The History of Addiction Treatment

The History of Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment has come a long way from earlier times when addicts were locked in asylums. Today the medical community regards addiction as a disease that requires treatment.

Additionally, treatment for addiction is more effective and more readily available today than at any time in the past, meaning that addicts have a greater chance of recovery than ever before.

The Evolution of Modern Addiction Treatment

Addiction was recognized as a disease in 1784, when Dr. Benjamin Rush argued the case for alcoholism. Dr. Rush also originated the concept of inpatient treatment when in 1810 he proposed establishing sober houses for alcoholics. Inpatient treatment began officially in 1844 with the opening of Lodging Homes, known colloquially as inebriate homes.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people mainly abused opiates, morphine and later heroin. Cocaine abuse also became a problem in this era. The US government eventually banned both opiates and cocaine in 1914 with the Harrison Act, the first federal anti-drug legislation in US history.

Afterwards, the large number of opium addicts in federal prison prompted the government to begin treating them. Consequently, the government opened Public Health Services Hospitals in Lexington, Kentucky in 1935 and Fort Worth, Texas in 1938. The first systematic data regarding the treatment of addicts emerged from these hospitals, contributing significantly to the understanding of addiction as a disease.

On top of the development of addiction hospitals, 1935 also showed the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The 12-step blueprint for recovery pioneered by AA has served as the model for a host of support groups that help people recover from almost any addiction, from substance abuse to gambling.

Recognizing alcoholism as a disease became official in 1956, when the American Medical Association (AMA) classified it as such. Physicians gradually accepted this classification and treated alcoholism accordingly.

The 1960s saw the advent of treatment communities, where a group of recovering addicts would live together along with the staff members of the facility, who were usually recovering addicts themselves. The community would serve as a support system for the addicts, helping them focus on recovery and maintain sobriety.

In the 1980s celebrity rehab became common with the opening of the Betty Ford Center and other facilities that catered to an exclusive clientele. News reports of celebrity addictions, treatment and relapse have increased public awareness of the problem with addiction, but many treatment professionals contend that the coverage emphasizes the sensational aspects of addiction and treatment and has damaged the reputation of rehab services in general.

Addiction Treatment Today

Recently addiction treatment has become much more popular. Many people have experienced addiction either first or second-hand through a friend or family member. Most people now recognize that addiction is a disease that requires treatment. Even government policies have become more enlightened, evidenced by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which prohibits employers for terminating employees for taking time off to attend rehab.