Flipping the Addiction Treatment Industry on It’s Head

Flipping the Addiction Treatment Industry on It’s Head


When it comes to addiction, I think the treatment industry needs a big wake up call. We have skated along for too long with mediocre (and dismal) success rates, with no real innovation occurring since the dawn of AA. It is my belief that we can do better…we just need to get creative and try some new things. There is always the chance that we could stumble on a more effective approach. Instead, we seem to just keep pushing the same old treatment models, desperately hoping that somehow a miracle will occur and things will just start working better.

In particular, I especially think that many young people are put off and/or intimidated by the 12 step model that is so prevalent. I’ve seen very little innovation from the industry as far as finding an alternative way to connect with this group.

So here are 4 ideas to get the ball rolling. Humor me a bit, I’m thinking out loud here. But this is the type of stuff we need to ignite the industry:

1) Survival recovery – This could be done much cheaper than existing treatment centers if you can find a way around the liability. Take a group of recovering addicts and alcoholics, give them a guide, and send them deep into the wilderness for a few months. Make the location remote enough so that they can’t walk away from the group. “Graduates” of the program return to volunteer as future guides. Learning new skills, teamwork, connecting with nature, meetings each night around a campfire–this has real potential.

2) Fitness focused recovery – Believe it or not, there is a large portion of addicts and alcoholics that have a special connection to sports/and or fitness. I know this from first hand experience, because many clients at the treatment center I work at have expressed a strong interest in physical activity. They need to work up a sweat and get their adrenaline pumping–this is part of the physical replacement strategy for them, and it is probably more important than what our “experts” make it out to be. So why not design a program or a rehab from the ground up with fitness and nutrition as the main basis for it? This could have surprising results.

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3) Recovery cruises – This one is a bit out there, but I believe it might work. Don’t think “luxury cruise,” think more along the lines of “everyone chips in and does their part.” Get a bunch of newly recovering addicts and alcoholics out there on the open sea, and this will force them to confront their addiction head-on, because there is no where to run to. There is no temptation to “walk out of treatment early” because you’re on a boat! This helps to ensure that they will see their treatment through, at least until they get back to dry land.

4) Holistic health centers – What about a treatment center that uses a holistic approach, including meditation, fitness, nutrition, and alternative medicines (such as acupuncture for stress relief)? Again, you never know what kind of surprising results you might get with this type of approach.

These are just starter ideas off the top of my head, but why not try some of this stuff? The worst that could happen is that they would share the same dismal success rates as the rest of the treatment industry. Plus, we might just learn something.

What do you think? Does the treatment industry need a fresh approach? Could these ideas work? Let us know in the comments!


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