Hazelden Introduces Antiaddiction Medications into Recovery for First Time

By Nov. 05, 2012


Founded on the idea that abstinence is the bedrock of any recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, Hazelden will now incorporate anti-addiction medications in its rehabilitation programs.

Treating drug addiction is as much about addressing why people become hooked on substances like alcohol, painkillers or illegal drugs as it is about weaning them off of their habit— at least that’s the core of the Hazelden recovery approach. From its founding in a Minnesota farmhouse in 1949, the program has championed the 12-step method, with its roots in the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. That philosophy is anchored by the belief that true recovery can only start with addicts admitting they need help from others. Abstinence from all potentially addictive substances has always been the cornerstone of this strategy, which has become known as the “Minnesota Model.”  Some 90% of American addiction counselors rely on Minnesota Model principles.

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But for the first time, Hazelden will begin providing medication-assisted treatment for people hooked on heroin or opioid painkillers, starting at its Center City, Minnesota facility and expanding across its treatment network in five states in 2013.  This so-called maintenance therapy differs from simply detoxifying addicts until they are completely abstinent. Instead, it acknowledges that continued treatment with certain medications, which can include some of the very opioid drugs that people are misusing, could be required for years.

“This is a huge shift for our culture and organization,” said Dr. Marvin Seppala, Hazelden’s chief medical officer, who pushed for the new practice.  As the program’s first adolescent patient, and someone who has been in recovery from multiple drug addictions for 37 years, Seppala is keenly aware of how dramatic this decision is for the organization, which once debated whether or not coffee was acceptable in its abstinence-based program. “We believe it’s the responsible thing to do,” he says. Read More…

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