What does it mean to eat your own dog food? And, what does eating dog food have to do with drug and alcohol rehab? If you have ever owned a dog, you may have bought dog food based on nutrition or price, yet it probably never occurred to you to taste the food yourself. Why should your beloved dog eat food that you would not put in your own mouth? If it is not good enough for you, why should it be good enough to give to your dog?
Eating your own dog food is a concept that is well known in the tech industry. To software engineers at major tech companies, it means to be willing to use your own software so you can find out for yourself it is good or bad. That way, you know what to do to improve it. If your product is not good enough for you, why would it be good enough for your customers?
What does this have to do with rehab for drug and alcohol addiction? Most rehab facilities in the US are abstinence-based and follow the AA 12-step model. There are facilitated group meetings and an introduction to the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Medication-assisted treatment for addiction or alcoholism is often frowned upon, even when it involves a non-controlled medication, such as naltrexone. Unfortunately, this abstinence-based treatment model has a poor success rate. Patients often relapse and return to go through the rehab process all over again.
Would the owner or manager of a rehab follow their own program if they needed to get clean from drugs or alcohol themselves? What if the owner of a residential rehab program relapsed on heroin? Would he take a chance on his own abstinence-based rehab program or would he consider Suboxone treatment for himself? Suboxone has a 50% success rate in treating opioid addiction, while abstinence-based rehab has around a 5-10% success rate.
The fact is that many rehab owners turn to Suboxone for themselves or for their loved-ones when success is critical. Why then would they not also want the best for their clients? Why are they not willing to eat the dog food that they so willingly dish out to the public at exorbitant costs?
You can see why a dog food analogy is so useful. It helps to see yourself sitting at the dining room table, eating delicious food, while your dog is on the floor reluctantly crunching on some tasteless, bulk-discount dog food. If we think it is so good for them, why are we not down on the ground, eating it too?
The fact is that we want the best for ourselves and our loved ones. Having empathy means that we see other people as we see ourselves. If we have empathy for our patients, we will understand that they are suffering and they need the best help available. We should want them to have the level of care that we would expect for ourselves. When it comes to opioid addiction treatment, medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard with the highest success rate. Success should be our goal, not only for ourselves but for our patients as well.