Rehabilitation from Substance Abuse

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Rehabilitation from Substance Abuse

28 April, 2021Articles, News

Although substance abuse has been a part of human history for the longest time, effective methods of how to treat it have varied over the ages (Miller, 2014). Methods of treating substance abuse have not always been as humane as they are today (Townsend et al, 2016). As such this article discusses the link between rehabilitation from substance abuse and how it reflects a restoration to humanity using sociology as a reference point (Miller, 2014).

Society has many institutions of socialization, thus, when individuals fail to conform to one, they may land up in a less favourable institution (Moleko and Visser, 2012). Prisons and lock-up facilities were the places where substance abusers were sent when their behaviour was considered “out of hand” (Moleko & Visser, 2012). This was the case as there were few options at the time that were available for individuals to understand as well as address their problem of substance abuse (Miller, 2014).

In the early nineteenth century, psychology became recognised as a formal field of study and new insights emerged to explain why human beings behaved the way they did (Townsend et al, 2016). Although there have been previous methods to do so in the past, psychology represented the refinement of knowledge and techniques as well as methodologies to better understand mental illnesses (Townsend et al, 2016). Even so, the methods that were employed when dealing with mental illnesses were in a lot of cases inhumane in nature and focused more on eliminating the problem as opposed to developing an understanding of it (Miller, 2014).

Mental illness often carries a stigma. This stigma sometimes handicaps mental health care professionals especially when attempting to reform deviant behaviour associated with mental illness and as such it became more favourable for these professionals to conform to the social norm of stigma towards mental illnesses (Miller, 2014).

Substance abusers were perhaps the least understood- the methods of dealing with them were more directed at punishment than they were towards healing (Miller, 2014). In the mid 1930’s a revolutionary movement started up in Akron Ohio, in the USA. This method heralded an effective and humane approach to treating alcoholism as well as other forms of substance abuse (Miller, 2014). Although its origin was questionable amongst health care professionals, its effectiveness was not (Miller, 2014). This was when 12-step based substance abuse treatment programmes started up and soon afterwards became recognised as official methods of treating substance abuse by the American Psychological Association (Miller, 2014). This holistic programme restored individuals to humanity from the inside out, spiritually, mentally, and eventually their physical well-being as well (Miller, 2014).

A 12-step society sprung up before it was recognised as a formal basis for rehabilitation from substance abuse (Miller, 2014). With this the social aspect of the movement grew and the stigma towards those suffering from substance abuse began to dissipate (Miller, 2014). Some stigma still exists today, however many countries have begun to include such 12-step treatment models in their scopes for addressing substance abuse and as such there is a growth in the humane treatment of those afflicted by substance abuse and mental health disorders in general (Miller, 2014).

The 12-step programme is known not only for its effectiveness with substance abuse. It can be applied to various contexts, with only its initial step needing to be tailored to the specific obsessive-compulsive manifestation of the addiction it addresses (Miller, 2014). This wide range of application has made this form of rehabilitation increasingly popular amongst professionals as well as the layman (Miller, 2014). Its ability to be applied to such a wide variety of situations demonstrates that this method introduces healing and effective coping strategies into multiple areas of an individual’s life (Miller, 2014). Restoring each one to a state of wholeness that has not been known before (Miller, 2014).

Even so the rehabilitation process is done to help establish an individual within the community together with the resources associated with their recovery (Miller, 2014). In many ways rehabilitation is perceived as an event and the process of establishing a new lifestyle to match the changes in attitude is often neglected (Miller, 2014). Rehabilitation is both the end of something and the beginning of another – one of the major difficulties is that individuals going through this process are not able to distinguish between the two (Miller, 2014).

There is a sense of loss and bereavement associated with rehabilitation from substance abuse. Individuals are often not ready to part with their former lifestyles without the necessary social support (Miller, 2014). An individual’s capacity to be rehabilitated hinges on their willingness to accept change and as a result many experts are dubious of an individual’s capacity to recover unless that person is in a state of desperation (Miller, 2014). This state of cognitive dissonance renders individuals most susceptible to the change that the 12-step approach to substance abuse treatment entails (Baron and Branscombe, 2017), and places greater emphasis on the sociological element of rehabilitation (Baron & Branscombe, 2017).


In closing, rehabilitation from substance abuse is not just a therapeutic method but also a social movement. The only way to restore an individual is to employ a method that helps them solidify their recovery by ensuring that their behaviour contributes to the healing of others.

If you or a loved one needs rehabilitation from substance abuse – know that help is readily available. The road to recovery is not always an easy one but getting yourself or your loved one the best possible care from the team at Crossroads Recovery Centre, provides you with a map to sober, healthy living. No matter how bad things seem, there is hope and it’s only a phone call away. If you or anyone close to you needs help with an addiction to sex, gambling, substances, alcohol or food, please contact us for a free assessment.


Baron, R., & Branscombe, N. (2017). Social psychology (14th ed.). UK: Pearson Education.

Miller, G. A. (2014). Learning the language of addiction counseling (4th ed.). Wiley

Moleko, A., & Visser, M. (2012). Community psychology in South Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers.

Townsend, L., O’Neill, V., Swarts, L., De la Rey, C., & Duncan, N. (2016). Psychology: An introduction. South Africa. Oxford University Press.

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