An innovative drug rehab or treatment center will do certain things differently than traditional rehabs, and my thought is that this is exactly the kind of thing that we need to start experimenting with in order to see a shift toward better success rates.
Traditional rehabs tend to do much of the same thing, such as:
1) Push 12 step meetings as the primary solution.
2) Use group therapy.
3) Work one on one with clients directly with a therapist or counselor.
4) Recommend aftercare, which is almost always either outpatient or more 12 step based treatment.
So there is nothing wrong with this necessarily, other than the fact that it does not really work all that well. Success rates are pretty darn low with a traditional model, but to be fair, the rate of success may be pretty well fixed regardless of what treatment is offered.
Nonetheless, I think it is worth exploring innovative treatment options, and see if that produces any changes in success rates. There is also the idea that different types of treatment may be more helpful for different people, and that not everyone may respond well to the same style of rehab.
So what are some innovative forms of treatment?
One example is “adventure therapy.” Another spin on that idea is “wilderness recovery.” So you take the rehab out into the wilderness (after detox of course, which is still done in a medical setting), and then you base the residential portion of treatment on the idea of “wilderness survival.” So you sort of turn the recovery experience into a “Survivor” episode. It is different, it is probably more exciting than traditional recovery where you sit and watch videos and do group therapy all day, and it might actually work halfway decent. At least people would be getting out, moving their bodies, solving problems, and working together. At the very least, this sounds like at least as positive an experience as sitting around in rehab all day.
There is also the idea of cost. If you set it up to basically run with just camping supplies, food, and maybe just one or two staff members to be with the group at all time, it could be quite a bit cheaper than the traditional model.
There is also the potential advantage of retention. Most people probably do not realize how huge a problem it is that rehabs encounter with retention, especially among younger people. The tendency to leave early, against staff advice, is very common. So common in fact that it might be one of the biggest advantages of wilderness recovery, that you have them out in the middle of nowhere, and they don’t really have the option of leaving treatment early. They are stuck.
There are other forms of innovation within the field of substance abuse treatment, and we need to start exploring them more. For example, there is equine therapy and pet therapy. Probably not a universal solution but the idea gets people thinking outside of the box. There are all sorts of studies going on right now with new medications that can help treat cravings for different drugs.
So there are still new ideas in the field and there is still room for improvement. Having choices and treatment options might be important some day, as we might discover that matching up the right recovery model with the right person is the whole key to increasing success rates.
On the other hand, we might discover that the method of treatment is almost completely irrelevant, and that the most important factor has always been (and will always be) the level of willingness of the addict or alcoholic.
A third possible option might be that medicine and the drug industry will “solve” the problem of addiction, and develop a chemical treatment that “fixes” the addict or the alcoholic, to a level that we have never before seen. Current medications for treating addiction all do a terrible job of it; none of them are even close to being “very effective.”
And a fourth possibility is that we might find a new form of therapy, non-drug, that is highly effective at treating addiction. This seems to be the least likely because:
1) We have already explored all existing forms of therapy that we have for addiction, and nothing seems to stand out.
2) Lack of willingness and motivation on the part of the addict can undermine virtually any therapy technique.
There may be other solutions out there for treating addiction and alcoholism, but we have to keep looking for them. The current treatment models of today produce terrible success rates. That may be all we have, but it makes sense to keep looking, and to try to innovate.