Evidence-based practice means the conscientious use of the best practices available. These treatments are scientifically proven to produce positive results. Choosing individual treatment activities combines individual clinical experience with the treatments, scientific studies on the efficacy of treatment, and client expectations for treatment. In short, an evidence-based approach constantly looks at new research and studies and re-evaluates practice based on findings.
Outdated Treatment Programs
Many treatment programs are based on the 12 steps and the disease model of addiction. These activities, while they have some benefit, are not the latest in addiction treatment and in fact if they are not used in conjunction with new treatment activities are a seventy-plus year old protocol! Imagine if you went to the hospital for cancer treatment and were given only the tools that were in use seventy years ago; you’d demand better treatment.
While we do offer the 12 steps to all clients at Cliffside Malibu because there are many benefits to this program, it is not in and of itself treatment. While the 12 steps can provide much needed support to those with addiction problems, especially after leaving the relative safety of a treatment center, the 12 steps alone are not treatment per se and have an extremely poor success rate. For people who only go to 12 step programs with no other support, the success rate at one year is estimated to be between 8 and 13%. Seventy-plus years ago when 12 step programs began, any success was deemed invaluable. Now, we have many treatments that have brought our recovery rate at one year to around 70%.
Why Evidence-Based Treatments Work
As understandings of addiction and addiction recovery change, we constantly strive to bring best practices into our treatment protocol. We recognize that not every treatment works for every person, so we use our resources carefully to gain access to all the latest treatments available. We are the only treatment center to employ a full time addiction researcher. Her job is to look through the latest findings in medicine, addiction studies, psychology, integrative and complementary medicine, and other fields to bring the best, proven treatments to our attention so that they can be used with our clients as needed, on an individualized basis.
One of the main changes in the evidence base is a move from thinking about addiction as a genetic disorder to a brain disorder. Certainly, genetics play some role in developing addiction, but the bigger player, at least with regard to treatment, is the brain. When someone begins abusing drugs or alcohol, the brain mechanisms are co-opted. In layman’s terms, we describe this process as a sort of feedback loop that develops so that the individual no longer has a choice about whether or not to use. This is fundamentally the issue with addiction – the individual can no longer make the choice to stop using. Because science has taught us how the brain works, we are able to use treatments and therapies that help us change both the chemistry and structure of the brain – so that a person can regain control of the brain and lead an addiction free life. Without the evidence base and ongoing scientific inquiry, we would never have made these breakthroughs or been able to treat addiction as effectively as we are able to today.