Deciding on addiction treatment

Dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction can become an arduous struggle, and many addicts can't successfully break the habit on their own. Even those who quit on their own are susceptible to powerful withdrawal symptoms, which may include hallucinations, tremors, vomiting or insomnia. Most failures happen because addicts rely on sheer willpower, vastly underestimating the control that the addiction has on the brain and the body. During difficult times such as these, treatment centers aid in overcoming such a powerful habit. 

If you or a loved one is seeking help, you have many resources at hand. Most employers offer help in the form of an employee assistance program. Established as a confidential way to seek out referrals and advice on a specific situation, these hotlines are not just for employees. Loved ones seeking advice can call as well. You cannot, however, fight the addiction for your loved ones. They have to want a life of sobriety for themselves. Being a means of emotional support is crucial, especially when it comes to making a decision to seek treatment.

Types of addiction treatment

While the concept behind treatment centers for drug and alcohol abuse is the same, you can distinguish the facilities by the methods they use. Depending upon the scope of the facility, it can employ any of the following methods during addiction treatment:

  • Outpatient treatment. One of the most common drug or alcohol treatment plans, an addict doesn't live in the facility, but rather maintains scheduled appointments to visit with the physician and counselors.

  • Extended care center. Addicts routinely use this treatment option when they need help with the transitional period after completing a separate treatment program. Extended care centers offer a structured environment for those who have recently become sober and need added support on their road to recovery. Many extended care treatment centers offer education and employment opportunities to give their patients a better chance at success.

  • Residential care. This option requires that the patient be admitted to the facility to undergo treatment and usually applies to addicts who have either failed other treatment courses or who suffer from addictions to more difficult drugs, such as cocaine, crystal meth or heroin.

Treatment centers are expensive, but cost doesn't have to be a deterrent because options are available. Most treatment centers usually accept health insurance, especially if coupled by a referral from your primary doctor. While the treatment may not always be covered completely, it eases the burden so that the focus remains where it is most important: on the recovering addict.

Drug treatment centers

While you'll find many drug abuse treatment centers, you should exercise care when choosing a facility. Not all drug abuse treatment centers run the same program. Some deal only with specific addictions, whereas others are ill-equipped to handle certain types of patients. Do you research when considering available treatment centers and check Angie's List for member reviews and ratings of facilities in your area.

When you've zeroed in on a facility, ask the following questions:

  • What is your success rate?

  • What treatment plans do you offer?

  • How are you equipped for an emergency?

  • What are your expectations of the patient during treatment?

  • Do you provide assistance with the transition to a life of sobriety?

Knowing the expectations of the patient is imperative to successful treatment. If a treatment center is not willing to answer any of these questions, you should consider another facility.

The staff working at a drug abuse treatment center is well-trained in dealing not only with the addiction itself, but also in aiding with any withdrawal symptoms that may present themselves as the detoxification process begins. Counseling is a necessary aspect of the detoxification process, as it helps to show the true nature of the addiction.

When someone checks into a drug abuse treatment facility, the staff fully evaluates the patient by establishing an extensive history of the drug abuse: when the drug abuse started, what drugs are being abused and how long the addiction has carried on. All of these factors help the physician on duty and the staff develop a treatment plan. Because all addictions are not the same, treatment plans differ.

Alcohol treatment centers

Alcoholism is defined as the physical dependency on alcohol and the inability to stop drinking on your own. When drinking alcohol comes before important things in your life — your family, social activities and your job — contacting a treatment center can help you develop a proper treatment plan. While there are no known underlying causes of alcoholism, genetics and frequent alcohol intake can increase your risk of dependency.

Several alcoholism treatment centers are spread across the United States. Most range in price and offer various methods and levels of treatment options. A good treatment center will offer an inpatient program to help you cope with difficult detox symptoms.

An inpatient facility will evaluate you medically (to make sure your vital signs are in the normal range) and perform an overall physical. The physical may include a Breathalyzer test and a blood draw that will screen for drugs and any type of underlying illness. A liver function test will check your liver health and liver enzymes to see if you have any permanent damage to your liver. In severe cases, health care professionals may administer a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help you cope with the symptoms of withdrawal. If you have no past addiction to benzodiazepines such as Valium, Librium or Ativan, these drugs may be used in gradual doses to help control withdrawal symptoms. 

Symptoms of withdrawal vary depending on the severity of the disease and can be as mild as irritability and headache or quite severe as seizures, hallucinations, confusion and rapid heartbeat. Make sure the facility has a clinical staff available 24 hours a day to help administer approved medication and keep you as comfortable and calm as possible.

Consult your general physician and member reviews and ratings on Angie's List to evaluate the treatment centers in your area. Once you decide on a facility, set up an appointment to discuss the facility requirements, your length of stay, payment options, past medical history and follow-up care.

