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  • Writer's pictureMartin Polanco

In and Out of Rehab? It May Not Be Your Fault

Originally posted January 20, 2017

There aren’t many statistics on how many times someone goes to rehab before making a successful recovery, but for a lot people it’s definitely more than once. To go through rehab, relapse, go back to rehab, relapse again, and go back to rehab again isn’t uncommon. It actually happens more than a lot of people are even aware of.

The thing is, most people believe that rehab is the end all, be all solution for addiction. Many people also believe that 12-step programs like AA are the only way to successfully make it through.

If this is the case, why are we seeing so many people go in and out of rehab? The reality is these programs don’t always work. And while many people swear by them, there are others that argue these programs are outdated and lack the evidence to support the success they swear by. These traditional programs might work for some, but what about the vast amount of people that are attending rehab three, four, or even more times and still not making real progress?

Who’s Fault is it?

Some would say it’s the fault of the patient. That they aren’t willing or ready to fully commit to recovery. When the 12-steps don’t work (which are often integrated in with traditional rehabs), AA assumes it’s because the person is somehow weak or not ready to make the commitment to stop using. The Big Book (AA’s bible) has this to say about someone that doesn’t find success with the 12-step program:

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way.”

This certainly isn’t a statement that offers much hope to someone looking to get sober. And it’s a statement from a book that was written almost 100 years ago. In no other modern practice do we attempt to treat an illness or disease with methods that are this outdated. Modern medicine has come a long way since 1935. From cancer treatments to birthing babies, there isn’t much that’s being done the same way it was back then. Why then, are we still attempting to treat addiction with the methods that we were 80 years ago?

A More Modern Approach

Since AA was founded in 1935, there has been eight decades of research on addiction. Modern science has come to understand the mechanisms of addiction in a way that wasn’t even thought about back in the 1930s. Neuroscience has shown us how addiction chemically affects the brain and the changes acute substance abuse causes within the brain. There is a chemical change taking place inside the individual, yet programs like AA urge addicts to look towards a “higher power”, not towards rewiring the brain.

The thing is, most rehab centers (even the really, really expensive ones) are using AA and similar 12-step programs as underlying groundwork for their centers. Inside Rehab, a book that came out in 2013, stated that nearly 80 percent of modern rehab treatment centers are relying on AA principles to see them through. It’s no wonder people are returning time and time again.

While countless studies have tried to come to a conclusion of statistical data for the effectiveness of programs like AA, the truth is no one really knows how well they actually work. Statistically speaking, that is. Studies that measure the efficacy are often inconsistent, and AA prohibits researchers from conducting studies on any of their millions of members. They are, after all, anonymous.

This isn’t to say that AA doesn’t help everyone—because for many people it has worked. But there are far more people it doesn’t work for than it does. So, why should this be the treatment that most rehabs are based upon? If AA doesn’t work for everyone, why aren’t there multiple rehabilitation methods available for addicts to try?

Alternative Treatment Options

There are alternatives to the treatments most Americans believe are the only solution. It’s not all inpatient care and AA. Other options are there, and they’re picking up where 12-step programs left off. Treatments such cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), meditation, acupuncture, and psychedelic medicine have shown promising results when combined with psychotherapy.

There is no such thing as an “out of the box method.” Only what method works for you.

Ibogaine is one such treatment that has been gaining momentum. A psychedelic therapy that has shown unprecedented results when it comes to successfully treating addiction.

Ayahuasca is another psychedelic avenue many people seek out to find freedom from their substance abuse.

For many people these treatments work.

We can do much better than sending people to the same types of rehab facilities over and over. Those seeking to remove themselves from addiction should have every option possible to do so, and not be led to believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to treating it. Success is an option for everyone. Unfortunately, some have to look harder than others to find theirs.

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