rehab_recoveryWatching a loved one struggle with addiction is a painful and traumatic experience. Whether the addict is a teenage child who uses methamphetamine or a grandparent who abuses prescription painkillers, it is difficult to know how and when to intervene and provide the help that they need. If the addiction progresses to the point that their life becomes disrupted, family members may want to consider placing the addict into a long-term rehabilitation program and/or facility for treatment. This article will discuss some of the signs and signals that indicate whether long-term rehabilitation may be appropriate.

Substance abuse and addiction have become a serious problem in the United States. According to data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 19 million American adults (age 18 and over) had serious substance abuse issues in 2011. The majority of these abusers used substances such as marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs (without a prescription). Millions of families are affected by this widespread substance abuse and wrestle with the question of how to help their loved ones.

There are several signs that may indicate that a family member may need long-term rehab. The primary signal that rehab is needed is the disruption of that person’s everyday life by substance abuse. They need intervention if they can no longer get up and go to work or school, or are having difficulties such as getting fired from their job or expelled from school due to substance abuse problems.

Another sign is the loss of healthy relationships and creation of poor ones. If they abruptly break off communication with their family and begin associating with other addicts or abusers (“hanging out with the wrong crowd”), family members need to intervene to help get them back on track. Finally, if they become involved with the legal system due to an arrest for substance abuse related behavior such as possession of drugs, driving under the influence or stealing to obtain money for drugs they need to be helped through long-term rehabilitation. In many cases, placement in a long-term rehab facility can be a part of their sentence from the court.

A long-term rehabilitation facility can be very helpful in supporting a substance abuser who wants to transition to a clean lifestyle. Placing an abuser in a long-term rehab facility puts him or her into a new environment that is free of many of the temptations and distractions of their prior life that led them to be addicted. For example, if the abuser was not in school or working they had a great deal of idle time that was likely spent in an unhealthy environment with a ready supply of available drugs. That temptation is removed when they are taken to a long-term rehab facility. Another benefit of a long-term rehab facility is its structured environment and schedule. The facility will require the substance abuser to attend treatment and restructure his or her life to be able to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

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The three main indicators that long-term rehab may be needed for a family member with substance abuse problems are disruption of job or school, loss of healthy relationships and involvement with the legal system. The Treatment Episode Date Set (TEDS) is a system that compiles information provided by rehab and treatment centers around the country. The most recent report highlights admissions for the years 1997 through 2007 for various drugs and alcohol abuse treatments. The total number of admissions for drug treatment reported in the United States in 2007 was approximately 1.8 million.

Only one in 10 people that abuse substances seeks and gets treatment, even so: is rehab the answer for them? Support groups like Alcohol Anonymous and other organizations centered around other substance abuse have also been found to work. Alternative therapies have also shown promise. However, these groups have been found to be less effective than long-term rehab for serious substance abusers.

Worth noting is that according to a report  published last year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at  Columbia University “the vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.” The report added, “Only a small fraction of individuals receive interventions or treatment consistent with scientific knowledge about what works.” The report claims most addiction treatment providers are not medical professionals and are not equipped with the knowledge, skills or credentials needed to provide the full range of evidence-based services, including medication and psychosocial therapy.

Before committing to a treatment program, substance addicts and families should   do their homework. The first step is to get an independent assessment of the need for treatment, as well as the kind of treatment needed, by an expert who is not affiliated with the program you are considering. Look for programs using research-validated techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps addicts recognize what prompts them to use drugs or alcohol, and learn to redirect their thoughts and reactions away from the abused substance.