Treatment Should Start by Addressing Core Issues. Here’s Why.

By The Fix staff 11/03/21

Confronting big issues off the bat can be scary, but it also leads to better outcomes.

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The traditional approach to substance abuse treatment is simple: walk into a 12-step meeting, and accept that you are powerless. For decades, this approach helped many people get sober. Unfortunately, many more realized that this approach was flawed. For these people, substance use wasn’t the only problem, but rather a symptom of a core issue that they were grappling with, like abuse, mental illness or trauma.

Today many treatment centers simply follow the 12-step approach. However, comprehensive treatment centers, like Oceanside Malibu, have realized that addressing clients’ core issues at the same time that substance use is treated can provide the foundation for a long recovery.

Here’s what too many people get wrong about substance abuse treatment, and how a better approach can improve outcomes.

Why do core issues matter?

Imagine you have a stuffy, runny nose. You go to the doctor and treat yourself with antihistamines and hot showers. That helps temporarily, but when you dig around you realize that the runny nose is being caused by mold in your apartment. No matter how well you treat your symptoms, they’re always going to come back, until you address the root cause of the symptom: the mold.

The same is true of addiction. Sure, many people have a biological predisposition to addiction. Some substances are more addictive than others. But the simple truth is that most people with substance use disorder have core issues that they need to address in order to make the most of their recovery.

Detoxing is a great first step. In the example involving physical illness, controlling the symptoms of the runny nose might give you the energy you need to deal with the mold. The same is true for addiction — once your body is clear from substances, you are able to look at your core issues, and it's critical that you do so.

What if people aren’t ready to address core issues?

Sometimes, there’s hesitancy to bring up core issues. Someone in substance abuse treatment has usually admitted to themselves and their loved ones that they have a problem. Although they’re willing to admit that they drink or use too much, it can be a big leap to discuss why they’re using. In some cases, addressing core issues can mean confronting truths that you’ve never acknowledged, even to yourself.

Because of that, some treatment approaches shy away from addressing core issues, arguing that people who are newly in recovery might be too fragile, or not yet ready to deal with emotional and psychological scars.

Glossing over core issues can reduce the turmoil that a person feels initially, but eventually the core issues will come to the surface and strain a person’s sobriety.

What we can learn from co-occurring disorders

Not long ago, co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder were addressed separately. Practitioners thought that it was best to help someone get sober, and then focus on stabilizing their mental illness.

Unsurprisingly, the untreated mental illness often made it hard for people to stay on track with their sobriety. Now, researchers acknowledge that an integrated treatment approach is best. People with co-occurring disorders receive addiction treatment at the same time that they get mental health treatment. This has vastly improved outcomes.

Even people without a co-occurring mental health condition can learn from this: in order to stay sober long term, we need to address the issues that make us turn to drugs and alcohol, consciously or unconsciously.

A multidisciplinary approach

Getting to the crux of your core issues isn’t easy. However, a treatment center that provides a holistic, individualized approach to treatment can help you identify the reasons that you are prone to substance misuse, and deal with those issues head-on. Whether you have anxiety, trauma or the buildup of adverse childhood experiences, learning healthier coping mechanisms can set you up for success in recovery.

Learn more about Oceanside Malibu at http://oceansidemalibu.com/. Reach Oceanside Malibu by phone at (866) 738-6550. Find Oceanside Malibu on Facebook.

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