Treatment centers should benefit you spiritually, emotionally and physically while teaching you how to cope with your alcoholism. When you leave the facility, a strong support system is essential to recovery and sobriety. Some facilities are connected regionally to offer you an opportunity to seek outpatient help as the weeks pass after the end of treatment.

Treatment centers will focus on not only helping you curb your alcohol cravings but shifting your temptations to more positive choices. Expect to see an improvement in your physical health as well. Healthy meals, routine physical therapy and daily exercise will help you improve yourself as a person.

Alcohol treatment services

Your chosen treatment center's trained clinical staff may include a medical director, registered nurse, dietitian and medical assistant in addition to trained psychologists and therapists.

A trained therapist will be one of your initial contacts when it comes to your evaluation and developing a treatment plan. Choose a facility that specializes in all aspects of the treatment process, including evaluation for such underlying psychological triggers as depression, anxiety, family turmoil, grief, trauma, chemical imbalances and physical pain. Getting to the root of your alcoholism through intense one-on-one counseling and group therapy may help you resolve your alcohol dependency once and for all.

Be sure to find a place that allows you to relax and gather your personal thoughts, which has a lot to do with the overall setting of the facility. Water therapy, yoga sessions, massage therapy, ocean or water views and garden retreats are major benefits. Many facilities, however, may not give you the opportunity to connect with the solace of nature.

Aside from counseling sessions, preparation for discharge and follow-up care is essential for long-term sobriety. Select a facility that focuses on therapy sessions that will teach you the tools needed to identify triggers and deal with temptation. Sober living homes that allow you to merge back with society may be more beneficial than going back to an unsettling or alcohol-tempting environment.

Drug and alcohol testing

Drug and alcohol testing screens blood or urine for drugs or chemicals in an individual. Some companies often use this type of testing as a condition of employment or randomly among existing employees or for criminal cases. Employers across the private and public sector are increasingly using drug and alcohol screening to whittle down their choices for job openings or to guarantee optimal worker productivity.

Toxicology testing can screen for up to 30 drugs at a time. Urine samples are easily obtained and are the simplest method of testing for drugs or alcohol. As an added benefit, certain chemicals remain detectable in urine longer than blood. Technicians can also test saliva, sweat or stomach contents, but these are not standard methods of toxicology testing for employment purposes.

People involved in public safety jobs are usually required to submit to testing before and after hiring. There is no federal law regulating drug and alcohol testing, so states regulate the conditions of testing.

How alcohol and drug screening works

Most drug and alcohol screening examines an individual's blood, saliva or urine for certain chemicals present in the body and not for specific levels or quantities of drugs or alcohol. Typically, drug tests screen for "the big five" panel test of street drugs: marijuana (THC), cocaine, PCP, opiates (such as morphine and codeine) and amphetamines. A ten-panel test will also screen for legal prescription drugs and alcohol. If a test reveals the presence of drugs or alcohol, follow-up tests will determine how much of these chemicals are in the body.

Drug and alcohol tests may come back normal or abnormal. A normal result indicates either no unexpected drugs or alcohol were found in the body or prescription or nonprescription medicines were found within the therapeutic range. An abnormal result indicates the presence of drugs and alcohol or levels of prescription or nonprescription medicines too high for therapeutic use.

Because abnormal results of drug and alcohol screening can have severe ramifications, such as loss of employment, any results that show drug or alcohol use need retesting using two different test methods. In some cases, a lab technician will watch the urine or blood collection and make sure no tampering or loss of the sample occurs.

Laboratory testing is the best way to achieve the most accurate results, but sometimes toxicology testing can be inaccurate. Some drugs can be mistaken for other drugs through drug testing, such as cough medicine being identified as a narcotic. Drinking or eating certain types of foods can also result in unexpected abnormal test results, such as poppyseeds being identified as heroin.

Before submitting to a drug or alcohol test, participants need to tell doctors or employers about all medications they have taken, prescription or not. Drinking large amounts of water or taking substances to alter the results of toxicology testing is not recommended; it often has no effect on the outcome of the test, and it can be dangerous.

Choosing a testing center

The cost of implementing a drug and alcohol policy is relatively inexpensive, but choosing the right testing centers requires careful consideration. Check Angie's List for member reviews and ratings of the testing centers in your area.

Testing centers vary in quality and professionalism. Asking the right questions will help narrow down choices and make sure employers get the best return on their investment. According to Data Dome, a corporation that recommends employee and psychological assessments for companies based on business needs, when hiring drug and alcohol screening centers, know which drugs the center can test. Do they test only for the big five or do they test for other substances? What agency approves the testing methods? Will more testing be required following a positive result, or will this agency's way of testing suffice? How does the center guard against tampering of the sample? Finally, does this agency work within your budget and will the test results be returned within a specified time frame?

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