What Does Long-Term Addiction Treatment Entail?
What does long-term addiction treatment entail? If you have no frame of reference, but you suffer from addiction or alcoholism, you might think it's similar to a jail sentence.
It’s understandable; despite great strides that have been made in the past couple of decades, a great many people still view addiction as a moral failure. Labels like “crackhead,” “wino” and “junkie” are still applied liberally, but as the American Society of Addiction Medicine  points out, “These words are dismissive and disdainful; they reflect a moral judgment that is a relic of a bygone era when our understanding of addiction was limited, when many thought that addiction was some sort of moral failing and should be a source of shame.”
Is it any wonder, then, that those who suffer feel like they’re bad people who need to be good? At Cornerstone of Recovery, we believe that addicts and alcoholics are sick people who need to get well, and the best outcome for recovery from addiction and alcoholism can be found through long-term treatment.
All patients who come to Cornerstone for drug and alcohol treatment start in the same place: Assessment and Orientation, the first stop before Medical Detox. Upon arrival, after an initial check-in with the Admissions staff, patients are escorted across our stately and picturesque campus to Hood Hall, where we work quickly and efficiently to get their journey started.
A&O, as it’s colloquially known, helps lay out the blueprint for each patient’s recovery. Just as everyone’s story is different, so too are the tools they need to get well. At Cornerstone, we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery, which is why we sit down at the outset with each patient and go over the decisions, choices, events, traumas and milestones of each person’s life, so that we can get a bigger picture of what issues precede and are precipitated by their drug and alcohol problems.
From there, each patient will be medically assessed to determine the best course of action for safe, comfortable detox. Simply put, “detoxification, the process by which the body clears itself of drugs, is designed to manage the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse . A typical detox stay lasts from three to five days, depending on the severity of the drug or alcohol problem, and in Medical Detox, patients are monitored around the clock by nursing personnel, encouraged to rest and offered an opportunity to receive AcuDetox, a proven acupuncture protocol that helps manage withdrawal symptoms.
After Medical Detox, the next step in the long-term treatment process is residential inpatient in one of our four unique programs. Ideally, inpatient lasts 28-35 days, during which time patients are given a crash-course education about the nature of addiction and alcoholism and numerous opportunities to work on themselves through conventional, traditional and evidence-based therapeutic techniques.
It’s an intense experience, but it can also be a life-changing one. It’s an eye-opening revelation to many addicts and alcoholics that treatment is about so much more than simply stopping to drink or use. As the NIDA points out , “the goal of treatment is to return people to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community. According to research that tracks individuals in treatment over extended periods, most people who get into and remain in treatment stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity, and improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning.”
To achieve that goal, treatment at Cornerstone of Recovery involves a myriad of treatment modalities. From Trauma Therapy to Schema Therapy to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and more, patients are given opportunities to examine the root cause of their diseases: the life traps and stumbling blocks that keep them returning to drugs and alcohol, even in the face of adverse consequences. Group therapy, peer support, one-on-one counseling, family therapy, individual assignments, educational lectures, activity therapy, physical fitness … the focus of treatment at Cornerstone is to address the needs of the body, mind and spirit, because drugs and alcohol have a way of affecting every single aspect of life.
The End … and Beyond
Residential inpatient treatment is a great introduction to the recovery process, but it can’t last forever. Sooner or later, patients have to return to the outside world, but making a decision to extend their treatment plan to include Intensive Outpatient (IOP) alongside Support Living (SLF) helps broaden the foundation of their recovery.
IOP is a 10-week post-residential program that’s an extenuation of the therapeutic process. According to NIDA , “following stays in residential treatment programs, it is important for individuals to remain engaged in outpatient treatment programs and/or aftercare programs. These programs help to reduce the risk of relapse once a patient leaves the residential setting.” By continuing to participate in on-campus processing, counseling and peer support groups as part of IOP, patients continue to address the issues that have fed their addiction or alcoholism.
Normally, it can take years before drug and alcohol use manifest into symptoms of unmanageability, dereliction and depression, and recovery doesn’t take place overnight. As powerful a tool as inpatient can be, a few weeks of treatment is only the start of the recovery process, but choosing to extend into IOP/SLF gives patients an opportunity to remain a part of the Cornerstone family while easing one foot back into their day-to-day lives. As they grow in their recovery, they’re encouraged to find jobs and volunteer opportunities, earn special privileges and begin the see the effects that recovery has on all aspects of their lives.
The goal of long-term treatment is a simple one: long-term recovery. Addiction and alcoholism are chronic, progressive and often fatal illnesses that require a regimen of daily maintenance — very similar to diabetes. Diabetics must monitor their health and adjust the dosages of their medication accordingly, and the same is true of addiction and alcoholism. And like with diabetes, living with addiction or alcoholism isn’t a death sentence: It simply becomes a habit that produces positive results far beyond the problem of quitting drugs and alcohol.