Should I Go to An Aftercare Program for Substance Abuse?

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Aftercare is the generally accepted term for follow-up help available after you successfully complete an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program. The term covers a broad range of techniques, all of which are intended to help prevent a relapse back into active drug and/or alcohol use. Should you enter an aftercare program for substance abuse after completing primary treatment? In all likelihood, yes.

Aftercare Essentials

Substance abuse treatment programs help you understand how you first got involved in an abusive pattern of drug and/or alcohol intake. They also typically teach you how to develop new behaviors and skills that help you avoid returning to active substance use in the future. However, once you leave treatment and return to your daily routine, you can encounter a wide array of situations and circumstances that challenge your newfound sobriety and increase the odds that you will experience a relapse and resume active substance use. An aftercare program for substance abuse helps you cope with the stresses in your everyday life and keep your sobriety intact. These programs can take a broad range of forms, including:

  • 12-step groups and other mutual self-help groups
  • Community-based support or case management services
  • Employment assistance, and
  • Vocational training

You can also receive aftercare in a variety of settings. Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported positive results from a pilot project that used text messages to deliver aftercare interventions to young adults and teenagers.

Does Aftercare Work?

Decades of research show that participation in aftercare programs helps people who have completed primary substance treatment to avoid returning to substance use. In fact, these programs often hold a central place in effective relapse prevention. This is true, in part, because modern substance treatment often takes place over a relatively short span of time. Without enrollment in aftercare, even successful involvement in a short-term primary treatment program may not always produce lasting results. Outpatient treatment programs may place an especially strong emphasis on aftercare participation to reinforce the skills needed to maintain ongoing sobriety. Whatever the format or setting of substance treatment, follow-up programs provide the most benefit when they keep their clients’ needs firmly in mind and focus on tangible, real-world outcomes. Sources Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians – Chapter 5: Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs                                                                  State of Massachusetts – Health and Human Services: Substance Abuse Services Descriptions National Institute on Drug Abuse: Text Messaging Aftercare Intervention Cuts Youths’ Risk for Relapse  

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