Origins of Addiction Treatment

addiction treatment originsAddiction treatment is something that has been around for quite some time. We depend on addiction treatment to help those who are struggling with addiction and substance abuse get back to sobriety, but few of us know when, why and how addiction treatment began.

Addiction treatment in North America emerged in its earliest forms between the the year 1750 and 1800 to address the problem of alcoholism. Some of the earliest efforts were focused on Native American communities, both from within the communities and from outside of them. This is also the time in history when the first academic literature began to appear on alcoholism and, interestingly, even that long ago there were medical professionals who classified addiction as more of a disease than a character flaw.

In the early 1800s, the first signs of mutual aid societies and recovery establishments were created. Still focused on alcoholism, the first ever mutual aid society was called The Washington Society and held more than half a million members. Recovery establishments were called “inebriate homes” and emerged slowly at first.

In the latter part of the 1800s, inebriate asylums began to open in order to contain problem drinkers. However, they also became the first institutions to treat addictions to other substances, such as cocaine and opiates. Around the same time, Christian based inebriate mutual aid society homes and missions flourished and became gender specific.

But it was not until 1879 that the first private, for-profit institution for addiction treatment opened. This began a trend that gradually shut down inebriate hospitals, asylums and homes, forcing alcoholics into police custody if they could not afford private treatment. Privatization is still presently the current status of most forms of addiction treatment in North America. There is government funding for some forms of addiction treatment, but it is seldom enough to provide effective addiction treatment to people. Typically, government funded rehabs are over-crowded, understaffed and inattentive to the needs of its clients. The best form of addiction treatment available in North America is private addiction treatment.

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