Addiction Treatment Approaches and Options in Colorado That Work

“It’s a silent epidemic.  People die one at a time.  But, in 2013, overdose deaths were almost double the number of deaths related to drunken driving.  And people have no idea.”

~Dr. Robert Valuck, Ph. D., Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services, University of Colorado

According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Colorado has the dubious distinction of ranking #1 in the U.S. for the consumption of marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, and prescription painkillers.

What does this tell us?

Obviously, this clearly demonstrates that there is a pressing need for alcohol and drug abuse treatment in Colorado, but what kind?

12-Step Support Groups Like Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous

Founded in 1935 (1953 for NA), Alcoholics Anonymous is based upon the philosophy that addicts and alcoholics can reclaim their lives through spiritual and character development and fellowship.  Their stated purpose is to help substance abusers “stay sober and help (others) achieve sobriety”.

  • PROS:
    • Availability—AA is literally everywhere. Worldwide, there are over 100,000 AA groups with approximately two million  This means that no matter where you are in the world, you can probably find a meeting to help you when you are tempted to relapse.
    • Immediacy—There’s very little waiting to get help. Most AA groups hold several meetings a week, and some hold multiple meetings every single day.
    • Cost—AA is free to attend and charges no dues or fees.
    • Effectiveness—Half of all AA members have achieved long-term sobriety of five years or more.
    • Built-in support—Helping is more than a core AA philosophy – it is the entire basis of the Twelfth Step. No matter the time of day, you will be able to find a sponsor or another member who is willing to talk with you or even meet with you whenever you are feeling the urge to drink or use.
    • Familiarity—Virtually every professional addiction rehab program incorporates 12-Step philosophies.
  • CONS:
    • Unprofessional—AA meetings are chaired by volunteers. Sponsors are not required to possess any sort of license or training.
    • Narrow focus—AA meetings can be closed to individuals with drug-only substance abuse disorder, and NA meetings can be closed to people who only have a problem with alcohol. Neither sort of meeting addresses co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
    • Quasi-religiosity—Some of AA’s spiritual tenets can be difficult for nonreligious individuals to accept.
    • “Thirteenth Stepping”—According to the Journal of Addiction Nursing, half of all women new to AA/NA are approached by other members for dating or sexual purposes.
    • Incomplete effectiveness—AA is most helpful only when used with other forms of treatment:
    • Over 60% of AA members received outside counseling or treatment before coming to a 12-Step meeting.
    • Just under 60% received outside counsel and treatment after coming to AA.
    • More than 80% credited that outside treatment as being an important part of their recovery.

Outpatient Addiction Rehab

Suitable for people with mild to moderate substance abuse disorders, outpatient addiction rehab is when the individual continues to live at home but attends several counseling/therapy/educational sessions a week, either with a private mental health professional or at an addiction recovery facility.

This is also a good solution for people who have just left the more-structured environment of an inpatient/residential program but who need additional follow-up care.

It has been estimated that up to 80% of all individuals in drug or alcohol rehab are receiving services on an outpatient basis.

  • PROS:
    • Accommodating—Outpatient drug rehab in Colorado allows people in recovery to still live their lives while they are regaining their health—continue working/attending school, living at home, participating in family activities and obligations, etc.
    • Flexible—Most outpatient addiction recovery facilities in Colorado offer counseling sessions multiple times a day—morning, afternoon, and evening. This means that recovery can fit almost anyone’s regular schedule.
    • Professional—Counselors are required by the state to be licensed and specialize in the treatment of addiction. Unlike as with AA, there are established standards of care.
    • Medication assistance—Many alcohol or drug rehab programs in Colorado have a medical professional on staff who can write prescriptions for such anti-addiction medications as buprenorphine or acamprosate. Medication-assisted recovery is of the biggest advantages that professional rehab facilities have over AA.
    • Cost—Outpatient drug or alcohol rehab costs a fraction of what inpatient or residential might run.
  • CONS:
    • Lack of supervision—Outpatient drug rehab only requires attendance at approximately 10-15 hours of sessions/classes a week, spread out over 3-5 days, with included random drug tests. This means that participants are still exposed and unsupervised the majority of the time. For some, this can lead to relapse and dropping out of the program.
    • “Voluntary” support meetings—Clients are encouraged to support their recovery efforts by attending 12-Step meetings outside of the program’s requirements. However, most of these meetings go unattended when not compulsory.
    • Fewer service options—Outpatient addiction recovery programs in Colorado often do not have the resources to offer “whole-person” treatment strategies such as supervised nutritional or exercise plans. They also cannot provide extensive exposure to alternative approaches that have been shown to be beneficial.
    • Less individualized care—Due to the necessary time constraints of outpatient rehab, most programs focus on “one-size-fits-all” treatment approaches that do not necessarily conform to the needs of the individual.
    • Continued need for outside services—The majority of the outpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs in Colorado are not equipped to deal with co-occurring mental or emotional disorders and must refer such clients to other mental health professionals for that portion of their treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (Day Program)

