Drug Treatment: Make The Right Choice

As most of you know, I had a 23 year addiction to opiates (pain killers). After three failed attempts, I entered my last treatment center in March 2001. While I was in treatment, everything was just fine. I was safe, eating well, and being taken care of. No one could get to me, not the police, bill collectors or even my family, but when I got out, everyone was there. The wolves were at the gate!

 My actual recovery started the day I got home and I’m here to tell you, it was rough. There is nothing easy about recovery, especially when I spent the past 23 years doing exactly what I wanted. Try changing a habit you have had for 20 years and then tell me how it’s going! They have a saying in recovery, “what do you need to change about yourself?” The answer is “everything”. It’s a lot easier said than done. I had to learn fast or else I was going to lose everything or die.

I don’t claim to know everything about addiction and recovery, but the truth is, there isn’t much I don’t know. The bottom line is that it starts with the right inpatient treatment facility. This is critical. So how does a family find the right one? First, never let the addict decide where they should go. This is no longer their choice. Their choices got them to where they are and it’s obvious their choices are not working at all. In the addicts mind it’s all about them and they still want to control every situation, especially with their families. “Because, you know mom & dad, it’s not that bad and I really don’t have a problem.” Please, don’t ever let the addict tell you he or she can do this on their own, because they can’t. If they could they would have already done it. The family needs to understand the chemically addictive nature of prescription drugs as well as heroin and meth and how it affects the brain. 

Second, never send the addict to an outpatient program prior to inpatient treatment. You will be wasting your money and everyone’s time. Outpatient programs work, but they work only after the addict gets clean. Now they can work on staying sober. The mind is now ready and can understand what the counselors and therapists are talking about. People need to understand that opiate abuse wipes out serotonin levels and destroys dopamine receptors. It can take a long time for those to return to full capacity, but once the addict gets clean, dopamine and serotonin start to come back, meaning the addict can start to understand what someone is teaching them. Every client that has come through our doors who opted to go to outpatient first has failed in that process and returned to us for inpatient help.


 Here is what works more times than not. I am not a fan of a straight 30-day program. Addiction is as much behavioral as it is a physical addiction. So how do you change 5, 10, or 20 years of habitual addiction in 30 days? The answer is you don’t! Sometimes the client needs a 60 to 90 day inpatient program or a 30 day detox program immediately followed by 3 to 6 months of an outpatient program. Sober living is always a positive influence on the client when they are in an outpatient program. This is where they learn to live life with other individuals in a sober environment. Make sure you choose the right one. There are too many sober living facilities out there that don’t have a good set of guidelines for their residents.

Families don’t need to spend $50,000 a month on a treatment facility. Do not be fooled by the promise that they can cure the addiction. There is no cure. If there was then why isn’t everybody? If there is a cure, why are the recovery rates for the 18 to 35 year old only 7%. The addict doesn’t need massages, Egyptian sheets, or a five-star chef preparing their meals. These are great amenities if you are on vacation but not needed when one is in rehab. These luxuries will not be there when they leave treatment. The addict needs to learn how to live life, not live in fantasy land for 30 days.       You also don’t want to pick a treatment center that does not medically detox. It is imperative you choose a facility that does. A lot of non-medical treatment centers have good intentions but if the addict is not detoxed the right way, they normally will leave after only a few days because the truth is, it’s just too damned hard to detox “cold turkey”.

 We know that it takes longer than a short 30 days of inpatient treatment to get someone on the right track towards recovery. This can be a long hard road for all of us in early recovery, but it can be successful if it’s done properly and with the right plan.

Kerry Garrison