Outpatient Drug Treatment Overview


outpatient drug treatmentIn the beginning, taking drugs can seem like fun. The boost of chemicals, the rush of power and the sweeping sense of oblivion can make all the little cares of the world seem to fade into the background. In time, however, drugs can become an anchor and a weight, rather than a gift. As the addiction strengthens, people may come to believe that they simply cannot live without drugs and they may be willing to do almost anything to keep their supply of drugs intact and in use. It’s a desperate situation, and it’s hard to find a way out.

Drug treatment programs are designed to light up the path that leads to sobriety. Here, people can learn more about the addictions that plague them, and they can strengthen the muscles of resistance they’ll use to stay sober in the future. It’s hard work, but it provides big benefits for those who stay involved, engaged and motivated. Outpatient drug treatment program provides this help for people who have strong families and a deep commitment to getting well. This article will outline how these programs typically function.

outpatient therapyRegular Screening

It would be ideal if people with addictions had the ability to be honest 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, addictive drugs can be so powerful and so damaging that people who are under the sway of drugs may lie about the substances they use and the frequency at which they take drugs. They may not want to disappoint or hurt anyone, but they may feel as though honestly is just too difficult to achieve. Drug screening tests involving urine, hair or breath can help.

Screening tests are typically provided at the beginning of a drug treatment program, so experts have a clear understanding of the drugs the person typically takes and the dosages that are commonplace for that person. The tests might be repeated on a regular basis, too, so experts can ensure that the person hasn’t slipped back into bad habits between sessions. Drug screening tests like this can bring back results almost immediately, and according to a study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, the false negative rate for tests like this is less than 1 percent, while false positive tests occur about 4 percent of the time. These are very accurate results, and they can give experts a clear picture of the habits of clients in treatment.

Testing like this might seem invasive, but people in outpatient treatment go home each night, and they might be surrounded by their drug-using friends each day. Clients aren’t protected from temptation in an outpatient program, so screening is necessary in order to ensure that clients maintain the gains they’re receiving in therapy.

Providing Education

People who abuse drugs may be adept at explaining how the substances are prepared and how long the sensations last within the body, but they may not be aware of how the drugs impact the health of the brain or how taking drugs can ruin physical health. Educational sessions are a key part of the healing process for people addicted to drugs, as they’ll need to learn more about how their bodies have changed and how the drugs they loved have conspired to make their lives a bit more difficult. For example, some drugs starve portions of the brain that deal with impulse control and decision-making.

People who take these drugs may find that they’re less able to:

  • Plan for the future
  • Handle money
  • Refrain from gambling
  • Control their emotions
  • Make good long-term decisions

These people may know that something has changed, but they may not be able to place the blame on the drugs they take. An educational class may help them to understand how the drugs they took changed the way their minds worked, at least temporarily, and they may be more motivated to quit when they’re armed with this information.

Classes about addiction and substance abuse are typically provided in a group setting, and most people within the group take the same kind of drugs. There are some outpatient clinics, however, that handle this learning requirement using books, videos, pamphlets and homework assignments.

Changing Behavior+

Changing the way people think about the drugs they used to take is an important part of the healing process, but people with addictions also need to learn how to change the way they behave. Their actions drive the drugs they take, and unless those habits change, drugs will continue to play a part in the person’s life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT) is a proven treatment that can change the way a person behaves in a specific environment, and it’s a common tool therapists use in outpatient drug treatment programs. In fact, according to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, about 68.5 percent of addiction treatment facilities use this type of therapy with their clients.

In CBT sessions, clients are asked to describe the situations in which they use drugs, along with the feelings that drive cravings and the people who might pressure them to use drugs. Each detail is a trigger or clue to that person’s addiction, and dealing with each and every clue could provide people with the tools they’ll need to avoid a future relapse. They’ll know just what a relapse begins with and just how an episode of drug use unfolds. With this knowledge, they can come up with new behaviors they can use to avoid dangerous situations and stop drug use before it takes place.

