Remove the Barriers to Addiction Recovery

Long-term recovery can often be a challenge to maintain when the surrounding environment gives little ongoing support for the challenges faced by individuals trying to get their life back on track.

barriers-recoveryUnlike recovery from other conditions, addiction packs the added burdens of stigma and a multitude of concrete barriers that make sustained recovery more difficult. People with addictive disorders face discrimination in educational, employment, housing, health care and many other areas that are critical in fostering the motivation required to maintain recovery. Policy-makers and society in general would do well to consider the deleterious impact that these factors have on the individual as well as the larger community. John Kelly, James McKay and Alexandra Plante call for changes in the way that we think about and respond to individuals in recovery…Dr. Richard Juman

After a 16-year battle with a prescription opioid use disorder, Ryan Michael has now been in recovery for over 12 months. But with a lack of job prospects and direction at 34 years old, back at home living with his parents, he now faces the grim reality of a troubled educational history, lack of a consistent work history, and financial debt from outstanding legal fees. Ryan contemplates what his next steps should be, as he tries to find his place among mainstream society after dropping out of high school more than a decade ago. A once purely optimistic and upbeat future outlook towards life after addiction, is now a hazy view of the future, tempered by the sheer number of obstacles he is facing in moving forward and reintegrating back into society.

“I feel like I’m up against a wall. I want to rejoin society, but society won’t let me in. Other people my age have well-established careers already and are saving for their children to go to college. In contrast, I didn’t even have an email address to my name up until last year when I left rehab. Saying I am behind the curve is an understatement.”

While tragic, this grim reality is not uncommon. Long-term recovery can often be a challenge to maintain when the surrounding environment gives little ongoing support or rewards to address the unique challenges faced by individuals trying to get their life back on track.

Statistically, it takes many years and multiple attempts for individuals to achieve full sustained remission from a substance use disorder. While progress has been, across the addiction treatment and recovery field, to increase the speed at which individuals reach remission from substance use disorders, working to make recovery more inviting and easier to sustain continues to be a challenge.

In an effort to increase sustained recovery outcomes, the key may not be in traditional forms of behavioral therapy or medications alone, but found in a larger focus on the mobilizers of motivation over time—the very motivation that would propel individuals through the many obstacles experienced in recovery, and set them up to build the foundations necessary for a happy and fulfilling life.

How do we sustain the motivation needed for individuals to achieve long-term recovery?

Sustained motivation in recovery often becomes a challenge, especially when the immediacy of the negative impacts of substance use begin to recede. The motivation needed for recovery is also challenged by a lack of sufficient rewards available in the environment. Over time, substance use disorders tend to hijack the human reward system in the brain, causing the impact of natural rewards such as friendships, food, sex, etc. to diminish. To address this process caused by pre-existing conditions or disease progression, access to rewards for individuals in recovery may need to be artificially increased to obtain the same level of positive reinforcement experienced by those with an intact rewards system unaffected by substance use. Read more “the fix”…