Your environment includes many influences that can affect the likelihood of developing an addiction or relapsing once you’re in recovery, and it’s an important factor in successful recovery from addiction. Environment refers to the conditions and circumstances that surround you at any given time. From the treatment environment to your family, home, work and social environments, long-term recovery depends on making these environments as healthy as possible.

How Environment Plays a Role in Developing an Addiction

Your environment accounts for about half of your risk for developing an addiction, with genetic factors accounting for the remaining 50 percent. Common environmental risks for addiction include:

  • An unstable living environment
  • Family dysfunction
  • A history of trauma
  • Peer pressure
  • Stress and pressure at work or school
  • An unsafe community

The same environmental factors that can lead to addiction also pose a major risk for relapse. A major focus of addiction treatment is addressing your various environments and making crucial changes that promote a life in recovery.

The Treatment Environment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that willpower and good intentions alone are rarely enough to end an addiction.1 That’s because addiction is a complex disease with a number of underlying causes that must be addressed in order to enjoy successful recovery. A high-quality treatment program is essential for overcoming an addiction, and the right treatment environment is paramount to success.

Treatment Settings

Perhaps the most important environmental consideration in treatment is the setting. Addiction treatment takes place in inpatient and outpatient settings. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it’s important to match an individual to the appropriate treatment setting, which will be the least restrictive environment that’s the safest and most effective for that individual.2 From the initial setting, individuals will move along a continuum of care that steps down as they demonstrate growth in recovery and no longer need the structure and services offered.

The continuum of treatment settings, from most to least restrictive includes residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment and outpatient treatment.

Residential treatment involves living at a treatment facility that provides around-the-clock support. Supervision is essential for people who lack the intrinsic motivation needed to recover, have a long history of substance abuse and addiction or have insufficient support at home and in the community. Residential programs range from intense and highly supervised long-term programs to less-intense and less-supervised sober living centers.

Intensive outpatient treatment allows participants to live at home while receiving treatment, which involves at least nine hours of therapy and other programming each week. This means they can continue working, attending school or taking care of the family. Treatment takes place for three to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week.

Outpatient treatment is less intense than intensive outpatient treatment, requiring less than nine hours a week of participation. Services include individual, group and family counseling sessions once or twice a week. Intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment programs work best for people who…

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The Importance of Environment in Addiction Treatment and Recovery