48 Million Americans Live With Addiction. Here's How to Get Them Help That Works

This is a story that many people struggling with addiction might recognize: You realize that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and try detoxing at a residential treatment facility to get sober. After a few weeks, you’re discharged without any follow-up care or support, so you relapse, unsure of how to maintain your sobriety once you return to your daily life. 

Next, you try another approach — medication-assisted treatment. But your options are buprenorphine, which, if administered incorrectly, can send you into precipitated withdrawal, or methadone, which requires traveling to a clinic every day to receive your dose. If you can’t make it there on time, you either have to go without medication for the day and end up in withdrawal, or use illicit drugs and risk a positive urine screen or accidental overdose.

A lot of times, it can seem like the entire recovery system sets you up to fail. This stark reality brings to light the critical need for a more integrated, compassionate approach to addiction treatment — one that aligns more closely with care models for other chronic conditions and offers continuous support and understanding for those living with substance use disorders.

At NorthStar Transitions, we’re taking a closer look at why good help can be hard to find and how individuals can connect with high-quality treatment services that work.

Navigating the Path to Recovery

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), up to 48 million Americans are living with a substance use disorder. But only a small percentage are receiving the help they need to recover, despite an increasing number of available treatment methods that have been proven to be effective at managing addiction. 

However, if you delve deeper, you’ll find a silver lining: research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals that about 75% of those with a substance use disorders are navigating their way to recovery, going on to lead fulfilling lives and reshaping their futures into stories of success and resilience.

That’s not to say that relapse isn’t a part of the process or that getting sober is easy, but the statistics do show the importance of sticking with a recovery program and keeping at it. These findings also demonstrate that recovery is not only possible but probable with the right support. The journey might be long and fraught with challenges, but the potential for a rewarding, substance-free life lies ahead for those who commit to the process.

Addiction Is Like Other Chronic Medical Conditions

Addiction mirrors other chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease or asthma in its pattern of remission and relapse. But instead of affecting vital organs like the lungs or pancreas, it impacts the brain, changing important pathways related to stress, motivation and reward. While addiction can be life-threatening, it's also manageable with proper, consistent care.

However, several unique barriers exist that can make addiction more challenging to treat than other health concerns. Some people refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem and shun all attempts to get them into rehab. Others recognize that they need help but are too afraid to ask for it due to the stigma attached to substance use disorders. 

This fear is understandable. Despite protections for those with a history of addiction, many people who admit to struggling with drug or alcohol use risk losing their jobs if their employer becomes aware of the problem. They also risk losing access to housing, losing custody of their children, and can even be discriminated against in healthcare settings.

To counteract these barriers, a comprehensive understanding of addiction as a chronic medical condition is essential for both the public and mental health professionals. Such a shift in thinking can help foster greater empathy, reduce stigma and promote a more supportive environment for those seeking help. It can also inform more effective approaches to treatment and consider the full spectrum of a person’s needs, empowering individuals to make positive, lasting changes in their lives and build a strong foundation for recovery.

Good Treatment Shouldn’t Be Hard to Find

Finding effective treatment shouldn’t feel like navigating a maze, but it often does. It can be so hard for people to find the help that they need when they need it that many just give up. Those who don’t are often made to jump through various hoops to obtain the necessary treatment and are frequently kicked out of recovery programs for trivial reasons. That would never happen when treating someone for diabetes or any other health condition. 

Many treatment centers that do focus on providing high-quality, compassionate care face a number of challenges that make their jobs difficult, including staff shortages and inadequate funding that leaves them ill-equipped to make use of the latest research about what does and doesn’t work. As a result, a significant number of people with substance use disorders frequently end up passing through courts, hospitals, prisons and rehab facilities without ever being offered the kind of help that could genuinely make a difference and save their lives. 

Ensuring that effective treatment is within easy reach is more than an ideal — it's a necessity in turning the tide against addiction. It's about creating a world where support is immediate, compassion is the norm, and recovery is a reality for everyone who seeks it. With this in mind, let’s explore the essential qualities that define an outstanding treatment program, ones that not only provide care but truly empower individuals on their journey to sobriety.

What to Look For In a Treatment Program

The best treatment programs offer a high quality of care, along with comprehensive support and a personalized approach that considers each individual’s needs, goals and circumstances. The worst are arbitrary and punitive, utilizing one-size-fits-all treatment plans that fail to make a meaningful difference in patients’ lives.  

When choosing a treatment program, here are some key elements to look for:

  • Evidence-based therapies: Effective treatment programs use evidence-based therapies and practices to help individuals achieve lasting recovery. This includes personalized care and proven modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), experiential therapies and peer support.
  • Personalized care: The best programs tailor treatment to the individual’s unique needs, creating a more effective and engaging treatment experience.
  • Qualified, compassionate staff: A compassionate, skilled team can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes, providing the support necessary for recovery. A qualified staff also knows how to administer MAT prescriptions safely and effectively to avoid precipitated withdrawal and other unwanted side effects.
  • Substance use and mental health evaluations: An initial assessment evaluates an individual’s needs and ensures that no stone is left unturned, leading to a more successful treatment plan. This includes evaluating and addressing a person’s mental health needs along with their overall wellness and substance use history.

At NorthStar Transitions, we provide all of this and more to help clients break the cycle of addiction and build a healthier lifestyle. Our commitment is to deliver care that transforms lives, offering a sanctuary for healing and the tools for sustainable recovery. Our expert team, comprehensive services and supportive environment are designed to meet you where you are on your journey, supporting you every step of the way toward a future free from addiction.

Get Help Today

If you or someone you love is among the millions navigating the complexities of addiction, know that effective, compassionate help is available. At NorthStar Transitions in Boulder, Colorado, we understand the courage it takes to reach out for support, and we're committed to providing a pathway to recovery that respects your individual journey. 

Our dedicated team employs a blend of evidence-based therapies, personalized care and a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by those with substance use disorders. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a life of fulfillment, health and well-being, reach out to us by calling 866-407-2240 or completing our online contact form.

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