Facing Denial in Addiction

Facing Denial in Addiction

Most addicts and alcoholics don’t want to believe that they are addicted until they’ve had enough of the pain and suffering. They are in denial and regardless of what you say or do, they will rationalize in their head that everything is alright.

If you have a loved one suffering from addiction, you’ve probably tried convincing them to seek help to no avail. Denial is, unfortunately, the reality of most addicts lives as they may find it difficult to admit there is a problem until they’ve had enough. This can be a strong barrier that holds people back from entering addiction treatment, sometimes until its too late.

Most addicts and alcoholics will rationalize their addiction and delay treatment as long as denial persists. Denial is a powerful coping mechanism that addicts often underestimate until they are neck deep into their addiction.

Facing Denial in Addiction

Denial in Addiction Breeds Illusion
An addict’s reality is distorted by substance abuse and they often blame others for their problems or downplay people’s genuine concern. Irrespective of the form of addiction someone might be facing, denial delays recovery.

The longer you ignore the problem (addiction), the more dangerous it gets as it grows and grows in severity. Generally, people struggling with addiction exhibit certain addictive behaviors in denial. These include:

Self-deception: As a way of coping with their situation, substance abusers often find a way to convince themselves that their addiction is not as severe as people think. This is a powerful denial mechanism as this tends to worsen the situation.

Playing the blame game: People get into substance abuse for various reasons which are mostly unjustifiable. For some, it is as a result of a heartbreak which they experienced while for others, they resorted to drug and alcohol to soothe a trauma which someone had put them through. People suffering from addiction often pass the blame to past situations or people in their lives. By blaming others, they excuse themselves for their addiction problems as a way of avoiding reality.

Rationalizing: Drug and alcohol abuse is an unjustifiable act. When you are quick to create a rational explanation for your addiction, you are living in denial.

Minimizing the problem:  Acting as if you are exaggerating the problem is another common behavior people suffering from addiction exhibit whenever you attempt to speak with them about it. If your loved one is always comparing himself with others who are taking more addictive substances than he does, he is only trying to cope with the problem. Regardless if it’s a small drinking problem or shooting heroin daily, addiction is what it is – a harmful habit.

Avoiding people who will disapprove of substance abuse: Most addicts tend to keep away from people, especially from those they feel are “pestering” them to seek help. This behavior only permits the individual to continue in their addiction without any checks or restrictions.

 Getting Your Loved One to Face Denial in Addiction

As a primary mechanism by which addicts cope with drug addiction or alcoholism, it is hard to separate denial from addiction. Therefore, denial has to be understood in order to help the victim.

Misconceptions about chemical dependence not being a disease have contributed to harmful stereotypes about drug and alcohol addiction. This gives credence to the fact that a state of addiction denial can extend to the families and friends of people suffering from it. This is the reason why your loved one might require intervention in order to accept help. While intervention, in this case, may include negative results such as loss of employment or other real-life consequences, it’s necessary to save an addict’s life.

Addicts often underestimate their ability to get sober and stay sober. Drug treatment and substance abuse therapy is a viable means of uncovering these abilities, getting the individual to accept reality and working their way through full recovery. At Recreate Life Counseling, we employ evidence-based denial management practices to help addicts see the truth about their situation. Our addiction treatment professionals also help individuals with chemical dependence problems to develop the confidence they need to begin treatment.

Available treatment options include intensive outpatient treatment, day/night treatment with community housing, cognitive behavioral therapies, individual therapy, and group therapy among others. You do not have to hit rock-bottom before seeking help. Our empathetic team is also trained to help you manage any symptom of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome which may come up in the course of your treatment.

We are available around-the-clock to help you plan and begin your journey to a sober life. If you wish to know more about how our addiction treatment programs work, then please contact us for a confidential assessment.

Addiction Treatment Success Rates

addiction treatment success

Addiction treatment programs have high success rates if they are followed correctly by patients. The twelve-step treatment model has helped countless men and women in achieving lasting sobriety.

The Open Journal of Psychiatry recently published an article on drug treatment programs. According to the Journal, the problem of addiction is growing by the millions:

“Addiction is a serious problem affecting between 20 million and 40 million individuals in the United States. The economic impact on the country is estimated to be 200 billion dollars per year in terms of lost productivity, health-related treatment costs, and criminal justice expenses”(OJP).

addiction treatment success

Measuring the Success of a Drug Treatment Program

The need for addiction treatment to be a success is crucial in our country because we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic. However, to determine whether or not an addiction treatment program is successful is an ongoing question that lacks any standard criteria for measuring effectiveness. The parameters used to determine the success a treatment program has should be judged from observation of the recovering addict or alcoholic.

