July 22, 2022

The Importance of Long-Term Commitment to Treatment

Read time: 7 minutes

Your loved one has just started the treatment they desperately need, and you are ready for life to get back to “normal.” You might find yourself hoping, or even expecting, to see drastic positive change in just a week or two. While starting treatment is a big step toward recovery and should be celebrated as such, it is important to keep your expectations realistic.

In order for treatment to work and lead to sustained recovery, it cannot be a quick fix; rather, it takes dedication, effort, and time. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a condition that affects not only one’s mental state and behavior but also their brain. When considering a broken bone, it is well known that one should not rush the healing process; it needs time and caution to heal and become functional once more. Similarly, you should not rush substance abuse treatment, even when you are desperate to see your loved ones get back to their old selves.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), someone needs to be engaged in substance abuse treatment for a minimum of three months before they will experience any measurable benefit. That three-month mark is not a one-size-fits-all; in fact, more time in treatment is necessary in many cases, and the longer time commitment can produce better results. 

Everyone has different experiences in treatment. While some individuals might have an extremely difficult time right from the beginning, others might actually find themselves feeling optimistic and empowered as they begin to make changes. Just because someone is feeling better with a limited amount of treatment does not mean they should not follow through with committing to it long-term. 

Think of when you have been prescribed antibiotics by a doctor for strep throat or an ear infection. They most likely told you that, even when you start to feel better, you should keep taking the medicine for the entire duration of the prescription. That is because symptom relief does not necessarily mean the underlying problem has been fixed, and stopping the medication can cause the problem to come back, possibly even stronger. You can look at substance abuse treatment with the same general idea of committing to the entire process.

Additionally, substance abuse treatment may not happen all at once; rather, it can take place during different periods of time as your loved one relapses or comes close to it. Just as a person with an illness like diabetes or arthritis might have flare-ups where they are unable to manage their symptoms at the current level of support, someone in recovery might need to reconnect with services when staying sober becomes harder. Services like sober monitoring can help an individual stay accountable during these rough periods and alert their care team that they might need extra support at certain times.

Why Does Treatment Take So Long?

Everyone has habits that they would like to break. Maybe you bite your nails or hit snooze one too many times in the morning. Shaking these habits is difficult, so you can imagine that breaking out of addiction is infinitely harder. Treatment requires long-term commitment due to the severity of the condition in addition to the nature of the treatment itself.

Substance abuse treatment entails many moving parts. There is often therapy with both you and your loved one, as well as group therapy and meetings. Treatment can also entail case management and working with legal and social services related to daily living, such as securing housing and seeking employment. The individual’s needs are frequently reassessed, and the details of treatment can change to match those needs.

It is often the case that an individual will come into treatment not only struggling with their substance use but with comorbid mental health conditions as well, such as anxiety or depression. It is estimated that about 60% of people who struggle with substance abuse also struggle with another mental health condition, and it is likely that your loved one might enter treatment with one or more comorbid conditions. 

Due to the overlap in symptoms and causes, these conditions also need to be addressed for treatment to be robust and effective. It is crucial to seek a therapeutic provider who can address all of these interrelated treatment needs.

Helping Your Loved One Follow Through With Treatment

Your loved one will be eager to be done with treatment, and this can lead to prematurely dropping out. You can help them stay the course by continuing to provide support and maintaining involvement in their progress. 

Treatment should be a process that takes into account an individual’s unique constellation of needs, and part of that entails finding the right provider with whom a strong therapeutic relationship can be formed. Additionally, treatment providers that involve the family can increase retention and efficacy.

Recovering from substance use disorder takes time. This can be challenging for the individual participating in treatment as well as loved ones who are supporting them through that journey. It is a process that requires tremendous dedication and patience, and it is important to work with a provider who can guide your family. Family-Centered Services is dedicated to doing just that. We understand the road to treatment is not easy, and that is why we are dedicated to supporting you now that you are here. Our team of licensed clinicians can provide comprehensive services that are backed by research and meet your family’s unique needs and circumstances. We offer individual and family therapy, a family recovery program, case management, and sober monitoring and accountability. Give FCS a call at (509) 991-5822 to learn more about our services and how we can get your family started on the path to recovery.