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How Successful Is Rehab (Truly) For Drug Abuse In 2019?

Almost every single person in active addiction will tell you that they don’t need treatment, drug rehab doesn’t work, and they can just handle the problem on their own.

But can they?

The experts say “no.” All research studies on the subject support the fact that investing time and energy into an effective drug rehab program is the best possible way to find freedom from addiction and a new life without substance abuse of any kind.

Additionally, both the science and the epidemiological evidence shows that addiction is a neurological and physiological disease. It is impossible for someone living with the disorder to simply stop using drugs without medical and psychological intervention.

It does not happen overnight. It does not happen without a great deal of work. And in many cases, it does not happen at the first drug rehab program you choose.

Here’s how successful drug rehab truly is, plus some recommendations for getting the most out of an addiction treatment program.

WHAT ARE THE SUCCESS RATES FOR DRUG ADDICTION TREATMENT?

The truth is that it is difficult to impossible to make a blanket statement about the success rates of drug rehab, lumping together the varying rates from a range of treatment programs across the country to get a single number. No simple percentage is accurate when answering this question, but there are ways to determine what will have the highest likelihood of being successful in your situation.

Here’s what we do know:

Personalized care

Access to several different types of traditional, experiential, and holistic therapies

Care provided by experts with experience and education in their field of focus

Continued support when treatment ends

For each person, the chance of success in drug rehab increases when the individual invests as much time as needed in a drug rehab program that offers:

  • Personalized care
  • Access to several different types of traditional, experiential, and holistic therapies
  • Care provided by experts with experience and education in their field of focus
  • Continued support when treatment ends

IS IT WORTH IT TO SEND A LOVED ONE TO REHAB IF THEY DON’T WANT TO GO?

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Absolutely. In fact, many people who enter a drug addiction treatment program do not want to be there, either because they do not believe they need help or they cannot imagine a life that does not include drug and alcohol use.

Additionally, drug courts routinely send people to drug addiction treatment as part of their sentence. This group is not seeking help of their own accord, and they find a great deal of success. The National Institute of Justice reports that those who go through treatment via drug courts have a decreased chance of being rearrested following treatment compared to offenders who are imprisoned for a time and then released following arrest and sentencing.

DOES RELAPSE MEAN DRUG REHAB DIDN’T WORK?

No. Addiction is a chronic disease, which means it is not uncommon for people in treatment and recovery to revert to drug and alcohol use briefly.

Relapse is not a necessary part of treatment, but it is widely common, just as it is common among people living with other chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, or hypertension. Rates of relapse or remission among all these disorders look like those found in people in recovery from addiction. Before treatment, rates are high; during active treatment, they drop significantly or disappear; and after treatment, rates tend to go up and down.

Relapse does not mean the addiction treatment program didn’t work, but it does mean it is time to check back in. Reassess what is working and what isn’t, and reconnect with intensive treatment to get back on track.

WHY IS IT OFTEN NECESSARY TO GO TO TREATMENT MULTIPLE TIMES?

In the simplest terms, use of drugs and alcohol is an ingrained habit. Addiction is defined by compulsive use of drugs and alcohol in response to different stressors and a feeling of psychological, if not physical, discomfort if that use is avoided.

Building new habits starts with a strong foundation, and that is what drug rehab programs seek to provide. With constant support and regular engagement with sober living principles, it can be relatively easy to stay sober, but when transitioning to “real life” where stressors of work, home, and health take a front seat, it is not always easy to stay focused on recovery and the tools that work.

Multiple treatment attempts may be needed, depending on the individual, because it takes time to:

  1. Identify triggers for drinking and drug use that cause compulsions
  2. Find ways of eliminating or reducing those triggers
  3. Connect with new, effective ways of handling stressors that are unavoidable
  4. Make those new habits a regular, automatic process

Some people find long-term success with their first rehab stay. Others go through rehab multiple times before finding sustained footing in sobriety.

HOW MANY TIMES DOES IT TAKE FOR DRUG REHAB TO BE EFFECTIVE?

