Young Adults and Extended Care

Continued Treatment Programs Offer Best Chance for Long-Term Sobriety By Loretta Mooney

You do not need to read a study to know that the number of young adults struggling with addiction is at an epidemic level. While many are working on understanding why this happens or how to prevent it, others are on the front lines treating the current population of young adult addicts. Parents feel helpless and frustrated. They may even want to give up after multiple stints in a 30-day program, but there is hope that young adults may in fact have a chance at real long-term sobriety.

Treatment facility professionals will usually discuss with patients and their families, the need for continued care. You may have heard them suggest extended treatment after completing the initial detox and residential program. The reason for this is results. Studies have found that completing a full continuum of care helps patients remain clean after treatment.

Extended Care Treatment acts as a bridge between the initial residential treatment program and living independently. Extended Care is also especially helpful for people who have been in multiple treatment centers for drug addiction or alcoholism and have repeatedly relapsed. There is a tremendous benefit for everyone to participate in an extended care treatment program, but particularly for young adults in the 18 to 24 age range.

Research has shown that to get the true benefits of sobriety you need at least four to six months of treatment and extended care allows a patient to get the full array of treatment services for a longer period of time. Time is your best friend in treatment. The more time you invest in your sobriety, the better your chances are at staying clean.

As many young adults and parents have learned, residential treatment generally has a detox element and a stabilization period where your thoughts are beginning to become clearer. If you are in a 12 step residential program you will begin working on steps 1 and 2. During those steps you are starting to realize that you are powerless over the drug or alcohol and you are starting to see the effects it has had on your life. Right when you are beginning to think more clearly and become more grounded, your residential/initial treatment usually ends.

Extended care is so important because that is where the longer-term treatment begins. In these programs people can work on all of the 12 steps. It has been found that working on the 12 steps in a residential community over a period of several months allows patients to truly understand their disease and how to handle real life struggles without using.

When someone in an extended care program comes across an experience that is difficult, they can go back to their community and the therapists for support. They do not need to fail when they are tested. Young adults especially benefit from being part of a community and working the 12 steps while they continue to be educated about their disease and living a sober life. Recovery takes time and it is difficult to retrain your body to think in only a few days.

There seems to be a rush to just get back to life as you know it. Too often those in recovery and their loved ones are desperate to believe they are cured. There is no cure, but with long term treatment, you will have a better chance at sobriety. For many young adults, those that do not choose to continue treatment in an extended care setting will likely relapse within a few weeks or months.

When young adults and their parents make the commitment to long term care there is a lot of confusion about sober living and extended care. Many times sober living is simply a place to live after residential treatment. There is a house mother that may randomly drug test you, but there is little in the way of true continued treatment. When you are choosing which care is best for you or your loved ones, you should be sure to find out if the extended care option you are considering involves services like therapy sessions. Extended care with treatments that are a continuation of residential inpatient programs tends to have the highest success rates.

Extended care options that you may want to consider should provide a full array of services such as, family sessions, group and individual therapies and wellness education that treat the mind, body and spirit. Extended care programs that you may want to consider should offer the same in depth treatment as residential programs, but in an extended care community platform with added freedoms.

Parents of young adults that are struggling with sobriety also struggle with the financial cost of extended care. Yes, true in-depth continued treatment is not cheap, but it can mean the difference between life and death.

The full plan, as many addiction professionals see it, should be detox, residential, extended care, outpatient programs and AA or NA meetings. The continuum of care doesn’t always happen but it is the most successful program of treatment for young adults that we have found.

Many will not be able to afford the full continuum of care but it is recommended that patients receive as much treatment as possible.

Young adults sometimes forget that when it comes to financing extended care, you need to draw on all family members. Addiction is a family illness and it takes a family to come together and pool resources to buy someone another month in treatment. Thirty additional days in treatment is significant for someone needing recovery.

The sad fact remains that it takes the average heroin addict eight times in treatment before they even begin to stop using. Just remember that even though it may seem like someone “didn’t get it,” a seed was placed in their head.

Loretta Mooney is the Director of Clinical Services at Seabrook House. Seabrook House is a private CARF-Accredited drug and alcohol rehab center that offers intervention services, detox, inpatient/residential treatment, extended care treatment, outpatient/ SHARE Counseling services and family treatment programs. Seabrook House has facilities
and programs in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.