In late October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public emergency, shining light on the need for substance abuse treatment options. The business community isn't immune to that need, with an estimated 10 to 12 percent of employees using alcohol or illegal drugs while at work--and that figure doesn't even include abuse of prescribed opiates.

The best and brightest at risk

Dan Manson, CEO of Elevate Addiction Services (EAS) in northern California, says Silicon Valley is suffering just like the rest of the nation.

"[In] Silicon Valley, you have some of the smartest people in the entire world. [...] What I do see is burnout. Often, young people work extremely hard at their jobs and then want to go blow off steam. Alcohol is obviously an issue, but many turn to meth to stay awake and try to put in extra hours well into [the night]. In this area, there is a trend in "micro-dosing" [...]. Some people believed [taking LSD or mushrooms in small amounts] was enhancing their creativity or improving cognitive function."

Changing the way we help

Manson recognized that, to help these workers and other substance abusers, addiction recovery treatment itself needed some innovation. First, while Manson knows medications can be critical to safe detox, he insists that it's not a substitute for therapy.

"A pill will never replace someone delving into themselves and working on their issues," Manson says. "Unfortunately, many rehabs in the U.S. believe that putting someone in a sober house and giving them methadone or Suboxone is 'treatment'--I disagree with that. [...] Yes, the patient may experience thoughts, emotions and feelings that were being suppressed by the drugs [after detox], but that's what is supposed to happen. Now that their personality is coming out, we can help them address their issues with a clearer head."

A SMART-er approach

Second, instead of relying on a 12-step approach, EAS operates under Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) programs instead. SMART is evidence-based and uses elements of motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy.

"The main difference we see is that the 12-step program can be seen as very rigid in nature, whereas SMART recovery believes that each person finds their own path to recovery. This means they are not forced to believe principles like 'once an addict, always an addict' or that they are powerless to a disease called addiction."

Generational Impact

Manson speculates that younger people respond well to the SMART-based curriculum versus the traditional 12-step method because millennials and Gen Zers believe they are in control of their own destiny and like the idea of having the power to make their own decisions.

Manson combines the SMART approach with other unique strategies, such as daily meditation sessions of up to 20 minutes, routine exercise like swimming, Yoga or Crossfit, and experiential therapy like adventure or art/music therapy. Clients use workbooks to learn about their behaviors, but they also work together in groups to solve addiction problems as a team.

These techniques give individuals the time they need to reflect and explore with solid support, and as they feel better physically and mentally, confidence and self-esteem go up. The staff at the center, Manson says, constantly evolve the curriculum, and Manson sees the positive culture as setting the center apart from traditional programs. Treating clients with dignity and respect when they are at their most frail, just treating them like people, makes a huge difference.

It's never too late

Manson asserts the majority of graduates are doing very well in their sobriety up to a year down the road.

"I know I can't save everyone," Manson concludes. "[...] But I do know that an addict can turn their life around and that there is hope."

Taking action is what is most important.