Controlling Emotions+

A key part of changing behavior involves changing emotional states. People who are swept away by their emotions aren’t able to think clearly and they’re not able to control their actions in a specific and targeted manner. Addictive drugs can sometimes augment destructive feelings, and the damage left behind by drug use can make dealing with emotions very difficult, if not impossible. For example, a study in the journal Psychological Reports found that drug abusers had very high anger scores, when compared to people who didn’t use drugs, and they also had lower scores of anger control. These people were on a simmer, almost all the time, and when a minor slip took place, they were likely to explode.

Therapy sessions are designed to help people learn how to manage their overwhelming emotions without leaning on the sedating power of drugs. People who are angry, for example, might learn how to meditate or count instead of exploding. People who are depressed, on the other hand, might learn how to move past upsetting thoughts, instead of reacting to them with dismay.

Boosting Motivation

outpatient treatment manualDrug addictions can be insidious, and it can be hard for people to change behaviors that have been months or even years in the making. As a result, outpatient programs might last for long periods of time, and people in treatment might need to work on their addiction issue almost every waking moment of the day. It’s hard work, and it’s no wonder that some people find that their motivation to work on the issue waxes and wanes over time. On some days, they may feel as though recovery is the most important thing in life. On other days, they may want to be “normal” and ignore the issue altogether. It’s reasonable, and there are some things therapists can do to help.

At the beginning of a program, therapists might ask their clients to list all the reasons they have for getting sober. People could list almost anything, but common motivations include:

  • Children
  • Spouses
  • Career
  • Physical health
  • Parents

Therapists might ask about these issues on a regular basis, ensuring that clients remember why they’re working so hard. Clients who seem to be lacking in motivation might be provided with Motivational Enhancement Therapy in which the therapist provides a series of questions that are designed to increase the person’s willingness to change behaviors regarding drug use.

If motivation lags yet lower, counselors might attach prizes to compliance with therapy, giving gifts for clean urine tests, for example, or providing vouchers for movies when clients attend their therapy sessions. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, techniques like this have been used for more than 30 years, and they can be quite helpful in allowing clients to see the benefits of staying in therapy.

medicationUsing Medications

Addiction treatment programs rely on education and behavior change in order to combat addiction, but there are some addictions that do persistent chemical damage, and people who deal with this issue must access medications in order to keep their cravings in line. Opiate drugs like heroin, for example, can cause such deep cravings that people simply cannot focus on the work of therapy. They’re distracted by physical discomfort, unable to really see how life could be different. Medications might be the key that helps them to focus on therapy, and when those lessons begin to take hold, the medications might no longer be needed.

Medications might also be used to assist clients with physical and mental health concerns left behind by addictions. Antidepressants might help people deal with chemical imbalances due to cocaine, for example, while sleeping medications might help those with marijuana addictions get the rest they’ll need in order to function at their best level.

Not everyone who participates in outpatient drug treatment needs medications, but those who do might discuss their dosages with therapists or medical doctors at the beginning of each appointment, and they might be asked to provide input on dosage levels. Abuse of the medications is a concern, so the treatments chosen typically have a low abuse potential and people are rarely given more doses than they can use between appointment times.

Help Is Available

Addiction is considered a chronic condition that’s best handled one day at a time. Each morning, people will need to recommit to their sobriety, and as the day passes, they’ll need to practice resistance and keep a relapse at bay. An outpatient drug treatment program can make this resistance easier to accomplish, as people who go through programs like this have the knowledge, the power and the tools that can help them to stay on the right path, no matter what might come their way.

If you’d like to know more about how outpatient drug treatment works, or you’re ready to get started on your own program and heal from the issues you’re facing, please contact us. Foundations Recovery Network treatment programs are adept at helping people to overcome their addictions, and the help we provide is easy to understand and easy to access. Please call us to find out more.