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No Short Cuts or Quick Fixes: Recovery Takes Time

August 13, 2015
by Roland Reeves, MD
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Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Takes Time

And although people may be temped to shortcut their way through rehab, don’t underestimate the hard work involved in successful recovery. Even if someone breezed their way through college or scrambled up the corporate ladder without a hitch, there is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Addiction is a chronic disease, not a sign of poor willpower or personal weakness. Studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate that long-term recovery is directly connected to adequate treatment length. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that although any attempt at treatment is a step in the right direction, outcomes for both outpatient and residential treatment are more successful when treatment lasts at least 90 days.

Traditionally, addiction treatment has been limited to 28 days or less in most cases, a standard established not by addiction experts but by insurance companies. Short-term treatment is woefully inadequate for long-term recovery and often serves as the beginning of a long cycle of heartbreaking relapses and repeat trips to rehab.

Although research shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that longer treatment is more effective, insurance companies continue to depend on small, outdated studies to defend decisions to pay for treatment that often spans no more than five to 20 days. Some insurance companies pay only for two or three days of detox before transferring patients to outpatient treatment, a situation that many liken to a quick shock with a defibrillator before sending a heart attack patient to a primary care provider for continuation of care.

Most states require insurance companies to pay for some level of treatment, and although the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 has expanded coverage for addiction treatment at Florida drug rehab centers and others across the country, lack of coverage continues to serve as a barrier to quality treatment for many people. When treatment isn’t available, the costs are often borne by taxpayers in the form of millions of dollars paid to the justice system, emergency rooms and other heartbreaking situations that could often be prevented by treating addiction properly in the first place.

In spite of important regulatory improvements, insurance companies often skirt the issue by implementing their own complex sets of rules and guidelines. For example, some companies require proof of medical necessity while failing to acknowledge addiction as a treatable medical illness. Some may pay outpatient treatment but not residential rehab, while others may fund detox only, arguing that long-term treatment is a luxury, not a medical necessity. In some cases, insurance companies are selective, for example, opting to fund treatment for addiction to alcohol but not heroin. No matter the reasoning, treatment length is inadequate and people continue to struggle with addiction.



Roland Reeves MD

Physician, T R Reeves


Roland Reeves, MD, provides medication assisted treatment for the practice T R Reeves, MD, in...

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