Out Of Town Treatment

When It Comes To Addiction Treatment: Stay To Closer To Home… Or Travel Out Of The Area For Treatment?

Here’s the scenario: Either yourself or a family member (or loved one) has made the COURAGEOUS decision to seek out professional treatment for their alcohol or substance abuse addiction.

Now the question becomes: Should this person seek out treatment close to home… or are there benefits to traveling out of state for treatment?

This is a question that comes up on almost every call we receive at our treatment center

There are many logical benefits to consider out-of-city (or even out-of-state) treatment centers, to include:

  • Experiencing a true “fresh start”

  • Creating distance between the person & areas where they “used”

  • Removing “easy access” to substances

  • Building new, healthy habits in a new environment

… and many more.

All of these are valid to an extent.

In addition to the “common sense” benefits listed above, there are scientific & psychology-backed theories supporting a change in one’s environment while undergoing substance abuse treatment.

Now… before I continue… 12-Step advocates (which includes myself) may be thinking: A change in environment is not the ONLY solution (or variable to consider) in long term recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse disorders.

The PERSON must undergo a profound inner change for success which is not (necessarily) ONLY accomplished by changing the environment he/she is in.

That said… let’s look at some of the psychology-based theory behind why this change of environment is (in my and other professionals’ opinion), a very good plan.

We can’t talk about any recommendations on early treatment choices without covering two primary hurdles every substance abuser grapples with in early in recovery: 1) Cravings and 2) Triggers that lead to cravings.

A craving, simply defined, is a strong (almost overpowering) urge or desire for something.

A trigger is defined as a cue… possibly a person, place, thing, could be a smell, certain lighting, tv show, or anything… that brings about a memory of something.

So let’s combine these two nuisances and look at their role in a person in early stage recovery from a substance use disorder.

The Cue Reactivity theory proposes that a craving “is viewed as a multidimensional response to a variety of stimuli paired in the past with substance intake” (Kouimtsidis, 2000, p.299). [Which is a fancy way of saying: When a person with a substance use disorder encounters something (a cue) that is attached someway (a memory) to that person’s history of using… there can be a complex response to it.]

Examples of this reaction caused by a craving can be:

  • A sudden, irrational, & overpowering urge to use

  • Obsessive thoughts about a substance or use for a period of time

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Increased heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Feelings of euphoria or dysphoria.

The point is: Cravings are strong & extremely complex.  

In fact, in early recovery, they are one of the most common causes of relapse.

They can be so all-encompassing, they’re routinely compared to “temporary insanity”, where all logical & rational thought disappears and the person seemingly loses control of their decisions/behaviors, making unpredictable/illogical choices such as going back to substance use and risking death.

And here’s the thing: Triggers can and will happen anywhere… and in some of the most unexpected ways.

A change of environment helps to reduce/limit them, but it doesn’t prevent them completely.

Circling back to the common-sense part of this concept… people in early recovery have a better chance of long-term recovery if they are able to avoid triggers and limit cravings as much as possible while they build the necessary skills and resources to abstain from mood-altering chemicals.

So yes, it is our opinion that it’s a healthy decision to ensure the person suffering from addiction removes themselves spacially & geographically (out of town) and create enough space between them & their usual “triggers”.

A treatment center that specializes in substance use disorder treatment, which includes a reputable, clinical component can help the sufferer manage both their reaction to triggers, as well as strong cravings.

In fact, this is a vital part of a successful treatment program whose sole focus is long term recovery for the sufferer.

Finally… you simply need to ensure they enroll in a safe and reputable treatment facility’s program.

Please feel free to call us at … or email us at … with any questions you may have about substance abuse treatment.

Kouimtsidis, C. (2000). Role of craving in substance misuse. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 13(3), 299-303-299-303.

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