The number of times in drug rehab or the overall amount of time spent actively seeking intensive drug addiction treatment depends on several factors. Because each person and their experience before, during, and after drug addiction is different, it is important to take into consideration the following factors:

  • Home life during treatment if choosing an outpatient program
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders or chronic health issues
  • Home life after treatment if inpatient drug rehab is initially chosen
  • The amount of time it takes to develop a new social identity that does not include drugs or alcohol or a lifestyle that is based on getting and staying high

Just like everything related to addiction and recovery, the answer to this question will be unique to each individual.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO INCREASE THE EFFICACY OF DRUG REHAB?

Yes. There are things families and individuals can do to increase the likelihood that treatment will result in sustained recovery from addiction.

Explore

There are different options in treatment. Don’t just choose the one that is closest or least expensive unless it provides the treatment options needed for recovery.

Be patient 

Be patient with the treatment process and stay in the program for the recommended length of time. Even if it is difficult or does not seem to be working, time and persistence will help to improve the outcome.

Be present 

Be active in treatment therapies. Simply sitting in a room with a substance abuse treatment professional is not enough to create change. Though guidance is provided, it is important for the individual to do the work, apply the treatment, do any assigned homework, speak up, and take part in therapies as much as possible.

Prioritize self-care

Without good sleep, healthy food, lots of water, and a regular exercise routine, it is difficult to feel good physically or mentally. There is a lot of free time in recovery and during treatment without the constant escape of drug use and abuse. Begin to find positive habits that will improve overall wellness during treatment and beyond.

IS THE FINANCIAL INVESTMENT WORTH IT?

Yes. For families or individuals in financial crisis due to a long struggle with addiction, the amount of money required to go to drug rehab can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, especially if health insurance is of little help. The fact is, however, that it is an investment that can pay off in spades.

Even governmental agencies notoriously slow in making budgetary changes have realized that putting money into drug addiction treatment saves money. For individuals and their families, the financial savings can be considerable. When treatment is effective, it means:

  • No more money wasted on drugs and alcohol
  • Less cost associated with emergency medical treatment or exacerbated medical issues caused by lack of care or ongoing drug use
  • Increased likelihood that the individual will be able to get and maintain employment, contributing to family finances
  • Better ability to manage money that comes in due to increased clarity in sobriety

HOW CAN FAMILY MEMBERS HELP LOVED ONES GET THE MOST OUT OF DRUG ADDICTION TREATMENT?

If a loved one is wrestling with an ongoing problem with drugs and alcohol, family members can help by connecting them with a treatment program that works and supporting them throughout the process. Concerned loved ones may be better able than the person directly in crisis to get a good feel for a potential addiction treatment program, finding one that is staffed with empathetic professionals who genuinely care.

Are you ready to reach out for the help your loved one needs to heal from addiction?

Sources

(February 2014) Addiction Is a Disease and Needs to Be Treated as Such. The New York Times. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/02/10/what-is-addiction/addiction-is-a-disease-and-needs-to-be-treated-as-such

(September 2015) Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-MHDetTabs2014/NSDUH-MHDetTabs2014.pdf

(December 2014) Working with Involuntary Clients: A Guide to Practice. Chris Trotter. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781134736355

(May 2018) Do Drug Courts Work? Findings from Drug Court Research. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://nij.gov/topics/courts/drug-courts/Pages/work.aspx

(January 2018) Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide How Effective Is Drug Addiction Treatment? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment

(January 2016) Drug Addiction: Updating Actions to Habits to Compulsions Ten Years On. Annual Review of Psychology. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033457

(August 2015) Overcoming alcohol and other drug addiction as a process of social identity transition: the social identity model of recovery (SIMOR). Addiction Research and Theory. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/16066359.2015.1075980

(January 2018) Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction

(January 2018) Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. Is drug addiction treatment worth its cost? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/drug-addiction-treatment-worth-its-cost

(July 2014) The forest and the trees: relational and specific factors in addiction treatment. Addiction. Retrieved January 2019 from from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/add.12693

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