Can I Have Conjugal Visits While In Drug Rehab?
Medically reviewed byIsaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC
March 11, 2019
Drug addiction often causes intimacy problems and decreased sex drive; the prospect of actual, physical separation for a month or longer may feel like an end to the relationship. This leads many to wonder about the option of conjugal visits during drug rehab. Although it is not universally true of every rehab center, most do not allow such visits. While this may seem harsh, it is important to understand the many reasons why.
Replacing One Addiction With Another
One of the foundational goals in recovery is to quite literally, change the way that someone’s body and brain experience pleasure in the world. In the individual suffering from drug addiction, the body and brain have become dependent on the rush of pleasure offered by an addictive substance. When that substance is taken away as it is in rehab, the brain desperately seeks out a replacement capable of exciting the same dopamine receptors, the main pleasure centers in the brain. It just so happens that sex is a prime candidate.
Of course, the dopamine rush triggered by sexual activity isn’t always a bad thing. For the individual in the early stages of recovery, however, the brain is in an extra vulnerable state, and could very well latch onto sexual pleasure in the same way it did to cocaine, heroin, or prescription opioids. The result is what addiction specialists call cross-addiction, where one addiction replaces another and prevents the brain from returning to its normal, pre-addiction state. The risk of cross-addiction is one of the main reasons why rehab centers do not allow conjugal visits.
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Reward Versus Recovery
It is true that many rehab centers make time for visits from family members and loved ones, including spouses or romantic partners. The functions these visits are designed to serve a very different purpose from those of the conjugal visit. Traditionally, conjugal visits were used as a reward system in prisons, where inmates who behaved well or were productive workers received a “Sunday visit” from their wives.
Drug rehab isn’t a prison. In recovery, visits from one’s spouse serve an important therapeutic purpose, not merely to reward good behavior. This means that, in contrast to the highly private nature of conjugal visits, there is always a necessary public aspect to visits in rehab, usually involving the presence or supervision of a therapist or treatment specialist. This is as much for the benefit of the loved one as it is for the individual in recovery. Having a life partner in rehab is uncharted territory for many, and learning how to play a supportive role in the process—what to do and what not to do—doesn’t simply come naturally. Rather, it involves using visits as opportunities to learn about the recovery process with your partner, from professionals on-site.
The Foundation For New Love
If you or a loved one is seeking rehab, don’t let the fear of a ruined relationship stop you. Recovery is the foundation for a new, healthy love, not a roadblock to it. Contact us today at RehabCenter.net to find the right program for you.