An article by Dr. Michael Weiner, Seaside Palm Beach‘s Alumni Director, was featured in Addiction Professional, a clinical magazine dedicated to investigating addiction treatment and recovery strategies. His article, titled Where’s the Chronic-Care Approach to This Chronic Disease focused on the differences in the way diabetes and addictions are treated in medical settings.
The article juxtaposed Dr. Weiner’s close friend’s experience with type 1 diabetes against his own experience as a recovering addict. He outlined how his friend has received ongoing treatment, education and medical assessments for over 25 years, enduring highs, lows, hospitalizations and other difficulties throughout nearly three decades. His treatment strategy involved lifetime management because it was a chronic disease with recurring symptoms.
In the case of Dr. Weiner’s addiction, his disease was treated as an acute occurrence; meaning that it was only a momentary condition, not one that would have to be controlled over the course of a lifetime. Most addiction recovery care strategies involve 30 – 60 days of intense treatment, followed by about a dozen or so follow-up counseling sessions. After this period, the addict is released from treatment and left to fend for him or herself. This is not the way to treat a chronic disease like addiction.
As long as treatment for addictive diseases is heavily loaded on the front end, using language and practices consistent with acute care, we will be talking about chronic disease but treating acute occurrences, Dr. Weiner wrote “To evolve toward a chronic-care model, we need to change how we think, what we say and what we do.”
Dr. Weiner’s Personal Recommendations To Improve The Treatment Process
Dr. Weiner included several suggestions for enhancing the addiction treatment process to make it fit a chronic disease model. Many of his suggestions were focused on changing rhetoric to reduce shame, removing the guise of a graduation or an end to recovery and eliminating the concept of relapse.
The language of acute care is the language of shame. Feelings of shame keep people away from treatment and recovery, he wrote in the article. Let’s stop asking patients “How many times have you been in treatment?” This is asking them “How many acute episodes have you had?” It also conveys “How many times have you failed?”
Dr. Weiner has been working with individuals and families in recovery since 1983. He has been published in several professional journals and is a widely recognized authority in the field of addiction recovery.