The Evolution of Drug Rehabilitation in the United States

In a rational approach to drug treatment, the programs are crafted to address specific aspects of drug abuse. A well-rounded treatment program also deals with the associated physical, mental and evolution of drug rehabilitation in the USemotional consequences for individuals, families and society.

However, the United States has not always practiced a rational approach to drug rehabilitation. What seems clear-cut in today’s treatment centers was once submerged amid streams of superstition, fear and ignorance. The reliable pathways of modern treatment programs spring from a very murky pit of misapplied efforts.

When striving to identify which drug rehab services will work best for you or your loved one, perhaps a journey along the evolutionary trail of applied treatment programs will help settle your thoughts.

Current Principles of Effective Drug Abuse Treatment

Modern principles of effective drug treatment focus on drug abuse as a treatment-responsive disease that is associated with altered brain structure, brain functions and behavior patterns in the user. Positive treatment depends upon recognition of several key factors, including:

  • Treatment that adjusts to patient-specific circumstances
  • Treatment that addresses the user’s behavioral patterns as well as his or her drug abuse issues
  • Allows sufficient time for long-term recovery
  • Introduces motivational training, skill building and group counseling
  • Uses medications in conjunction with behavioral therapies
  • Provides monitoring and continuous re-assessment of the patient’s progress
  • Considers and treats any mental disorders that co-occur with the drug abuse
  • Understands the additional risks associated to drug-related diseases.

A Cry For Abstinence –A U.S. History of Resistance To Non-Medical Drug Use

Understanding why certain rehab practices are successful helps in the understanding of why certain early practices failed to achieve the desired result. However, before you can fully grasp the processes behind the evolution of drug rehabilitation, you must also briefly review the national history of drug use and drug abuse within the United States.

Known as the land of the free, America has oftentimes been the home of those first to oppose any non-medical use of drugs. From colonial times through to the present day, anti-drug groups have cried out against the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drug substances, legal or illegal.

Yet the kettle of abused drugs continued to brew new crops and new dangers.

Early Prevention Measures Focused On Regulation and Control

In the pre-1800s, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and even opium could be purchased, consumed in public and freely shared with little or no governmental restrictions. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information reports racial and class undertones as primary drivers of early American drug use restriction policies. For example:

  • Prohibition was linked to European immigrants
  • Cocaine, legal throughout the 19th century, became illegal due to association with Reconstruction and the acceptance of African Americans
  • Opium, also legal up before 1875, crossed the barriers due to association with Chinese immigrant workers
  • Marijuana, legal into the 1930s, drew prevention policy attention as it became linked to Mexicans
  • LSD faced legal restrictions in 1967 due to association with the counterculture of the times.

Faith-Based Restrictions Rise And Then Falter

In the 1800s, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement sparked a major change in alcohol regulations. The movement crusaded to close saloons, eliminate access to destructive drug substances and shut the doors on the industries that promoted the products. Yet in the end, even after the 1920 passing and the 1933 repeal of the Volstead Act, the nation began to focus on the problems of alcoholism rather than the dangers of alcohol as an addictive substance.

Alcohol got demoted to the status of an individually controllable substance that only caused problems when consumed by individuals with a predominantly destructive style of life. For the most part, modern society continues to draw the same line between “normal” drinking and alcoholism.

The concept of alcoholism as a disease forms the core of the modern drug abuse treatment mindset. As such, the focus falls away from the substances and settles instead upon the character and nature of the affected individuals. Under this method of thought, the treatment processes, even when individually focused, become similar in nature. Causes for the disease include the following:

  • Biochemical
  • Genetic
  • Psychological
  • Or a byproduct of social/cultural conditions.

A Renewed Focus On Governmental Restrictions

In 1970, Congress initiated the Controlled Substances Act. Therein resides the core of modern drug abuse control laws. The Act enables government to effectively classify or declassify drugs according to three primary criteria: 1) Necessity for medical use, 2) Potential for user abuse and 3) The potential for inducing user dependence. The Act also enables government to establish criminal penalties as related to the manufacture and distribution of addictive drugs.

The above history is not a comprehensive review of U.S. substance control efforts. It does relay the seriousness of the problem and the American commitment to help troubled people find freedom in a land of the free.

Drug Rehabilitation in the United States – Evolution Begins

Efforts to eliminate U.S. drug abuse follow several tactical processes. Traditional efforts have focused on traffic reduction, which in turn should reduce drug-related problems. However, the years have mounted up and the evidence confirms that reduced drug traffic does not effectively reduce the criminal, economic, personal or social problems associated with drug abuse.

It’s not that traffic reduction has failed, but rather that American consumption of amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, PCP and other addictive substances continues to increase. Rather than the industry and drug availability fueling the market, the market fuels the industry.

This brings about an effort to reduce the demand. Effective drug rehabilitation is the key to a successful process. It provides the single source of control that is not dependent upon regulatory policies and criminal prosecution of drug abusers. It provides a process that strives for understanding rather than punishment.

Successful rehabilitation eliminates the need for aggressive enforcement rules, excessive prison terms for troubled individuals, and wasted resources on a problem that has proven to resist conventional tactics that were used as far back as the 1920 Volstead Act.

A Brief History That Leads To Astonishing Success

In the scheme of drug abuse prevention, the history of effective drug abuse treatment programs is brief. The core of modern practices began in the 1960s with programs that were often ill conceived and based upon shoddy knowledge of the primary relationship between drugs, abusers and social/cultural behavioral patterns. Whereas modern drug abuse prevention programs focus on factors associated with the onset of drug use, early efforts focused on false or exaggerated information presented without persuasive argument.

Early efforts ignored the concept of social pressure. 1970s efforts relied heavily upon advertisements that modeled after social pressure. On the other hand, some of the early approaches to drug rehab have played a major role in establishing current processes. For example: Faith-based rehab programs dating into the pre-1900s remain a powerful tool for complete drug abuse rehabilitation. Some changes have taken place. Many faith-based programs now integrate medicine, psychology and religion into a single order of recovery.

A New Focus On Personal Issues, Individual Lifestyles And Specific Drug Problems

Modern secular therapies include lay psychotherapy, group counseling, psychological counseling, sober fellowship and many other personalized solutions. In short, effective drug rehabilitation in the U.S. has evolved into a series of prevention programs that address psychological, sociological and environmental situations in a manner that is unique to the specific needs of the troubled individual.

Society finally understands that drug abuse is a symptom rather than an origin. Long-term recovery must address the user’s personal issues as well as any associated drug problems. Rehab programs cannot be limited to mere self-control and abstinence.

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