Drug Addiction


 A Green Breakthrough in Organic Addictions Treatment

New Westminster, BC — Last week a staff team at the Last Door Recovery Centre were having a conversation about all the changes in addictions treatment. The topics were wild. The co-dependency ran rampant. The invasion of the system of care into the lives of clients. The assumptions of co-occurring and concurrent disorders based on assessing drug impaired individuals. The idea that 21 day treatment might be the way to go. Around the table were persons in recovery who were clean, had all been to multiple treatments, had varying diagnosis on the way, and had never done recovery straight up. This time was different, they did treatment, had fun, made friends and stayed clean for 5, 10, 15, 25 years. The idea of actually doing recovery and learning to live and enjoy life without drugs has been sublimated as a goal in much of what parades as care for addicts.  I would posit that the next breakthrough in addictions treatment will be going back to basics. Detox, abstinence based residential treatment, restoration of fun and support programs to maintain long term recovery.  Living life in community!

How we got from there (recovery) to where we are (enmeshed co dependence) is a topic I’ll leave for the  sociologists. Let me simply observe that addictions treatment has been reduced to a housing issue, and addiction is often misdiagnosed as some other DSM text-book disorder rather than the primary disease for many presenting addicts. The role of the medical system and classical medical care and the role of the psychiatric system and classic psychiatric care are subverted by using addicts to attain supports for their addictive disease whether that is a potion, a pill, a pain medication, a sick leave, a drug replacement therapy or even extended stays in facilities.  All of which perpetuate the continued substance abuse by the client.

Addiction is a deadly disease. It kills people. 5.5 Million people will die this year from the consequences of nicotine addiction, 2.1 Million from the consequences of Alcohol addiction and .25 Million from the consequences of other drug addictions.  That’s 7.5 Million people dead from preventable causes. World hunger by comparison is the cause of 400,000 deaths annually. All of our do-good be-nice intentions will not restore one life. We need to address addictions as the primary issue for those individuals who continue using because their continued use of substances will kill them. Their continued use of substances will make it impossible to diagnose, treat or support them with any other disorder. Once the addict stops using and develops abstinence based skills then as a treatment and health care community we can restore balance to all the other areas of her/his life.

In cities across the continent and around the world our care giving technology has failed us. We have created ever increasing rates of substance abuse and the often corollary homelessness.  In Vancouver, in spite of massive capital injections and diversion of treatment monies to housing the rates of homelessness continue to grow. The visible street abuse of drugs continues unchecked. The safe injection sites are used as delivery addresses. The primary beneficiaries of methadone treatment are the clinics and doctors. (Follow the money and see who earns how much.) I am simply saying, despite all the distorted data that is promulgated and paraded as success… what we are doing is not working. The body count keeps growing. Ok we’ve reframed their death on the statistics sheets as death by misadventure. But the truth is they were loaded and crashed, burned, fell, shot, freaked or jumped. They died as a consequence of their substance abuse.

Because we live in a culture where new is better and organic is even better and green is the greatest… I thought I’d just reframe all the components of abstinence based treatment in more marketable parlance. Even the bureaucrats in the system might get this.

When we consider our diets, food and general health, consensus is quick — the fewer additives the better.  The closer to nature’s way the healthier. You get the idea.  Green is good. Organic is good. I would posit a parallel for addictions treatment. The cleaner (the fewer additives) the client, the greener (closer to original design) the client the healthier the client will be. In abstinence based treatment we accomplish the first goal. Reduce the additives. Detox and then see what happens as the client stabilizes in the first 3-9 weeks. Yes that means the client will need to be in a stable supportive environment. Then the greening of the client can begin, the core issues, a return to family, having fun, reduction of guilt and shame, living and enjoying life and even moments of contentment.  Living in an environment that is conducive to social model programming is the beginning. This will take a client probably 4-8 weeks post initial stabilization. Clients are ready to return to work and participate in life and take responsibility. This is a novel concept in addictions treatment, but essential to building self-esteem. Clients who have been dependent on the system of care, cost the system well in excess of $70,000 per year can return to work, contribute to society, pay rent and taxes and the cost is simply the cost of long term residential treatment. Oh, you may have missed that but treatment costs about $60,000. The economic reality makes sense. The client care makes sense.  The outcomes make sense. The waitlists are long and the government systems continue to divert funding to housing, prescriptions and methadone while cutting corners and dollars for long-term treatment.

The consideration for your client is whether you want them to get well, get a life or remain trapped on a treadmill of exercises that never puts them in the game. At Last Door we prepare clients for the life. In abstinence based recovery from addictions your clients will be able to resolve their nicotine, alcohol and substance addictions without patches, plugs or drugs.  They get abstinence based treatment in a recovery community – a bit old fashioned when you think of it. A bit more organic a little greener but they get a life that is a whole lot healthier. Your family member, friend or partner deserves a better outcome than a statistical death. Talk to us about a recovery based solution.

Prepared by: Nick Ringma ICADC

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