Then vs. Now: How Addiction Recovery Treatment Has Changed Over Time


There are hundreds of addiction treatment facilities throughout the United States, but it hasn’t always been so accessible to receive help for substance abuse. Even fifty years ago, people seeking addiction treatment may have had to travel far from their homes to get help.

How Addiction Recovery Treatment Has Changed Over Time

Addiction has been a problem for people for as long as humans have roamed the Earth. It is the result of genetics, biology, and environmental influences. Today it is a big problem for many people in society and can be detrimental to people and those who love them.

A 2013 study found that 24.6 million Americans were illicit drug abusers, and 21.6 million were considered to have substance abuse or dependency issues within the last 12 months.

Nowadays, new facilities are cropping up all the time, such as the Sarasota facility coming soon. While there are several facilities, addiction recovery strategies need to adjust with the times. 

The prominence of addiction in the United States

Although addiction exists in all corners of the world, we will focus on addiction in the United States. Addiction has been around for thousands of years, but we did not know what it was until very recently.

Addiction in the United States became a significant problem during the Civil War. At this time, opioid drugs were given to patients to treat many medical issues. This likely increased the spread of drug addiction in the United States after the Civil War. Before this, many people in the United States were likely addicted to mind-altering drugs like present-day LSD or Mushrooms.

Unfortunately, there were few resources for people battling addiction at the time. The first treatment facility did not open until 1858, and it is a stretch to call it a treatment facility. The New York State Inebriate Asylum opened in 1858, intending to help upper-class people battling addiction. Unfortunately, this belief was quickly shunned, and the facility had to close.

Poor addiction treatment methods of the 1800s and early 1900s

Although addiction was not considered a significant condition at the time, some methods were in place to combat it. Unfortunately, these methods did not help the addiction and sometimes triggered new habits.

In the early 1800s, there was a method called the Keeley Cure. Using this method, doctors would inject patients with solutions containing gold, strychnine, and alcohol. Although this method was ineffective, it was administered in groups and could have been the origin of group therapy and community support organizations.

The early 1900s saw the rise of bromide sleep therapy. Here, individuals were put into a bromide-induced coma so that they could wake up from addiction.

Aversion therapy was also a popular treatment method. With this method, patients would receive unpleasant stimuli whenever they were presented with alcohol. The most common type of aversion therapy was electroshock therapy. With this method, patients had wires attached to them and were shocked every time alcohol was present. 

Finally, LSD was used to treat people suffering from alcoholism. This practice started in the 1950s.

How criminalization affected addiction treatment

Drugs such as cocaine, chloroform, and cannabis became widely popular in the United States in the mid-1800s. Society looked the other way when addiction arose from these drugs because they arose in upper-class communities. They were expensive substances and could only be acquired by the upper class.

However, as time passed, more people in poor and minority communities were able to acquire these substances. This shift resulted in a change in the public perception of addiction. A belief arose that addiction was a leading contributor to criminal activities like theft, rape, and murder. Politicians took notice of this trend and decided to act.

Eventually, the 1914 Harrison Act was passed in congress. This act regulated the importation, sale, and prescription of narcotics. Under the Harrison Act, physicians could no longer prescribe opiates to patients.

Prohibition also existed in the 1920s and early 1930s, which banned the sale of alcohol. These laws resulted in the reduction of addiction treatments available to people.

The shift to modern addiction treatment

Fortunately, addiction treatment has improved significantly over the past 50 to 70 years. Facilities have opened up throughout the United States to help people battling addiction. These days, you can go to an addiction facility to get treatment even if you are addicted to an illegal substance.

However, progress has not been without its difficulties. Notably, the War On Drugs has hurt addiction treatment in the United States. The War On Drugs was officially renewed in 1987 by President Reagan. 

The criminalization of illicit drugs has made it difficult for people to get treatment for their addictions. Notably, minority communities have had a much more difficult time getting treatment when needed.

Fortunately, the American Medical Association officially declared drug dependence a legitimate disease. As a result, doctors or nurses should not treat it any differently than other medical issues.

The Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, significantly changed the medical system in the United States. Among the changes that came with it was a law that listed substance abuse as one of 10 medical conditions insurance needed to cover. While there is still a stigma around drug addiction, as shown by shows such as Euphoria, it is much more treatable.

Final thoughts

The United States has had a fascinating past with drug addiction, but not all things are bad. Although you could not get treatment for your addiction 100 years ago, that is not the case today. Today, you can get treatment for addiction at several facilities around the country.

Tony Brian

Tony loves to write on technology, app/website reviews, business and internet marketing. He has been in the online industry for over 5 years. Tony is also good at web and graphic design.

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