t, in fact, a type of brainwashing, starting with a deeper look at addiction as a disease of the brain.
As we mentioned above, addiction was not always known to be a disease. Prior to the advent of rigorous scientific study of health afflictions that we see today, substance abuse problems were taken at face value. Since the overconsumption of alcohol or drugs would appear to be a voluntary behavior, it was assumed that addiction was really just a person’s conscious decision not to exercise any self-control. Consequently, they were largely seen as being bad people. It wasn’t until Benjamin Rush asserted that habitual substance abuse was a mental health problem in the late nineteenth century that we began getting closer to the disease model of addiction that pervades our understanding today.
There has been much confusion as to what distinguishes the disease model of addiction from the biological model, which became a popular theory coinciding with the advent of technology that allowed for the study of genetics. As you may know, the disease model of addiction refers to a school of thought that focuses on the biological or, more specifically, genetic causes of addiction. In other words, the biological model of addiction seeks to identify any genetic markers that predispose a person for a substance abuse problem. By comparison, the disease model of addiction is much more complicated because it leaves the actual cause of addiction in a much murkier and more gray area.
According to the disease model, addiction is a chronic, incurable, and progressive brain disease; further, this model asserts that addiction is the result of structural and functional changes in the brain that result from continuous substance abuse and cause a person to exhibit compulsive behaviors despite any negative consequences they may face due to those behaviors. Keep the disease model of addiction in mind as we progress through this discussion.
The earliest forms of rehabilitation were really just sober houses where alcoholics and addicts could go for a period of time to “dry out” while under the supervision of volunteers, typically members of the clergy or local healthcare professionals. However, over the years, we’ve learned that the most effective recovery strategy actually draws from multiple disciplines, which is referred to as multidisciplinary. Although much of an addiction treatment program is based on tenets of psychotherapy, there’s also aspects of physical health care, social work, holistic techniques, and other areas of practice that are used to enhance rehabilitation and increase a person’s chance of achieving sustainable sobriety.
The standard addiction recovery plan consists of a period of detox treatment followed by up to three or so months of inpatient care, during which time a patient receives many individual and group therapies as well as a number of other components that each patient is able to choose. After inpatient care, the individual may transition into a form of outpatient care or a sober living house before the return home; however, it’s recommended that patients find support groups and continue receiving therapy after recovery, ensuring that they can keep whatever problems that caused their addictions under control.
Since psychotherapy is such a central part of the addiction rehabilitation process, there are some that have suggested that going to rehab doesn’t really help a person to overcome his or her addiction; instead, rehab only brainwashes the individual into temporary sobriety, leaving him or her to relapse at some later time when the brainwashing wears off. However, this is incorrect for a couple key reasons. For one thing, there’s not one singular curriculum that every patient receives. Alcohol and drug rehabs often offer a wide variety of treatments and therapies that patients can choose for themselves based on their own preferences and needs. They’re not forced into aggressive treatment curricula but are, instead, encouraged to map out their own recoveries and participate in the treatments that offer them the greatest benefit.
Not only is rehabilitation highly individualized, but each of the specific treatments is very personable as well. People are ingrained with certain information, or “brainwashed”; instead, experienced psychotherapists and health care providers who specialize in addiction treatment help each patient to identify any past experiences or other underlying factors that might have caused their addictions, helping them to overcome those factors and teaching them a number of skills and strategies that they can use to resist cravings and prevent any relapses in the future. If rehabilitation were a form of brainwashing, it would have a much higher rate of success; however, even the effective treatments available today aren’t considered an absolute cure. The effectiveness of programs available today is proportionate to the amount of effort and energy parents put into them.
If you or someone you love would like to discuss the addiction treatment options that are available, call Intervention Services toll-free at 877-478-4621. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night; we’re always available to help you or your loved one begin the journey to a life of health and happiness.