When you first decide to get treatment for your prescription drug addiction, it is a significant time in which you must learn to adjust to changes physically and mentally while you nurse both your body and mind back to health. You’ve begun making long-term plans and goals rather than living only for today. More importantly, you are learning to live life sober again. But your initial treatment is only the first chapter in the book of recovery—there is a long road ahead.
Those first few days or weeks are truly difficult and you should be proud of the work you have done so far. However, long-term success requires a strong aftercare plan. People who succeed in long-term recovery constantly work at it, but if you stop putting in the work, you risk relapse.
An aftercare treatment program provides you with the tools necessary to maintain sobriety. This is particularly important with prescription opioid dependency because when you become addicted to opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, you develop a high tolerance to the drug. This is why you have to take larger doses to get the same effects that you used to feel with small doses. After a detox program, your tolerance levels are diminished, which makes accidental overdoses extremely common at this stage in recovery if you were to relapse.1 Because of this, it is essential to build up a strong aftercare support system around you.
In the last 17 years, prescription opioid drug overdose deaths have quadrupled in the United States, creating an overwhelming need for quality addiction programs to treat those addicted to various prescription drugs.1 And in 2015, more than 21 million people needed treatment for a substance abuse problem in general, yet only about 10% of them received treatment at a specialty addiction treatment center.2 Further, studies have shown that successful transitions from inpatient programs to aftercare treatment programs are associated with improved outcomes.3 And all reputable inpatient and outpatient treatment centers include aftercare planning in their programs because they understand their great importance.
But there are barriers that prevent people from transitioning to an aftercare treatment program, most notably the patients themselves, who believe that they can succeed on their own after completing a treatment program. However, several studies of residential treatment programs have shown that people who completed those inpatient programs in 3 to 6 months (and successfully transitioned to an aftercare program) had about a 70% to 76% chance of staying sober for a year after treatment. That is a considerably higher percentage than people who did not complete a program, or people who did not make the transition from inpatient to aftercare treatment.4
Benefits of an Aftercare Program
Eventually, you will find you have increased your self-esteem and are ready to tackle even greater challenges.After years of prescription drug abuse, you may feel you have lost sight of what your goals in life used to be. Your self-esteem may be very low because it has been a long time since you’ve achieved any goals that are significant to you. Additionally, in the early stages of recovery you may feel alone because you are trying to develop healthy relationships and may need to cut ties with unhealthy ones. A good aftercare program can help you address all these major problems.
A quality aftercare treatment program also helps you find support and accountability. Treatment counselors, who are often recovering from addiction themselves, help you develop clear and rewarding goals to include in your recovery plan. These can be simple, everyday goals that will help you focus on moving forward and avoid falling back into familiar patterns of prescription drug abuse.
Some aftercare treatment goals may include:5
- Finding a job or educational/vocational program.
- Spending social time with family, friends, or co-workers.
- Hobbies and constructive ways to organize free time.
- Fulfilling parole requirements, community service, or other legal issues.
- Establish healthier ways to treat the possible physical issues that created your dependency on prescription drugs in the first place.
As you work on your recovery plan, you will break down these goals into even smaller steps. You will celebrate your small victories with counselors or friends you have made in your aftercare program. Eventually, you will find you have increased your self-esteem and are ready to tackle even greater challenges.
Addiction is a complex issue that needs to be treated from multiple angles. If you are ready to explore your treatment options, call a treatment placement advisor today at .
Sober Living and Halfway Homes
In the first few months after you complete inpatient treatment, it is very important to be in a supportive environment. Even if your friends don’t abuse prescription drugs, you may find it difficult to be in social environments where people are abusing any substances (like alcohol), even in moderation. Sometimes the best option is to surround yourself with other sober people who can support you on your journey to long-term recovery without potential temptation.
Sober living homes were created for this purpose. Sober living homes offer individualized therapy plans and often revolve around a 12-step viewpoint. “Sober living relies heavily on the philosophy of peer support and involvement for recovery.” Also, most sober living homes require residents to support themselves, paying for meals as well as rent.
Halfway homes are similar to sober living homes in that they provide a communal living environment where people abide by a number of rules designed to help keep residents safe and sober. The major difference is that halfway homes require residents to have already completed (or be enrolled in) a long-term drug treatment program.6
This form of aftercare support can make a real difference in your ability to stay clean from prescription drugs since you will be constantly surrounded by others who can encourage you when urges to use come on strong, and who can offer insight into how to deal with them in a healthy way.
