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.

out of town treatment, substance abuse treatment center

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.  

out of town treatment, treatment center for addiciton

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.