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How Has Addiction and Treatment Changed in the Last 50 Years?

Spectrum Health Systems was founded 50 years ago, and in that time, we’ve seen extensive strides taken in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Much has changed, and much has stayed the same – some treatments still in use today were introduced as early as the 1960s. Before we jump into changes in treatment over time, let’s start by discussing the issue itself – addiction.

Milestones in Substance Abuse Treatment
The 1950s was a decade of wider conceptualization, awareness and progress in addiction treatment. With milestones such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) membership surpassing 90,000 Americans, an initial definition of alcoholism presented by the American Medical Association (AMA), and the formation of the Halfway House Association, the industry began to take shape.

The 1960s saw the first suggestion that addiction should be defined as a disease, with the initiation of narcotic addiction programs and most importantly, the introduction of methadone as addiction therapy. Federal approval was granted by the FDA in 1972, and The Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 1972 laid the foundation for the creation of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1974. The creation of NIDA and other similar organizations was indicative of the public’s belief that the drug abuse problem was not expected to go away quickly and that continued research into the treatment and prevention was a critical national necessity.

Recent Advances in Addiction Recovery
In more recent years, we’ve seen the development and implementation of a variety of evidence-based treatment methods. These approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhanced treatment (MET), contingency management intervention (CMI), positive CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – an emerging form of trauma-informed care. As the National Council for Behavioral Health states, “addressing trauma is now the expectation, not the exception, in behavioral health systems.”

Treatments such as DBT tackle the mental health component of addiction therapy based on research that has shown those battling addiction often struggle with emotional dysregulation, making the rehabilitation process increasingly more difficult for themselves and their families. This treatment method helps regulate emotions, thus stabilizing behavior and increasing the likelihood of a successful recovery journey.

If history has shown us anything, it’s that there isn’t any panacea or single solution for addiction treatment. Addiction is an extremely personal and multifaceted disease, often dually connected with other related, complex disorders. Addiction recovery is a long and winding road along which treatment plans must be modified to better reflect an individual’s period in life and recovery timeline – and that person-centered, evidence-based care is one of the most influential changes in treatment over the last half-century.

To better understand what treatment options may be best suited for your personal recovery journey, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.

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