Greater investment needed in addiction treatment
Like most people dealing with substance use disorder, my road to recovery wasn’t straightforward. Sobriety is never a one-and-done proposition but a constant work in progress. Addiction is a complicated disease that demands a multi-faceted, persistent approach.
Now that I lead an addiction treatment center, I often think about my own experience as we structure our programs and services, especially those for young men.
The statistics are more alarming than ever: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just reported that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths (”US overdose deaths hit record 107,000 last year, CDC says,” May 11). Late last year, the CDC reported that opioid overdose deaths exceeded one million for the first time since the agency started to collect related data more than 20 years ago. Young people aged 15-24 saw the biggest increase in fatal overdoses from 2019 to 2020, with deaths up 49% in 2020. Rates for men were significantly higher than rates for women across all years.
Access to treatment is vital but has been an obstacle for many. In April, President Joe Biden sent his 2022 National Drug Control Strategy to Congress in response to the overdose epidemic. Speaking about the strategy during his first State of the Union address, the president said that everyone challenged with SUD should know they aren’t alone.
To help patients achieve a life of recovery, our approach must, at the very least, use evidence-based alcohol and drug addiction treatment protocols. But we must also look closely at the latest data and consider new ways to meet the needs of people struggling with substance use disorder where they are now.
While we offer programs for all demographics, the latest data points to the need for innovative methods to address the specific needs of young men. For example, we designed two recently introduced programs with them in mind, including virtual reality treatment enhancement in collaboration with Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions and a specialized program for men who are motivated by accountability and camaraderie.
We also believe in the power of shared experience and support. Recovery residences, such as the one we offer for men aged 18-30, are one proven approach. A step-down from the inpatient residential treatment program, residents can stay indefinitely as they further establish themselves in recovery. A recovery residence with round-the-clock staff supervision and regular drug and alcohol testing offers an empowering experience, giving residents a level of freedom to function beyond the treatment facility while they hone their life skills. Many residents can leave campus to work, visit with family and friends and do their own shopping.
The program is ideal for patients who are not quite ready to return to their homes, whether they still live with their parents or guardians or simply need more structure than their families or roommates can support. As residents work to fully re-enter their communities, they receive mentorship and training to develop essential life skills in such areas as money management and employment interviews. The residents may be enrolled in our outpatient program, and all can participate in alumni activities.
Early sobriety can be precarious, especially when you’re on your own. This type of residential program gives patients who are new to recovery access to vital assistance as they gain their footing. And, by living with others in a recovery residence, they also get 24-hour sober support from a group of men going through the exact same experience they are.
I know this approach works — not only because of my professional expertise but because I owe my own successful sobriety in large part to my experience participating in a similar residence program many years ago. When I was having a down day, the other residents pulled me up, and when they were having a down day, I was there to lift them up. It was a warm, welcoming environment where I could build my independence while living with a group of like-minded accountability partners and forming lifelong relationships. In fact, I’ve stayed in touch with one of the people in my residence program, talking with him every day, and he’s become my best friend.
As I always say, the journey continues.
— Robert “Bobby” Bunyon, Earleville
The writer is CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Bracebridge Hall.
“Greater investment needed in addiction treatment”, baltimoresun.com, “https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/readers-respond/bs-ed-rr-substance-abuse-treatment-letter-20220617-ocgkvog77zfjtb4yu7ewr6hxyi-story.html”