What Will Drug Rehab Be Like in 100 Years?

Drug Rehab: Predicting the Future

image of back to future car to symbolize prediction of the future of rehab by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

I’m told people want to know what drug rehab will be like in 100 years.  So, this week let’s put on our Doc Brown suit, make sure Einstein has a doggy sitter, secure dangerous amounts of plutonium, and fire up our flux capacitor so we can send our favorite McFly back to the future of rehab.

As we travel into the hypothetical it would be folly to ignore the major mistakes that other artists seem to inevitably make when they conduct their best Nostradamus impersonations.  In the 1980’s a handful of popular films depicted what our present day would be like (e.g. Back to the Future, Terminator, Blade Runner).  The films from the 1980’s that predicted the future that is today all grossly overshot the technological advances of major industries like transportation and artificial intelligence, while also completely missing some major advances in communication – we are not commuting in flying cars but pay phone booths are all but dead.

While some may hope that society will have advanced to the point of legalizing, taxing, and regulating all substances within 100 years, and that treatment would be focused on more than today’s tyranny of abstinence, such drastic changes may be progressive pipe dreams.  In the 100 years since AA’s inception, AA itself is pretty much unchanged and maintains a dominant market share in the recovery world.  Drug rehab, itself a vague term, probably won’t look as different in structure 100 years from now as some may hope.  However, technological gadgetry could very well make the tools that characterize today’s drug rehab (paper big books, urine tests, dry erase boards) look like a telegraph machine does to a digital native who grew up with an iphone in her pocket.

Virtual reality with exposure therapy to cope with craving could be a must for any reputable rehab.  VR may even eliminate the need for physical locations of rehabs.  People will probably still be sitting around in circles sharing common experiences, but they may be doing it from the privacy of their own homes with the VR technology of the time.  Rather than going away for 30 days, people may stay at home for 30 days and enter into a virtual rehab, interact with peers, meet physicians, get prescriptions, go to VR groups, have VR individual therapy sessions, and have meals prepared for them at their homes.  100 years from now therapy may even be facilitated by computer code rather than a human.  Facebook already has a digital therapist called ‘Woebot,’ and while the therapeutic skills and technique of FB’s therapy coding are rather dismal, this probably won’t be the case in 100 years.

Drug testing in rehab will likely be continuous and ongoing.  Rather than the cumbersome process of collecting cups of urine, the technology currently utilized in Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) anklets will likely be the standard of care.  Although, the technology of 100 years from now would likely eliminate the need for a large ankle bracelet and could easily be achieved with a microscopic implant.  Privacy concerns may have to change to allow for implanted abstinence monitoring.

The medication one is prescribed in rehab 100 years from now will probably be quite different.  Some argue that psychedelics are the future of psychiatry, so the use of compounds like LSD, psilocybin, ibogaine, DMT, ketamine, cannabis, and ayahuasca may be commonplace.  The inclusion of medications that may be more effective and require infrequent administration could help break the cycle of taking something everyday to feel better.

Perhaps the safest bet about what drug rehab will look like in 100 years is betting that the industry will still be profit-driven.  However, the advent of new technology and the potential for more effective medications could result in more effective treatment even if the shady practices of today’s drug rehab persist.  While we at Practical Recovery hope for major changes in the rehab industry, to be consistent with what we advocate we would happily settle for progress not perfection.

Practical Recovery offers leading-edge addiction treatment in today’s drug and alcohol rehab industry. If you or a loved one are in need of treatment, give us a call. We can help.