As the behavioral sciences and neurobiology expand to include a deeper understanding of addiction, new trauma-informed approaches explore how we treat and support those struggling with addiction.
Trauma-informed care operates from the position that most individuals are likely to have experienced trauma at some point in their life. These care models emphasize the need for health and social service providers to develop trauma-sensitive tools and treatments while recognizing the wide range of symptoms affecting a person's physical, mental, social, behavioral, and spiritual life.
And while we know that no treatment plan is one-size-fits-all, an intersection of social, environmental, financial, and yes, trauma-related considerations must be part of effective, long-lasting recovery.
Currently, this is not the case.
We are past the crisis point, and the stakes of expanding meaningful drug treatment options will continue to rise. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that over a fifth of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, with 8-12% developing opioid use disorder. Current strategies like criminalization, interrupting supply, and stigmatizing drug use have not diminished the demand for addictive substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the U.S alone, opioid abuse amounts to $78.5 million in yearly costs, accounting for the cost of treatment, lost productivity, and the burden on the criminal justice systems. With another $740 billion in costs related to other addictive substances, both legal and illegal, the problem is not simply going to resolve itself without aggressive intervention.
Without expanding treatment options, which includes how we use technological tools, the problem will only continue to worsen. There are several drug therapies at different levels of FDA approval which, in combination with counseling, target the way the body responds to substances. And modern treatment methods also include timeless practices, such as meditation. For example, Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) trains patients to understand their physical and emotional signals through introspection. But evidence-based maintenance treatment is critical – as is unlocking why so many people turn to dangerous drugs to self-medicate.
The good news is that there is even more support now available in the form of AI and machine learning. The data tools used by social media companies to gain our attention and try to sell us products are now being deployed to help those working to overcome addiction and uncover emotional patterns.
Addiction and relapse can be a reaction to environmental and social conditions, and when recovery professionals know about the totality of their patients, they can better tailor care plans and even predict the need for intervention. To shift the focus from denial to readiness and to create additional and aggressive trauma-informed therapy when necessary to support new recovery patients, those at risk of relapse, and of course, families and caregivers.