With treatment and recovery of addiction, one size doesn’t fit all

Published 10:17 am Friday, September 27, 2013

Editor’s Note: As a continuing observance of National Recovery Month, and this year’s theme, Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness,” Pavillon Treatment Center explores the styles and pathways of recovery that differ with each individual. 

While it is true that styles and pathways of recovery differ with each individual in recovery, it is also true for the care plans of formal addiction treatment services. This is known as the individualization of care.

While we acknowledge individual differences, is there anything that is the same within what we know about addiction?

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Addiction disease has a widely accepted set of diagnostic criteria (the American Psychiatric Association), a descriptive definition covering physical, emotional, behavioral, spiritual and relational aspects of the illness (the American Society of Addiction Medicine) and a large body of research clarifying these aspects of the illness. This body of research grows each year.

As the available research evaluating addiction illness grows, our understanding of addiction disease grows. This has led to a clearer picture of the commonality of addictive illness, regardless of the substance (e.g. alcohol, cocaine or prescription opiates) used or the behavior one is engaged in (gambling, etc.). The disease of addiction has never been better understood or better defined for all. Although the disease is well defined and our understanding of it is uniform, best care is individualized.

Why is that?

Not all people enter the disease with the same life or lifestyle. Not all people manifest all possible aspects of the illness. Not all people are equal in their length, complexity and severity of addiction illness. The common definition of addiction that describes and defines the problem is not a replacement for understanding the person as an individual.

What does the person using formal treatment to enter recovery specifically need?

A formal intervention is needed for some and not others. Medically managed withdrawal is needed for some and not others. For many a residential start to formal treatment is needed. Some will do best in a longer term of residential care that includes stepping down through extended care and/or a sober residence. Some will benefit from medications aimed at withdrawal, post-acute withdrawal or psychiatric conditions. Some people will benefit in early recovery through medication support aimed at reduction of cravings.