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They say there are many roads to recovery, but relapse feels like a trip back to the beginning. Starting over, you may wonder if addiction treatment will ever work. However, a landmark government report on addiction offers evidence it does. According to Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (2016), receiving specialty treatment makes a positive difference, particularly in the most challenging cases:

Substance use disorder treatment is designed to help individuals stop or reduce harmful substance misuse, improve their health and social function, and manage their risk for relapse. In this regard, substance use disorder treatment is effective . . . Research shows that treatment also improves individuals’ productivity, health, and overall quality of life . . .


[S]evere, complex, and chronic substance use disorders often require specialty substance use disorder treatment and continued post-treatment support to achieve full remission and recovery.

What is Specialty Treatment?

“Specialty treatment” indicates a focused approach on substance use disorder (i.e., drug and alcohol addiction), whether it is in an inpatient or outpatient program. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains:

Treatment can be provided in inpatient or residential sessions. This happens within specialty substance use disorder treatment facilities . . . Shorter term residential treatment is much more common, and typically has a focus on detoxification (also known as medically managed withdrawal) as well as providing initial intensive treatment, and preparation for a return to community-based settings.

The Surgeon General’s report describes a “treatment gap” for drug and alcohol addiction in the 2015 data examined. A key finding was that during that year, “only about 1 in 10 of people with a substance use disorder received any type of specialty treatment.”

For those addicts who manage to secure some form of treatment, difficulties remain. For a start, the rush to meet an urgent need naturally compromises decision-making and disappointing choices. Having too few suitable specialty treatment options overall compromises recovery outcomes even more.

Don’t Go It Alone

If you have the relapse blues, don’t lose hope. There is specialty treatment for substance use disorder which has proven effective. More on that in a moment. But first, remember that studies do not support “going it alone” as an effective recovery strategy. As Carlton Erickson wrote in his book The Science of Addiction (2018 ed.):

Self-help [which Erickson defines as “overcoming the disease alone, perhaps through insight, revelation, or increased willpower to stop using”] is an outdated concept that is no longer in keeping with the newest science of treatment and recovery.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a brain disease. Recovery is not a matter of mere willpower.

Treating the Individual

In specialty treatment circles they say “One size doesn’t fit all.” Yet individualized programs are rarely observed in actual addiction treatment practices, which emphasize traditional group therapy above all else. Dr. Thomas McLellan, one of the authors of the Surgeon General’s report, was quoted in Anne Fletcher’s book Inside Rehab: 

“A more consumer-oriented approach to treatment would be to offer different options . . . to accentuate . . . the individualities associated with addiction.”

We agree an individualized approach to recovery is more effective, and the evidence is in our program.

Conducting individualized health assessments is a crucial part of the onboarding process at Serenity Acres Treatment Center. We continue with that individualized approach as treatment proceeds. Using a dual diagnosis approach, we identify and treat co-occuring mental disorders which may be contributing to substance use disorder.

We do conduct rigorous, clinically-guided group therapy here, but this is balanced with individual counseling sessions — with both addiction counselors and mental health therapists. We provide a variety of specialty treatment options, including behavioral and holistic therapies.

Quite often it takes multiple treatment attempts to secure enduring recovery. This is why finding specialty treatment for substance use disorder which recognizes your unique situation is so important. Serenity Acres specializes in exactly that kind of individual recognition. Here, we learn about person you are to better help you become the person you want to be.

External Sources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS, November 2016.

“Treatments for Substance Use Disorders: Inpatient and Residential Settings.”

Candelaria, Michael. “Surgeon General’s report on US substance abuse shows ‘treatment gap.’” Orlando Sentinel, 15 December 2016.

Erickson, Carlton K. The Science of Addiction, 2nd Edition. New York: Norton, 2018.

Fletcher, Anne. Inside Rehab. New York: Penguin, 2013.