Design Recovery offers medication monitoring resources to all residents. We understand that during the early days of recovery, much of life is often in disarray. Residents can find it overwhelming dealing with financial wreckage, legal consequences, messy family dynamics, getting employment, or even knowing what time it is. Monitoring ones intake of medicine can be a complicated business. However, taking care of ones mental and physical health during sobriety is of paramount importance.
We are not doctors or medical professionals, but we understand that our residents often arrive with a range of both physical and mental health disorders aside from addiction that require care and treatment. While certain medications used to treat mental health disorders are psychoactive, and some even have the potential for recreational abuse, we understand that treating these conditions often requires drugs of this kind. Being experienced in addiction recovery, we consider ourselves close allies with medical professionals who work to treat these other conditions.
Dual Diagnosis Residents
Individuals who suffer from a substance use disorder and other comorbid mental health disorders are referred to as “dual diagnosis.” Many people develop mental health disorders as a direct result of their habitual substance abuse. In fact, studies show that individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol have far higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. However, the reverse is also often true. Many individuals turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of escaping from the painful symptoms of mental health conditions. The result is a vicious cycle, wherein a person suffering from symptoms of mental illness engages in substance abuse for temporary relief, only to exacerbate their conditions over the long term and fortify patterns of addiction.
For dual diagnosis residents, getting sober can be somewhat more complicated. As such, it requires a higher degree of care. Merely receiving addiction treatment is rarely sufficient for someone also suffering from mental illness. No matter the quality of addiction care a person receives, if their mental health disorders remain untreated they will continue to be at a high risk for relapse. The reverse is also true. Treatment programs for mental health are unlikely to be effective if an individual continues to engage in destructive substance abuse, which inevitably worsens mental health conditions over time. It is crucial for dual diagnosis patients to receive treatment concurrently for all comorbid conditions. Because of this we work with outside outpatient programs to help assist with these residents.
Design for Recovery works with each of our residents to help ensure that all of their individual needs are met. Initial life skill questions are used to determine the best supportive recovery services for each resident. While resources within the sober living home are generally sufficient for most residents, it is sometimes necessary to coordinate with outside professionals, including doctors and psychiatrists. If pharmacological or other forms of treatment is necessary, Design for Recovery works with other facilities to help ensure that residents’ needs are met and supported.
The Need for Medication Monitoring
Medication monitoring is an important part of the recovery services offered at Design for Recovery. Young men getting sober for the first time often struggle to take care of themselves. In fact, The average adult forgets four fairly trivial things a day, according to a 2012 study conducted by The 3M Company. That means, some time in the last year, you misplaced your wallet, left the house without your phone, or forgot where you parked your car 1,460 times. For young men suffering from substance use disorders and dealing with the challenges of early sobriety, this number is likely far higher. Expecting people new to recovery to monitor their own intake of medicine can be a disaster waiting to happen.
Our short-term memory is fragile. Recent experiments suggest it can hold only about four pieces of information at any given time. With our fast-paced lifestyles and over-reliance on technology, it appears unlikely that these numbers will improve any time soon.
It is no wonder so many people forget to take medications when they rely so heavily on a flawed memory. In fact, it is estimated that up to 75 percent of people worldwide do not take their medications properly. For young men suffering from substance use disorders and dealing with the challenges of early sobriety, this number is likely far higher.
When individuals fail to take their medicine properly, either through deliberate misconduct or forgetfulness, it is known as medication non-adherence—that is, failing to take the right amount of medication at the right time, in the right way and frequency—and it is a major healthcare problem today, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Medication non-adherence raises several potential health concerns. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Not taking your medicine as prescribed by a doctor or instructed by a pharmacist could lead to your disease getting worse, hospitalization, even death.”
Part of the reason for the prevalence of non-adherence is the complicated dosage of certain medications. Mood stabilizing medications (such as Divalproex or Lamotrigine) and antipsychotics (such as Abilify or Latuda) often require a strictly regimented dosing schedule, sometimes taken three to four times a day.
Sudden changes in a dose for treatment of bipolar disorder, for example, greatly increases the risk for a manic or depressive episode.
“I had a very busy schedule and dealt with a lot of anxiety,” one resident who wished to remain anonymous said. “Sometimes I would forget to take my morning meds, which led to a manic episode, right about the time I was supposed to take my afternoon meds. It was just a lot and very confusing at times.”
Other factors also contribute to medication non-adherence. These include prematurely discontinuing a medication, double-dosing a medication to make up for a missed dose, or inability to refill a medication.
Abuse of anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepine (such as Valium) or opiate-withdrawal medications (such as Suboxone, a mixture of naloxone and buprenorphine) is particularly common. Benzodiazepines account for more than 8,000 deaths in the United States every year, and the number of buprenorphine-related ER visits quintupled between 2006 and 2011. Individuals who are in the initial stages of addiction treatment are at particular risk of abusing these substances. Doing so can trigger a full-fledged relapse. However, for individuals suffering from these mental health disorders, these medicines are often essential.
What is Medication Monitoring
Needless to say, Design for Recovery recognizes the need for proper medication monitoring. With a dedicated staff on call 24 hours a day, every medication is diligently monitored, counted, and tracked in a well-organized filing system.
Staff members also remind each client when they are suppose to take their medications. Design for Recovery requires each client to initial on an Excel sheet—containing the names of every client and their respective medications—after a medication is taken. This ensures that every medication is taken at the proper time and at the correct dosage.
Design for Recovery also handles medication refills and billing issues. Additionally, every new prescription Is delivered personally by a staff member to a nearby pharmacy.
Long Term Sobriety and Mental Health
During the course of an individual’s addiction recovery, their pharmacological needs, often change. We coordinate with outside professionals to oversee that. Young men often make amazing progress during the first few months in addiction recovery; during newfound sobriety, many find that their symptoms of depression and anxiety lessen considerably.
It is also a fact that many young men arrive at Design for Recovery believing that their only problem is addiction, despite suffering from undiagnosed mental health disorders. After spending years abusing drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication for these undiagnosed conditions, getting sober and facing the reality of mental illness for the first time can be both painful and revelatory. While facing the world with no filter, sometimes people find that their underlying mental health conditions are far more evident. This experience, while challenging, is in some ways the greatest gift that sobriety offers. It is a chance to finally receive help and get relief from conditions that have likely inflicted suffering for many years.
At Design for Recovery, medication monitoring isn’t just a matter of helping residents handle their prescriptions, it’s about improving their circumstances so they can stay sober for the long haul. Beyond that, it’s about relieving suffering so that freedom from all conditions — from addiction to mental health disorders — can be achieved.