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Why Do People Go to Treatment Multiple Times?

The opioid epidemic has turned into more of a fentanyl epidemic as all sorts of drugs are now spiked with this powerful drug which is 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl and other drugs are pouring into our country unlike any time in our nation’s history. Overdoses are skyrocketing. Not surprisingly, we are seeing more people seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction now more than at any time in the past. Only a fraction of those who need the help are seeking it. In short, the situation is completely out of control.

As more people seek treatment, more people are becoming aware of drug and alcohol addiction. Most people have someone in their family or amongst their friends suffering from this horrific disease. Although more people are becoming aware of addiction, much confusion still surrounds the disease. Many, even today, do not believe or understand that addiction is a disease. They just see their loved one destroying their lives and cannot understand why they cannot stop.

Unfortunately, most people end up going to treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction multiple time. We have treated clients who have been to over 30 treatment centers. Such people are very fortunate to be alive. That said, families and loved ones have often been decimated emotionally and financially by the continuous relapses of their loved one. Often there is much resentment within the family not only directed at the suffering addict but amongst the family members themselves. In short, everyone becomes sick.

Addiction is one of the worst diseases on the planet. With other diseases, like cancer for example, the person suffering does not typically act out in ways detrimental to their family and friends. These people take their prescribed medications, as painful as that may be, and either get well or they do not get well. There is much sadness when such a person passes but typically there are few deep seeded resentments towards the person as a result of them having had the disease. Not so with addiction. With addiction, the side effects from not receiving treatment are often abhorrent. As the suffering addict goes from one institution, be that a treatment center, jail, hospital, or psych ward, it takes a toll on all of those surrounding that person.

Why does this happen? The answer is surprisingly simple. In most cases we find that the suffering addict who continuously relapses is unwilling to do the work that is required to get well and stay well. Recovery is not easy and it takes considerable effort. The mind of an addict must be reprogrammed. New healthy neuropathways must be carved into the brain through vigorous clinical treatment along with other treatments such as 12 step programs.

Why don’t suffering addicts simply do the work the first time in treatment and end the suffering for themselves and everyone else? Unfortunately, with those suffering from alcohol and/or drug addiction, they must hit some sort of “bottom” where much of what they previously cared about is lost. The suffering addict has a compulsion to use that is indescribable to those who do not have the disease. There is a mental obsession that is tremendously strong along with a physical dependency with most drugs that is so intense that they will go into withdrawals without them and may even die in the absence of medical detox.

There is a way that family and friends can help reduce the number of times someone goes to treatment. That way is to stop enabling them. Unfortunately, many families have inadvertently enabled their suffering loved ones by giving them money, places to stay, bailing them out of jail, paying for treatment, over and over again. The disease of addiction thrives on successful manipulation. Those in active addiction have no choice but to manipulate everyone to keep their use going. The more they get away with this behavior, the worse the disease becomes. The worse the disease becomes, the worse the outcomes are. Untreated and worsening addiction leads in most instances to death.

While you cannot make the suffering loved one do the work required to get well, you can help increase the chances of stopping the vicious cycle of treatment, relapse, worse outcomes with the entire thing repeating itself by saying “no.” In most cases, it needs to be made clear to the person suffering that unless they seek help, do the work, and get well, there is nothing you can do for them any longer. If this is made clear the first time the person suffering goes to treatment, you can dramatically increase the odds of the first treatment being the last treatment.

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