Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good Medical Treatment Beats Rehab Any Day

Clinical practice is something of a roller coaster. One day, most of my patients are doing well, the next day, they're all crashing. Today was one of the good ones. Lots of folks doing well. Most doing better than they have in years. Many of my current patients I have picked up in the hospital, doing consultations. Almost all have been through 12-step rehab, most multiple times. The record so far is 43 times! I integrate behavioral treatment (psychotherapy seems to be a bad word in addiction treatment for some reason), medication management, family therapy if needed, and care management. I do this basically by myself (although I do have a couple of great nurses who help with fielding calls from patients and families, medication refills, etc.) Most of the psychotherapy I do takes 20-30 minutes. I try to see patients weekly for awhile and that works really well. Sometimes I've seen patients more often for stabilization but for the most part weekly seems to work well.

One of the first things I do with new patients is to tell them this: "I don't necessarily expect that my patients will never drink again. That is the aspiration [in most cases] and the goal. But clinical experience and scientific research demonstrates that for most patients achieving lasting recovery will take time and repeated efforts. Think of quitting smoking. How many times do most people have to make quit attempts before it sticks? Why would quitting drinking be any different. There is a destructive fiction that when people go to rehab, the clouds part, the light shines through, the angels sing and they never drink (or use) again. This is not typical. The most common outcome of rehab is improvement without remission. "So, if you drink (use) that's when I need to see you the most. Don't stay away because you're afraid I'll be angry or disappointed or because you feel guilty or ashamed. That's like staying away from the doctor when you have an asthma attack because you're afraid she'll be upset that her treatment failed. The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses. It will take work and time, and I'll be with you through the process."

Patients become much more engaged in their recovery if they don't fear being blamed for not instantly solving their problems. Finding a solution that works takes time and ingenuity. There is no treatment that always works no matter what anyone tells you. Would you trust a physician who said, "My treatment for breast cancer is 100% effective if you follow my directions?" I wouldn't either.



  1. This is great informationt to have! I wasn't aware that it was such a problem. GREAT ARTICLE SEASON!Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment.

  2. I came across a descriptive phrase in reference to the (usually) unfounded belief that going away to rehab for a month will result in cure. This paradigm was referred to as the 'asylum model'.


Comments are welcome.