Need for Aftercare
Addiction is chronic, and recovery from addiction requires a long-term commitment to sobriety to avoid relapse. Read More
An essential component of aftercare treatment is both individual and group therapy sessions. Individual therapy includes counseling sessions that focus on a commitment to your individual recovery plan. During these meetings, you will identify any triggers that may tempt you to begin using again, and subsequently develop skills to deal with those triggers.
Group therapy involves counseling sessions with your peers. It is often used to reinforce what you are learning in individual therapy. It is also helpful to discover that you are not alone on your journey to recovery. Even though other members of your group may have suffered from addictions to a variety of prescription drugs, you will learn that your journey to recovery is similar with those in your group. In addition, you may find that you face similar stresses in your life, such as having young children, long work hours, or chronic pain. You and other members within your group can support one another as you all learn to face the stresses of daily life while sober.
Therapists in both individual and group therapy use a variety of therapeutic modalities, including:6
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.
- Contingency management therapy, which uses positive reinforcement, such as rewards or privileges, for remaining drug-free or attending and participating in counseling sessions.
- Motivational enhancement therapy, which helps people build internal motivation and commit to a recovery plan.
Peer support programs, such as the well-known 12-step programs, are a useful and inexpensive way to access aftercare while continuing on your path to long-term sobriety. One study of 12-step programs found that people who attended one meeting or more per week were far less likely to relapse and use drugs. In fact, during a 6-month period, only about 22% of participants who attended weekly meetings had used drugs, compared to 44% of participants who attended less frequently.7
It is important to do some research before you join a peer support group, to be sure that it is right for you. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is perhaps the most well-known peer group for prescription drug abusers. NA follows a 12-step program that encourages people to attend meetings and share their experiences with other drug abusers. NA encourages new members to participate in 90 meetings in their first 90 days. During that time, new members are encouraged to reach out to veteran members to find a sponsor who can act as their individual coach. Your NA sponsor will not be a medical professional, but rather a long-time member who draws on their personal experience to guide you through the 12 steps of recovery.8
Figuring out how to manage the everyday-life issues that come with life when you’re sober can be extremely challenging. So some aftercare treatment programs will put you in touch with a caseworker who can help you find a job or vocational training program, assist in your return to school, or help you get back on track in other practical ways. Setting simple, concrete goals to help propel you forward can be very useful in keeping you focused on healthy things as opposed to using prescription drugs.
Developing hobbies or other activities is also critical during recovery. This is an especially important step if you have not yet found a job. Unorganized time can be your enemy; it may cause you to think about those times when you were using drugs, or the people you used to surround yourself with. Don’t let this happen.
Instead, find new ways to spend your time, such as:
- Volunteering at a community center, teaching kids to dance, read, or play basketball.
- Coaching a children’s sports team.
- Volunteering at an animal shelter.
- Getting involved with your local place of worship, which likely has various activities to participate in.
- Learning a low-stress hobby, such as drawing, woodworking, or photography.
Reducing stress will also reduce the likelihood of relapse. During your individual counseling sessions, you will identify your triggers and how to deal with them, but there are many ways to reduce stress in general, including:
- Aerobic exercises such as running, biking, swimming, basketball.
- Aromatherapy (candles, essential oils, bubble baths).
- Adequate sleep.
- Massage therapy.
If you are ready to take the step toward finding treatment for your addiction to prescription drugs, please call our helpline anytime at to speak with a support team member about your options.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Injury Report: Opioid Overdose.
- Lipari, R. A. Ph.D, Park-Lee, E. Ph.D. & Van Horn, S. (2016). America’s Need for and Receipt of Substance Use Treatment in 2015. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) Report.
- Timko, Christine et al. (2016). Transitioning From Detoxification to Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Facilitators and Barriers. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 70, 64 – 72.
- Greenfield, L., Burgdorf, K., Chen, X., Porowski, A., Roberts, T. & Herrell, J. (2004). Effectiveness of long?term residential substance abuse treatment for women: Findings from three national studies. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 30(3), 537-550.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014.) The next step…toward a better life. HHS Publication No. (SMA), 14-4474.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Treatment for substance use disorders.
- Mathias, R. (1999). Adding more counseling sessions and 12-step programs can boost drug abuse treatment effectiveness. Focus on Treatment Research, Volume 14, No. 5.
- Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (2014). An Introduction to NA Meetings.