Recovery from addiction is often a lifelong journey.
A man sits on the steps of a New York apartment building, eyes still bloodshot from the night before. As the sun rises on another sleepless night, he makes the decision to never drink again. Though often portrayed in TV and film as a single moment and choice a character makes, in real life, addiction is a chronic illness that requires ongoing treatment and support in the form of substance use recovery services. It often starts with one hard choice, but that’s not where the challenge ends.
Since 2000, the United States has seen more than 700K deaths due to drug overdoses and 50% of people ages 12 and older have admitted to using illicit drugs at least once.
In California, it’s no different. In 2021, there were about 11 times as many fentanyl related deaths compared to 2017. That’s why it’s so important to have resources for drug-addicted individuals, where they can seek help for their illness.
Located in Santa Fe Springs, California, and operated by the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Allen House is a residential treatment center for people with substance use disorders. The center offers a variety of services, including individual and group counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and peer support.
“Recovery happens,” says Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California. “Every single day people come into treatment and succeed in addressing their substance use disorders.”
The staff at the Allen House are experienced and knowledgeable about substance use disorders, and they are committed to helping residents achieve long-term recovery. Because of this, the center has a high success rate, with many residents reporting that they have been able to maintain sobriety long after completing treatment.
However, that’s not the case for every person addicted to drugs in the U.S. Thanks to the pandemic, health care workers are in short supply and a lot of commercial insurers deny requests for treatment or propose alternative options, which are often cheaper, but less effective.
That’s especially true knowing that there’s not a single answer to drug recovery. What works for some might not work for all, and treatment can often change depending on the substance. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding drug addiction, it’s difficult to find support for better treatment options.
“If we talked about treating other chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma in the same way we often approach treating substance use, people would think we were crazy or would sue the doctor for malpractice,” said Bradley Stein, a senior physician policy researcher at the Rand Corp.
In order for the United States to see improvements in drug overdoses and drug-addicted individuals, it needs to start approaching the situation like it would any other physical illness.
If someone is struggling with drug addiction, here are some additional resources they can use:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: www.drugfree.org