Aftercare: A Necessity for Recovery

It’s no surprise that making the choice for recovery involves not only a strong personal resolve, but a significant financial investment in one’s future.  According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the typical cost for outpatient addiction treatment is $10,000, and residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation ranges between $20,000 to $32,000, depending on the level of services needed.  The high cost of rehabilitative services is only one of the many barriers to seeking treatment, and this obstacle is only intensified if an individual is uninsured or underinsured.

But it seems the real cost of recovery occurs after an individual leaves residential treatment and enters into the self-management phase of their recovery, whether that pathway is through 12-Step meetings, faith-based, or other means.

However, the funds allocated for aftercare are paltry at best and those in recovery are often thrown into a system that seems destined to set them up for failure.  After a person is in a highly structured setting for 21 days (the average length of stay in an inpatient program) and then returned to an environment that has not undergone significant changes, there is sure to be discord.

Aftercare can be thought of as any significant interventions that follow initial treatment.  In terms of addiction treatment, aftercare often refers to the additional support that is given following release from a residential portion of a program.  Examples of aftercare include individual or group counseling, support groups, or follow-up meetings.

Because the relapse rate for those in recovery is so high (50%), aftercare plays a major role in determining one’s success in recovery.  Most notable is the fact that the highest risk of relapse is during the first 60 days following discharge from a rehabilitation center, and the risk remains high for the first five years of recovery.

Aftercare is a fundamental principle of recovery support services, and it may, in fact, be the missing key for some who seek out recovery.  A recent study found that those who did not participate in aftercare were ten times more likely to return to “seriously harmful behavior within one year” (Matheson, et al, 2011).

We must demand that aftercare be available for all those in and seeking recovery, not just for some.  If long-term recovery is the ultimate goal, then there must be a paradigm shift in how we consider substance use treatment as a whole.

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