More than a month after they survive detox, recovering cocaine addicts often fight an even fiercer urge to get high than on the first day they sought help.
The itch to blow the next paycheck on one last coke fling continues long after addicts give up the drug and vow to stay clean, said Arthur M.
Harris, the new executive director of Alcohol and Drug Recovery Ltd., a private outpatient program in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties.
"You need more intense treatment because the drug hunger lasts a lot longer," the 55-year-old addictions counselor said.
Harris pointed to the stronger lure of cocaine, which doesn't peak until 42 days after detoxification, as an argument for referring addicts to long-term outpatient treatment. Instead of simply checking into a 28-day residential program, drug and alcohol abusers should receive at least a year's worth of counseling, testing and support close to home, he said.
ADR intends to join the growing trend toward intensive, outpatient treatment this fall by opening a pilot 15-month program in one of its two Anne Arundel offices.
Targeted for either ADR's Glen Burnie or Annapolis office, the planned program would offer drug and alcohol abusers extended care for $3,000 to $4,000 -- less than half the cost of spending a month in private, residential programs that can cost from $8,000 to more than $15,000, Harris said. Outpatient treatment typically is cheaper than residential programs because the center doesn't have to provide food, housing and recreational activities.
Founded more than seven years ago in Lanham, Prince George's County, ADR now provides 12- to 26-week treatment programs to break chemical dependency. Most of the 200 patients who sign up for treatment each year in Lanham, Annapolis or Glen Burnie have been caught drinking and driving or possessing or selling drugs, Harris said. They usually seek help before their trial to convince the judge of their new lease on life, but sometimes wind up at ADR after being sentenced to community service and treatment.
The proposed ADR pilot won a nod of support from Beth Green, program coordinator for the county Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Long-term, outpatient treatment, especially for cocaine abusers, "is kind of a new approach that's gotten a lot of recognition recently," she said.
New research has shown that recovering addicts often leave inpatient programs with high hopes, but soon find the glitzy trappings of the drug culture hard to resist. Faced with mounting family problems or financial pressures, former cocaine, crack or heroin abusers easily can become seduced again by the temptation to escape into a quick high, she said.
"Part of the cycle of addiction is the urge to use," she said. "That part of it is real hard to treat. I think some people definitely need intensive, inpatient treatment, but 28 days is not a real long time."
Drug and alcohol abusers who enlist in ADR's pilot program would receive family and one-on-one counseling three to four times a week in the first three months. The treatment is scaled down in the following 12 months, but continues to provide support while the patient rebuilds a clean and sober life.
Although Harris expects the program will open in Anne Arundel County, the demand for the service could be greater in Prince George's County, leading ADR to launch the pilot there.
Harris is a strong believer in the outpatient model. As former director of Hope House, a non-profit residential program in Crownsville not affiliated with the state hospital, and then a for-profit residential program, Harris said he saw too many recovering addicts lapse back into old habits.
"There's a big gap in treatment right now," he said. "A lot of people are falling through the cracks because either they're waiting to get into one of the residential programs or they assume they've been cured when they leave. It's just not that simple."