By Casey Jordan
I recently spoke with Leah, Directory Assistance, for canadadrugrehab.ca about what people should know when looking for treatment. This online directory provides information for public and private treatment options, residential and outpatient programs, detox services, mutual support groups throughout Canada, and much more.
Getting treatment for yourself or a loved one can be a little overwhelming. There are many options throughout North America offering similar, but also very different, addiction services. The treatment you choose depends on a number of very important, personal factors. Here is some starter information useful to know when you’re looking for residential treatment for the first time or even the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time.
Important Factors to Consider When Using Treatment
These 5 factors are important to keep in mind when researching your, or another’s, treatment options. These elements together give you a specific list of available, suitable options. When looking for treatment, consider your:
- Sex and Gender
- Budget availability
- Substance(s) being abused
Age, Sex, & Location
For age, most adult treatment facilities require clients be at least 18 years old otherwise they must attend youth-specific treatment options. Some facilities are co-ed, but many are also gender-specific. Your home province will likely have some treatment and recovery options, but potentially not many. Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta are home to the majority of treatment providers in Canada. Leah says keep an open mind to leaving your province for addiction treatment, you may find a facility out of province that better suits your needs.
Your budget is crucial to your considerations for treatment. Private treatment is more expensive than charitable and public treatment, but sometimes easier to access immediately. All treatment facilities price their programs slightly differently, but most 30 day programs cost typically around $15,000. Charitable (non-profit) treatment options cost approximately $5000 for 30 day programs. These types of programs include recovery homes, church groups, and transitional living organizations. Government treatment in Canada is covered by our public health care and administered by provincial governments. For some government facilities, there is a small fee per day (around $40). Government treatment may, thus, sound more ideal because of its price tag, but Leah mentions later why that’s not always the case.
Substance(s) Being Abused
The substances you wish to recover from are important to consider for two reasons.
First, you need to make sure the treatment facility can attend to you. Especially if you, or the person in need of treatment, abuse 2 or more substances or is on methadone maintenance. Only some programs have the resources for treating multiple addictions and supervising methadone use. Also, some treatment centers do not offer detox services. For those facilities, clients detox at a different location and then transfer to their residential program.
Secondly, when arranging detox, make sure you access the correct type of detox needed. There are two types: Medical and Social. Medical detox is for individuals of high risk. This includes addicts who will have severe withdrawal symptoms, individuals who have delicate health conditions, and anyone who may require medicinal intervention during detox. Social detox is the opposite; there is no one to prescribe medication. Staff are there to supervise and ensure clients remain stable while detoxing. This type of detox is best for those who aren’t high risk. Your doctor can suggest the right detox for you.
Know Your Needs… and Your Wants
Another important consideration when selecting treatment are the services provided within the programs. Many individuals with addictions have additional health issues – physical, mental, psychological, past trauma – that need special care. Ensure the facilities you’re looking at have the resources and services to support such issues. Left untreated, these problems can impede treatment completion and recovery. Other services like fitness, sports, pool, yoga, meditation, and working privileges are important to consider, too. Not all treatment providers offer extra services outside group and individual therapy. Some won’t even permit communication between clients and their families while in treatment.
It is common for facilities to embellish their program services to justify higher fees. If one treatment center’s prices go up, other facilities often increase their prices, too, in the belief that they offer the same services and programs. For example, many facilities say they treat mental illness, but only some have psychiatrists or Masters’ level counsellors. Even if a treatment center does claim to have a psychiatrist, it doesn’t mean clients will be assessed. Often times, individuals are only assessed when they seem unstable.
This is the result of poorly educated administrators and uninformed staff. Some don’t know the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist and some believe a licensed health facility means simply having a business license. The most effective thing for Canadians and Americans to do is contact the local health facility licenser. They can provide references to facilities that meet actual standards.
Choosing Public or Private Treatment
This is an important factor. In some cases, your budget will only allow you to attend public treatment. If you work for a company with extended health care, have low income, are of first nations’ status, you may receive financial assistance and have more treatment options. Another consideration is borrowing money to go to private residential treatment. Leah reports the typical reaction to loans is “Borrow $15,000! That’s a lot of money!” but states the following reasons show why private treatment may be a better option.
