Reviewed By: Barbara Rexer, DSW, LCSW, LCADC, CCS, ICCS, DRCC
Because addiction is a medical illness, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely leads to long-term recovery. Here’s why personalization is important.
For individuals who suffer from addiction, taking the first step toward recovery is often the most difficult. Of the 20 million Americans who experience problems with drug abuse at a given time, only 1 in 10 will receive treatment. Many will never get the chance, instead becoming incarcerated in a system where as many as 65% of inmates meet medical criteria for substance abuse. Fortunately, advancements in personalized addiction treatment are helping to change that statistic by promoting a greater understanding of addiction as a medical illness.
By studying how addiction affects the brain, researchers and medical professionals have learned that personalization, a technique proven to help successfully treat other complex illnesses, such as cancer, also improves drug addiction treatment.
Because genetics plays a significant role in how individuals react to drugs, customized treatment is one of the most important factors in promoting long-term recovery. Below, we’ll look at how addiction affects individuals in different ways, and why long-term recovery is rarely possible with a one-size-fits-all approach.
To better understand the importance of personalized addiction treatment, it helps to first understand addiction itself. How do disorders that cause addiction form? How do they affect the brain?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “a chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” When someone suffers from addiction, their frontal lobe — the decision making part of the brain — becomes damaged. This leaves addicts less capable of controlling impulses, perceiving risk, or considering the consequences of an action.
Since the frontal lobe also houses the brain’s reward center, addiction can also distort the perceived reward of using. Indeed, for some addicts, the urge to use can overtake the urge to survive. Only with professional medical treatment can addicts get the help they need to overcome the physical addiction. Below are a few of the factors that medical professionals consider when developing a customized treatment plan.
Your unique medical history factors heavily into how addiction affects your mind and body, and therefore how well you will respond to various forms of treatment. For this reason, a customized treatment plan that considers every aspect of your history — physical, mental and emotional — is essential.
A good facility will assess your medical history before starting treatment to get a picture of your overall health, which will allow them to chart the best recovery plan for you. During intake, your clinician may ask also about environmental risk factors for addiction, such as childhood abuse, or traumatic experiences even a recent abusive relationship.
The following medical factors can also affect how you respond to addiction treatment:
Sufferers of chronic pain face a unique challenge when battling addiction. For these clients, overcoming drug abuse is only the first step toward true recovery. If you live with pain, you will also need medical or behavioral strategies to effectively manage it. Because of this unique complication, a one-size-fits-all treatment approach that only addresses addiction to painkillers is not sufficient.
History of Trauma
A history of trauma can also complicate your recovery, requiring a greater emphasis on post-detox counseling, depending on your unique experience. Trauma might include childhood neglect, ongoing abuse (whether in childhood or as an adult), or a single, traumatic event, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
History of Addiction
A history of drug abuse or suffer from co-occurring addictions will also affect how you respond to treatment. If you struggle with opioids, for example, certain medications may not be appropriate for you. If you’re a smoker, nicotine addiction also affect your treatment, particularly as you go through detox. A history of addiction is not at all a barrier to recovery, but it’s important for your medical team to know your complete history in order to effectively help you.
Your current state of health, including the severity of your addiction, can affect your responsiveness to treatment as much as your medical history. A client with a weakened immune system, for example, may not handle certain medications or activities as well as someone who is relatively physically healthy. Likewise, a client in a fragile mental state may not be as ready for group therapy as someone who feels emotionally ready to share.
Co-occurring disorders can also affect how medical professionals approach your treatment. A co-occurring disorder is an underlying mental illness or behavioral disorder that often occurs alongside drug abuse. Common ones include anxiety, depression, PTSD and impulse control disorders. A customized treatment plan helps you address these issues separately from substance abuse.
Communicating honestly with your intake team about any co-occurring disorders of which you are aware, medications you currently take, and your general state of health and mind will help them create the most effective treatment plan for you.
A good facility will also factor in your personal goals when designing your personalized addiction treatment program. During intake, your wellness team should ask what you hope to gain during recovery and what you look forward to as you rebuild your life. Beyond your initial treatment, the type of behavioral therapy and aftercare you receive can often depend on your goals.
For example, reestablishing strong and trusting relationships with your loved ones might be a primary goal. In that case, you may spend more time on this during therapy. Your counselor might also recommend family or group therapy to help you become a better communicator.
Likewise, you have a goal of pursuing a degree or a new career. In that case, your counselor may work with you to cope with the stress of starting something new. Because every person is different, personalization helps every client realize their own definition of long-term success.
Your support system is another factor that addiction professionals consider when developing a unique treatment plan. Your network of family and friends can shape your treatment through every phase. Consider the role you want them to play. For example, you might choose an outpatient program if you have a safe place to stay. With support, you can more easily start outpatient behavioral counseling after detox. Family Therapy even allows your loved ones to play a direct role in your journey.
Your access to behavioral health counseling after treatment can make a world of difference to your long-term recovery. This is another reason personalized addiction treatment is so important. If you do not have access to resources like 12-step programs, your treatment will need to be more comprehensive. For example, you may need more time in behavioral therapy to develop healthy coping mechanisms. You may also need to seek alternative resources and guidance, perhaps through online education. Sharing your access to these resources with your medical team will allow them to design the most effective treatment plan for you.
The Sprout Approach
At Sprout Health Group, we recognize that all clients deserve comprehensive treatment that works for them. We also recognize that no two clients enter treatment in the same state of health. What works for one client at a particular time may not be effective for another. A flexible, individualized approach allows us to consider the physical health, state of mind and ongoing concerns for each client. This way, we can tailor your program for your unique needs.
If you or someone you love suffers from addiction, we can help. Call us at the number below to speak with an experienced intake professional who can help you take the first step toward recovery today.Have questions about addiction?
Chat with one of our recovery specialists now.