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'Prehab': Does Preventative Treatment Work?

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If an addict is about to slip into relapse, will doing treatment ahead of time help?

Charlie Sheen

Jennifer Ginsberg: If you're a celebrity like Charlie Sheen, you can reportedly go to rehab even if you don't currently have a drinking or drug problem.

When Sheen entered an inpatient treatment program for what was described as "preventative reasons," gossip sites called the decision "prehab." Now the question is: Can preventative treatment be effective for those who have had previous addiction issues and find themselves headed towards a slip?

People enter treatment for all kinds of reasons. The best-case scenario is when an alcoholic or addict comes to rehab after hitting an emotional bottom, is aware of the extent of the substance-abuse problem and is willing to go to any lengths to stop drinking or using. However, many people check themselves into rehab for less altruistic reasons -- including family pressure, a court order, to keep a job or simply to take a break from the chaos -- with no real intention of maintaining sobriety once they leave treatment.

However, preventative treatment can be effective if the patient is willing to address the issues that are fueling their addiction. For many potential alcoholics and addicts, this level of self-awareness and willingness is not possible until they have hit bottom and are unable to deny the gravity and consequences of their actions. For those who have already achieved sobriety and find themselves on a slippery slope toward relapse, "prehab" can be a way to regroup and get back on track -- if the person can honestly face their behaviors and make a commitment to change.

For most people, checking into preventative treatment is a fantasy only possible in the world of the rich and famous.

Here are some more realistic options to help a person who thinks they may have a problem with drugs or alcohol:

• Make a commitment to stop drinking and using for 30 days. If you are unable to follow through, you may have a problem.

• Find a therapist who has experience with addiction. Many mental-health professionals offer a sliding scale upon request.

• Check out a 12-step meeting and see if you can relate to what you are hearing.

• Most importantly, be honest about your intentions. If you are seeking help just to get the heat off of you, you are fooling nobody but yourself. Untreated addictions often result in broken relationships, serious illnesses, incarceration and death. Chances are, if your drinking or using is already out of control, you have a problem -- even if you haven't faced the more dire consequences yet. Get help before it is too late.

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
DeniseRichards March 11, 2010, 2:43 PM

Charlie is a drunk.

MartinSheen March 13, 2010, 2:10 PM

Charlie get help.

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