We Need More Accountable Rehab Programs

The tragic death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith in 2013 revitalized the seemingly constant debate about addiction and the efficacy of rehab centers, especially for celebrities. Several high-profile individuals such as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan have publicly stated their disdain for the common treatment paradigms in rehab programs, with Lohan calling them “pointless,”[1] and Sheen stating on “Good Morning America” last year that he “doesn’t believe in rehab anymore.”[2] But what exactly are they decrying, and how does it tie in to Monteith’s recent overdose?

The problem, says Anne Fletcher, columnist for addiction and recovery news website thefix.com and author of the recent book Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction Treatment and How to Get Help That Works, lies in the stagnation among most rehab centers and the utter lack of innovation in their treatment practices.

The current treatment model, Fletcher says, “sprung up in a vacuum” decades ago, when the medical community initially refused to treat addicts and alcoholics. There was no standardization of treatment practices for the nascent rehab facilities, and the entire industry essentially stumbled about, attempting to find a way to provide effective – and cost-effective – treatment during a time when addiction was considered a behavioral issue, not a medical or mental health disorder.[3]

Charlie Sheen called out the rehab programs he has attended as trying to be “one-size-fits-all,” saying that they didn’t fit him.

Addiction Treatment Must Be Catered to the Addict

Sheen is just one of thousands of people that these cookie-cutter rehab programs don’t fit — just look at Cory Monteith, who spent fifteen years struggling with addictions that began in his teenage years. He spent a decade sober after a stint in rehab at age 19, but then began to relapse as his stardom rose. Just three months before his death he spent another month in rehab, ultimately proving ineffective, as he was found dead from a fatal combination of heroin and alcohol. Why had repeated trips not cured him of his addiction? Why are celebrities like Sheen still drinking after multiple extended treatments?

One of the key issues, says Fletcher, is the lack of adequate credentialing standards for treatment programs. In fact, over half the states in the country don’t even require addiction counselors to have any kind of college degree. So it’s little wonder that, even when programs advertise their ability to treat patients’ co-occurring psychiatric problems, the patients come out of rehab faced with the inevitability of a relapse.

There are several reasons and factors that cause an individual to become addicted. Each addict has his or her own unique circumstances which have led to substance abuse and addiction.[4] Utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach ignores the unique variables in a person’s life, differing severities of addiction and the individual needs required to address a person’s addiction issues. Some of these include family history and mental health.

Why Individualized Addiction Treatment is Crucial

No two addicts are alike, so no two treatment strategies should be either. One of the problems with a one-size-fits-all approach in addiction treatment is that it focuses on the addiction rather than the person. Almost no one has willfully made the decision to become helplessly addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addressing why a person continually chooses to abuse substances, as opposed to addressing the actual substance abuse, is key to creating long-term change and preventing relapses.

For some, a traumatic experience may be haunting them constantly and drug or alcohol abuse is the only way they can exercise any control over it. Others may be unknowingly suffering from a mental disorder which has influenced them to consistently make destructive decisions. Some may be exposed to a problematic environment which promotes substance abuse. Others might be genetically predisposed to addiction. All of these factors, as well as several others, must be considered when creating a course of addiction treatment.

In the cases of Sheen, Lohan and other celebrities who seem to continually relapse, the treatment centers they’re visiting are likely not accounting for several factors in their lives, including their environment and their unique circumstances which might encourage substance abuse. Certainly a person who isn’t a wealthy celebrity has different challenges to face in rehab than someone like Monteith.

Innovative Therapies are Key

One of the biggest mistakes recovering addicts make is assuming that detox alone is enough. Sadly, this is also a mistake perpetuated by several addiction treatment facilities as well. While detox is a vital and necessary part of any addiction rehab, it only addresses the physiological part of the addiction and does not address the psychological aspect. It also does not teach recovering addicts how to live their lives without drugs or alcohol.

An effective drug or alcohol rehabilitation includes group and individual counseling, social skills development, life skills training, fitness instruction, therapies to help patients confront and defeat trauma and nutritional consultations to improve health. Recovering addicts need to fully understand the thoughts, actions and environments that lead them to substance abuse. They also need to understand how their mental health and family history may have played a role in addiction.

Rehabilitation is not the end, it’s only the beginning. Without fully preparing recovering addicts for a life of sobriety following the protected confines of a rehab clinic, they become highly vulnerable to inevitable temptations and susceptible to relapse. This is why aftercare services for recovering addicts are also important, as many need to be reminded of the tools they used during rehab and to learn how to implement them in their everyday lives.

BHOPB Has Redefined Effective Addiction Treatment

Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches is dedicated to providing high-quality psychiatric care, along with our medically supervised detox programs. Through our work with Dr. Louis Baxter and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, we want to ensure that our patients leave the program healthy and sound of both body and mind. Because it isn’t just celebrities who suffer from subpar rehab programs — it could be your loved ones.

We are committed to helping patients rebuild their lives and get a new start in sobriety. Everyone deserves another chance at living a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. Allow the therapists, medical professionals and mental health experts at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches to help you or a loved one defeat addiction once and for all.