These observations include the number of days abstinent from drug and alcohol use, physical and mental health, quality of life and relationships, employment status, emotional stability and attendance to aftercare recommendations and or attendance at 12 step meetings and or counseling and therapy.

If the above observations are met satisfactorily, then a person is said to have attended a successful addiction treatment program. Therefore, considering that there is no measure for success other than observations which determine success rates, it is best first to define:

  • What is an addiction?
  • Treatment programs available
  • How is success is relevant to addiction treatment and recovery?

To best define addiction, we will utilize the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA. NIDA is a United States federal-government research institute whose mission is to ” advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health” (NIDA).

NIDA defines addiction as “Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control, and those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs” (NIDA).

Addiction treatment, also defined by NIDA, is “Drug treatment is intended to help addicted individuals stop compulsive drug seeking and use. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms, and last for different lengths of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses, short-term, one-time treatment is usually not sufficient. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular monitoring” (NIDA).

Most important to consider when defining addiction treatment are the types of treatment programs available. As indicated by NIDA, there are numerous types of treatment. Detox is a phase of most treatment programs but is not considered treatment. Detox is necessary to make addiction treatment effective. A person cannot benefit from treatment if they are still in active addiction or in other words, under the influence.

Detox centers utilize medication to ease withdrawal symptoms to help the addict or alcoholic get clean and sober and to prepare them for treatment. Professional addiction treatment centers either offer detox services or coordinate detoxification with a medically-supervised detox center. Although detox itself is not considered treatment, it is a vital phase of the recovery process.

Detox First, Followed by Rehabilitation

Once a person has completed detox, the next phase is inpatient, partial hospitalization, or residential rehab. Treatment programs range in length of time and intensity. Inpatient programs also referred to as residential treatment programs, require the client to remain onsite for a set amount of days or months. The most common length of treatment is 30 days. However, research has shown the more effective treatment programs are much longer and that 90 days is optimum.

Another category of treatment is outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment. These types of programs do not require the client to remain on site but allow the client to remain at home or to reside in a sober living environment, also called a halfway house or sober living home. Outpatient treatment programs are the least structured and require less commitment. Outpatient programs are effective, but may not be not as effective as an inpatient or residential treatment. Intensive outpatient programs are more effective when combined with a sober living environment, as these programs are more structured and require more participation.

Finally, how do we define addiction treatment and addiction recovery success? Because addiction recovery cannot be measured physically like other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, the measure to determine whether a person is in recovery from their addiction can’t be as easily determined.

There are no lab tests that indicate whether relapse is about to occur like there is with diabetes or hypertension. There are only (drug presence) tests to determine that the relapse is already in progress. Unfortunately, drug screening tests are not strategic because a person can remain clean and sober to pass the drug screening test and then return to using. How do we measure addiction treatment success without standard criteria available?

Longer Treatment is Usually Better

Fortunately, research has confirmed that the longer a treatment program is, the more likely it is that a person will remain clean and sober for good, indicating the treatment was a success. A recent study was published in the Open Journal of Psychiatry, and conducted by Dr. Akker Mohammad, of the University of Southern California, who lead the study.

“More than 3,000 data points were used to control the study. Patients were nearly divided evenly by gender with the mean average age about 30 years old. Patients were treated for a number of chemical dependencies including alcohol, amphetamine, benzodiazepines, and opioids. All these factors considered the only significant one was the patients’ duration of treatment. Those undergoing an industry standard 30-day treatment program exhibited a 54.7% treatment success rate after one year. In contrast, patients that participated in a treatment program lasting more than 30 days experienced a success rate of 84.2%” (OJP)

Dr. Akikur Mohammad also stated that “Aftercare is crucial once an individual has completed drug or alcohol treatment and is in recovery. There is a continuity of care that should be followed once initial treatment is completed…Our study shows that the absence of such treatment after 30 days significantly reduces the chances of the patient maintaining their sobriety”. (PR Newswire, Mar 1, 2017).

Another source for understanding how successful a treatment program is would be individuals who have remained in recovery long term. Most successful recovering addicts and alcoholics will testify that they attended a long-term treatment program and continued care afterward. They will also be involved in 12 step or other support groups that focus on addiction recovery. Another aspect that long term recovering addicts and alcoholics rely on is a connection to a Higher Power.

If you’re interested in a reputable and solution-focused addiction treatment program with high success rates, Recreate Life Counseling is available to help you or a loved one on the road to lasting recovery.