Substance abuse is a complex obstacle to overcome, and recovery is an ongoing process that does not end after treatment. Many assume that drug abuse recovery only includes detox. In reality, detox is merely a brief treatment period that assists in expelling substances from the body and dealing with withdrawal symptoms. There is an 85 percent chance of relapse for those recovering from an addiction to opiatesm [1] and lack of extended treatment after detox may be a contributing factor. Aftercare is an essential part of recovery from addiction. Here are a few of the top reasons that ongoing treatment programs are so important for those recovering from drug abuse.

Underlying Psychological Issues 

Drug addiction is not a problem that is isolated to the drugs themselves. Often times, those struggling with drug abuse issues have underlying issues that contribute to the reasons that they use. These issues vary, but some common contributing factors to drug abuse include past trauma, mental illness, and an unhealthy home environment [2]. Because these factors play as strong a role as the physical dependency itself, aftercare can include sessions with a therapist, group therapy sessions with others recovering from addiction, and ongoing medical treatment.

Lifestyle Changes

A patient’s lifestyle is constantly changing before, during, and after treatment for addiction. While detox can help rid a user of their physical addiction, lifestyle habits can trigger relapse outside of treatment. Establishing a support network that can encourage good decisions, identify triggers for relapse, and otherwise rearrange negative lifestyle habits can go a long way in sustaining recovery. Successful aftercare involves coaching individuals to make positive changes and continue to make decisions that will prevent relapse. That process can take months or years and is a constantly evolving process that is not possible without the appropriate tools.

Physical Side-Effects of Substance Abuse

Another reason why aftercare is so vital to addiction recovery is due to all of the different ways that substances can alter a person’s body and brain chemistry. During withdrawal, the body is forced to go without a substance it has grown to depend upon. After physical withdrawal, a person’s body does not revert back to the health and composition it was in prior to addiction. Ongoing medical treatment may be necessary to support physical health after initial detox. Aftercare can ensure that the proper medications are prescribed to promote optimal health during recovery.

There are a variety of aftercare options available to those in drug abuse recovery. Options range from ongoing therapy sessions to fulltime therapeutic communities that offer ongoing counseling and treatment for an extended period of time. Sober living houses can give individuals the opportunity to reintegrate back into their normal society and partial hospitalization programs can provide the ability to receive treatment for a few hours a day or a couple days a week.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse problem, contact an addiction counseling center or treatment facility for more information on how to approach recovery.