Even with the coronavirus restrictions, rehab tourism industry continues to grow at a remarkable pace. These days, a lot of substance rehab and treatment facilities are advertising their services to people outside the areas where they are based. In the US, many of these facilities are based in states like Arizona, Hawaii, and Florida, competing directly with overseas facilities in Thailand, Israel, and Mexico.
Even places not usually thought of as rehab tourism destinations are starting to see a growing number of non-local patients. According to Dallas Drug Treatment Centers, a Texas rehab directory, a growing number of people from out of state are inquiring about inpatient drug rehabs in Dallas, TX.
The idea of a more interconnected global addiction treatment model is starting to gain more importance, especially in light of the current opioid crisis and the rise in substance use disorders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When travel starts to normalize, the industry is predicted to have a major boom.
Below are some of the reasons why leaving your hometown for drug rehab can make sense.
1.) Traveling can help with trigger avoidance
The main selling point of most of these programs and facilities is that traveling away from one’s hometown for treatment can do a lot to help recovering individuals avoid distractions, including triggers.
Triggers are experiences, places, people, objects, and other things that elicit an emotional response. In the context of substance use disorders, triggers can directly cause cravings for drugs or alcohol or induce emotional responses (such as depression or anxiety) that make a person more vulnerable to substance misuse.
Theoretically, location is more or less irrelevant if one chooses an inpatient or residential program as opposed to an outpatient program. However, not all inpatient facilities will hold a non-compliant patient. If a recovering individual leaves a local facility, they will be able to find their substance of choice almost immediately.
This is not usually the case if they are in a facility in an unfamiliar area. This additional barrier may help the patient stay focused on their recovery, rather than on the fix they know they can get right outside the rehab’s walls.
2.) A better climate may help mental health
Earlier, we mentioned a number of popular rehab tourism locations. One thing most of these places have in common is that they are all relatively warm throughout the year.
There is a known link between living in cold weather climates and the relative rates of substance misuse. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is directly influenced by gloomy climates that often leave people vulnerable to drug and alcohol use.
In cases where SAD may be a factor, traveling to a warmer climate for treatment can give the patient a better baseline from which to recover, compared to if they chose a facility in their hometown.
However, it should be noted that the benefits of a warm climate only go to a certain point. Extremely hot weather can also bring stress and depression. If a recovering individual lives in an area with an extremely hot climate, then being treated somewhere cooler but not exceptionally cold may also positively affect their recovery.
3.) It allows access to the best facilities
If you live in a small town or a state with a small population, odds are slim that it hosts rehab facilities that can deliver all the services everyone can possibly need. If we get into facilities that offer a luxury experience or more specialized care, then the odds get even lower.
Substance use disorder is an incredibly challenging illness to treat, requiring much more personalization than most other conditions. The incidences of psychiatric and physical co-morbidities are also high among people with substance use disorder. This often means that many local facilities are unable to provide anything beyond the most basic type of care for people with drug and alcohol problems.
Traveling for treatment lets the patient and their family cast their nets wider, allowing them to find the best facilities for the specific case, rather than just making do with what local facilities have to offer.
4.) Traveling can help the brain’s healing process
Recent studies have emerged that suggest traveling and other novel experiences can give brain growth a boost. This has been associated with newer, stronger connections in the brain as well as feelings of well-being.
Given that mental health conditions like trauma, depression, and substance use disorder are associated with defective connections in the brain, travel and new experiences may aid people with these conditions achieve recovery much faster than they would in their hometown.
While it may not be for everyone, traveling for rehab is certainly something to consider. It’s not just for people who want a luxury rehab experience either. Not only could it effectively remove vulnerable individuals from their emotional triggers, but the very act of leaving their home environment may also benefit their long-term healing as well.
If you or a loved one are considering entering an out-of-state or overseas rehab program, please consult with a qualified mental health professional. Good luck, and be well!