1. Private treatment follows it own rules
With the exception of health care laws and policies, private treatment providers can choose how to operate their programs. Behavioural Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), 12-steps, psychotherapy, Meaning Therapy, and other approaches are selected by the provider. Because they control their own funds, they can allocate funds to specific services not normally included in government treatment. Public treatment is often limited by government policies in addition to their annual budget. For example, some government facilities only permit harm-reduction approaches for treatment.
2. Public treatment & its resources are stretched
With constant cuts to funding in the mental health and addiction fields, treatment beds are becoming less and less available and wait lists are getting bigger and bigger. According to Leah, to be admitted to public treatment in Canada, you must follow these steps: (The United States, follows a different protocol for accessing treatment. If you’re looking for US treatment, click here for more information)
Step 1. Get Info
Contact your provincial hotline (sometimes its only a website) to find an initial assessment office, detox services, outpatient programs (may be facility doing initial assessments), and residential treatment options.
Step 2. Get an Intake Date
Should you decide on residential treatment, call residential treatment facilities to find out the soonest intake date. While you’re talking to them, find out all the other pre-requisites needed to attend their facility. For example, this can include a specific referral process, being abstinent for a certain period of time before admission, and not being a recent offender (for some).
Step 3. Set Up Your Initial Assessment
Once you’ve gotten an idea of intake dates, create an appointment for your initial assessment so they may refer you to detox services and formally set up your admission to residential treatment.
Depending on where you live, initial assessments take place on a drop-in basis or have a 1-3 week wait period. Most government residential treatment centers have a wait list anywhere from 1 week to 6 months. Some places have up to a year waiting list. The goal is to have your detox flow smoothly into residential treatment. For example, if you’re intake date isn’t for 6 months, don’t detox next month. Most individuals cannot maintain abstinence that long.
The need for addiction treatment can often be time-sensitive. If you or your loved needs treatment right away, government treatment isn’t always the most dependable option. It’s worth noting that most government addiction services will only communicate with individuals suffering from addiction, not their families or loved ones.*
Success Rates & Relapse
There is a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding around success and relapse rates. When looking for treatment you may be excited and convinced by the success rates a provider posts on its’ website. Leah’s advice is to consider success rates with “a grain of salt” for a number of reasons.
Few treatment centers have the capacity to run thorough and comprehensive research that accurately measures their clients’ success. Hazelden & The Betty Ford Center are currently the only two treatment centers with the numbers, years in operation, resources, and finances to complete long-term, comprehensive research.
Relapse and success are not definitive terms. Is it still relapse if it happens 10 years later? Is a person unsuccessful if they relapsed for a short-time, but then started recovery again? Not only are these terms too vague and complex to define, they’re not fair or ethical either according to experts in the field like William White. Recovery is a long process and rarely do people get it all in one shot. That doesn’t mean they don’t get better in treatment, but relapse is not an indicator of complete failure. Each phase of relapse and recovery is a learning lesson and increases an individual’s ability to make a permanent lifestyle change.
Treatment success rates also cannot be effectively measured because it’s not solely dependent on treatment providers. Treatment provides individuals with the skills, tools, and knowledge about themselves and living with addiction. All that help is irrelevant if the individual doesn’t utilize or care about it. If the individual is not interested in recovering from addiction and uses as soon as he or she leaves treatment it decreases a treatment providers’ “success rate”, but does it indicate poor addiction treatment?
If a treatment center gives you a “success rate” between 40-60% it is likely an honest, realistic answer; albeit, anecdotal and not official research. If you see a high success rate around 80-90%, recognize this is not true and if it were, there would be line ups around the block to get in.
Leah cautions people to base treatment choices on individual needs and wants, not on success rates.
A brief last note to consider when looking for treatment. If you are currently on a methadone program and in search of treatment, you will have another set of factors to consider. Read this article for more information on the specific situation for accessing treatment while using methadone.
If you have any questions or inquiries regarding accessing addiction treatment or anything addiction-related, we invite you to leave a comment below or contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (1.866.487.9010). You can also contact Leah at 1.877.746.1963 or via email here.
For more articles like visit the Sunshine Coast Health Centre blog.