What Is Social Model Detox?

What Is Social Model Detox?Social model detox programs differ from professionally-based treatment programs; they largely encourage medication-free detox and provide care in a non-hospital setting.

Basics of Social Model Detoxification

Social model detox programs are founded on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous’ (AA) 12-step model, according to an article on the model’s history in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. The programs began in the 1940s in California and by the 1980s received public funding as legal nonprofit organizations. Through a short-term residential stay to establish sobriety, the social programs rely on giving participants an introduction to the 12-step principles as an initial start toward remaining drug or alcohol-free.

AA’s 12-steps emphasize the importance of humility and reliance on God or a higher power. Individuals who follow the steps admit that addiction is a power greater than themselves, and a higher power or spiritual journey is needed to overcome addiction. People in the program also apologize for anything done to hurt other people and continue to work to avoid hurting themselves or others.

As scientists and the medical community grow to understand more about the disease of addiction, attitudes about detox change. There are few programs that follow a completely medical model or a completely social model, according to a manual on detoxification published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Many medical programs now offer counseling and supportive services while some social model programs offer medical detox in some cases.

Detoxification under the Social Model

When an individual is recovering from the physical withdrawal symptoms of drugs or alcohol, the process is known as detoxification or detox. The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies by substance, according to a report from the San Luis Obispo County Health Agency in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

For example, while a person may need to be an extremely heavy drinker to experience withdrawal, an individual who abuses prescription drugs like synthetic opiates may experience withdrawal symptoms after taking the drug for a few months.

Social model programs in California last five to 21 days. While no medical practitioners are on site, facilities are staffed 24 hours a day with trained, certified drug and alcohol counselors. Residents must receive clearance from a physician before entering the program.

What Is Detoxification?

Detox can be considered a preliminary stage of addiction treatment. A person needs to feel physically well to begin the hard work of learning recovery skills. Some individuals need medical supervision while undergoing detox to make sure they remain safe.

In all cases, individuals going through the challenging withdrawal process need support and encouragement. There are three levels of detox according to the health agency report:

  • Evaluation – a complete process that includes a blood test to determine the type of substances in a person’s system and a medical screening to determine co-occurring mental and physical conditions
  • Stabilization – a medical and psychosocial progression that helps a person manage withdrawal symptoms to achieve a completely sober state; this process is sometimes done with the assistance of specialized medications
  • Fostering – preparation for entering addiction treatment by explaining the steps involved in the process and emphasizing how important it is to follow through with all aspects of the program

While detox alone does not meet the requirements of an effective addiction treatment program, it is important to address this process in as humane a way as possible.

Ways Social Model Detoxification Aids Addiction Recovery

Social model programs have many advantages according to a 1990 article in Public Health Reports. Addiction recovery is improved in the following ways, according to the article:

  • Higher interpersonal contact – Since staff members don’t give participants tranquilizers during detox, they have more frequent contact with residents. The heightened contact gives participants more attention and builds trust.
  • Reduced stress – Since care is provided in a home-like setting, residents tend to feel calmer. The lower stress rates can reduce blood pressure and help avoid other physical complications.
  • Greater willingness to seek treatment – Individuals in social model programs are more likely to seek longer-term addiction treatment and more likely to stay sober longer.
  • Cost effective – Social model programs are less expensive than medical programs, particularly those conducted in hospitals.

While social model programs are effective in a majority of cases, some withdrawal symptoms are so severe that medical treatment is necessary. Patients experiencing severe swings in blood pressure or having trouble breathing, for example, need medical care.

Finding Help for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Addiction is a serious disease. Individuals who are ready to seek help have many options for care, and a social model detoxification program may be a good one. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, we can help. Our counselors are available at our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide options.

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