Partial hospitalization is the right strategy when the client’s media is too great for outpatient rehab, but not quite severe enough for inpatient services. A Day Program is very similar to outpatient drug rehab, but the time commitment is greater—3-4 hours per day, 5-7 days per week.  The client still goes home at night.

  • PROS: Same as outpatient drug rehab, but with a greater level of supervision.
  • CONS:
    • Due to the increased amount of time spent at the rehab facility, work and school may be affected.
    • As beneficial as it is, very few addiction recovery facilities in Colorado offer Day Programs.

Intensive Inpatient Addiction Rehab

This type of treatment is usually recommended for people who have a moderate to severe substance abuse problem or who have made unsuccessful attempts at recovery previously.

A person will typically “check in” for a rehab stay of 28-90 days.

  • PROS:
    • Constant supervision and support within a drug-free environment, 24/7
    • Highly-structured environment
    • Treatment of co-occurring disorders
    • Individually-generated treatment plans
    • Complete treatment that addresses addiction on every level—physical, mental, emotional, nutritional, educational, and spiritual.
    • Access to a wider variety of alternate treatment approaches, such as:
    • Pet/equine therapy
    • Art/poetry therapy
    • Dietitian-prescribed nutritional plans for substance abuse recovery
    • Exercise
    • Yoga
    • Massage
    • Meditation
    • Removal from home environment and daily stresses, allowing the patient to focus completely upon their personal recovery.
    • Participation in healthy activities that are alternatives to substance abuse.
  • CONS:
    • Cost—Without adequate health care coverage, residential drug rehab in Colorado can cost $10,000-$20,000 or more per month. Not all insurance carriers provide coverage for inpatient drug rehab.
    • Waiting list—Because of the growing demand, there is virtually always a shortage of available beds. People who insist on staying in their same local vicinity can find themselves placed on a long waiting list.
    • Time commitment—Work/school/family obligations can be disrupted for months.
    • Separation from family/children.
    • Fear—Thanks to movies and television, many people have an inaccurate picture in their mind about how terrible rehab is going to be.
    • Unless you quit the program early, you’re not free to come and go as you please.
    • For some, the structure (a huge positive) is perceived as a negative, because they dislike being told when to get up/go to bed, when to eat, etc.
    • The need for aftercare.

Long-Term Residential/Therapeutic Communities

This type of drug rehab is for people with the worst personal histories of substance abuse—addiction to multiple drugs, criminal behavior, mental health problems, etc.  Addiction recovery at a therapeutic community is open-ended—a typical stay may last 4-6 months, but it is not unheard of for a person two study in a therapeutic community for up to 18 months.

The emphasis is on the word “community”.  By living as a group within a structured environment, patients slowly learn—sometimes for the first time—how to function substance-free and behave within societal norms.  The goal is to eventually “graduate” and re-enter society as a sober and productive citizen.

  • PROS:
    • Immersion in a sober lifestyle
    • Most intensive therapeutic approach
    • Patients are required to work and/or go to school
    • Daily life is highly structured—individual/group counseling, job assignments, recreation, educational/vocational activities, and personal time are all scheduled.
    • Because progress determines increasing privileges and responsibilities, patients boost their self-esteem with each accomplishment.
  • CONS:
    • Rarely covered by insurance
    • Open-ended length

Substance abuse is a disease with many contributing factors that manifests in a variety of ways.  Not only that, every individual has a different addiction story—personal history, genetic profile, current situation, support system, and available resources.

Luckily, there are numerous addiction treatment options in Colorado available for anyone who needs help dealing with a drug or alcohol problem.  Talk with a trained substance abuse counselor and your family to see which option is best for you.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a substance abuse disorder and you don’t know where to turn, you can get your questions answered at AspenRidge Recovery—the most-trusted name in Colorado addiction rehab programs.



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