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Redefining Recovery for Substance Use Disorder

“What does recovery look like for you?” and “How can I help you with your recovery?” 

People who are struggling with substance use disorder are increasingly being asked questions like these by recovery professionals. 

They seem like simple questions but they represent a redefining of recovery and a shift in how care is structured in order to address increasing challenges for substance use disorder treatment. These challenges include: 

  • Substance abuse and addiction are becoming more prevalent.
  • Access has increased for substances like marijuana.
  • Alternative beliefs regarding substance use are trending social platforms.

Current guidelines established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine strive to accommodate a wider scope of practice in meeting people where they are to, hopefully, provide genuine assistance with recovery. 

Barriers to Current Substance Use Disorder Treatment Options

Traditionally, when someone seeks help for a substance use disorder, a chemical dependency evaluation determines the appropriate level of treatment – level 1, 2 or 3. 

  • Level 1 - 9 hours or less a week
  • Level 2 - 9 hours or more a week 
  • Level 3 - 30, 60 or 90 days of inpatient treatment

Each level of recovery program is highly structured with specific criteria and rules which must be adhered to in order to remain in a program. This often involves participation in 12-step programs and strict abstinence may be required. 

Some people may not want to engage in all components or aspects of the programming in current recovery programs and therefore are not accepted into those recovery programs. Having a problematic relapse or not achieving total abstinence can mean expulsion from a program.

Just finding level 2 and level 3 treatment can also be difficult due to greater demand than availability of recovery services. People may be unable to meet programming attendance requirements while they juggle work and family needs. 

Recovery Professionals Meet You Where You Want to Be

The latest neuroscience research looks at recovery from a broader perspective than the previous guidelines of 12-step programs and abstinence-only models. Current thinking also recognizes that treatment at a lower level is better than nothing. 

What that means for people struggling with substance use disorder is that recovery professionals are more likely to take into consideration where you want to be, and start giving you what you want for recovery versus adhering strictly to what is recommended after evaluation. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because recovery is a journey. The overarching goal is to get people to make a healthier choice, whatever that may look like for them. 

Susan D. Mayberry, LIMHP, LMHC, IADC
Susan D. Mayberry, LIMHP, LMHC, IADC

Susan D. Mayberry, LIMHP, LMHC, IADC is a mental health therapist and alcohol and drug counselor with CHI Health.

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