Despite being the most comprehensive and holistic option available for drug and alcohol abusers to recover from their addiction, rehab clinics frequently come under fire from groups questioning their efficacy.
It’s true — for a process intended to be the gold standard for addiction treatment, inpatient rehab programs don’t always exhibit the best results when you examine relapse rates, a measure that the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates at approximately a 40 to 60 percent chance after release from treatment.
In light of these statistics, is there reason to conclude that rehab doesn’t work? The answer is a resounding no. The lack of a concrete standard for rehab success combined with society’s unwillingness to treat rehab success rates like those of other diseases blur the fact that although rehab success rates are difficult to quantify, a well-run rehab facility where patients want to recover help is still effective in achieving success.
What Is Rehab?
First, what is rehab, exactly? If you Google this question, you’ll find that there is no standard definition in the U.S., which creates some inconsistencies in the field. Basically, most drug and alcohol rehab facilities consist of some combination of the following three treatment setups:
- Long-Term Rehabilitation: Long-term rehabilitation consists of a stay in a treatment facility where addicts undergo medical detox and have a controlled withdrawal, followed by therapy and counseling to try to discover a patient’s triggers and lower the chance of relapse in the future.
- Short-Term Rehabilitation: Typically less than a month in duration, short-term programs are usually residencies that use some variation of a twelve-step program in their treatment process.
- Outpatient Rehabilitation: Programs in which patients commute to therapy from their own home are termed “outpatient rehab”.
The key issue with rehab facilities is that there is no minimal definition for what kind of place can actually refer to itself as a rehab center. Many rehabs are inconsistent in their care, and don’t come close to competing with the industry leaders, skewing the overall perceived efficacy of the group as a whole. With that in mind, rehab centers involve a combination of most or some of these services:
- Faith-based Counseling
- Court Liaisons
- Chronic Pain Recovery
- Holistic Therapies
- 12-Step Programs
- Aftercare Programs
- Family Treatment
Why Are So-Called “Success Rates” Problematic?
Much of the confusion about whether or not rehab is effective comes from misinformation spread by the facilities themselves. Because there is no true standard of “success” when it comes to addiction rehabilitation, rehab facilities can tout practically any numbers they choose. For many, these are the numbers that make them look the best, like the number of patients who completed the program or sobriety rates immediately after the program’s completion. Clearly, many of these statistics are an unrealistic look at how many addicts actually recover effectively.
If we take a step back and look at rehab success rates the same way we look at success rates for the treatment of other common medical conditions, we can see the error in lending credence to arguments that tout anecdotal evidence and relapse rates as proof positive that traditional drug and alcohol rehab doesn’t work.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a 40 to 60 percent relapse rate, which seems high, out of context. When considered next to the relapse rates for treatment of less stigmatized diseases like Type 1 diabetes (20 to 50 percent), hypertension (50 to 70 percent) and asthma (50 to 70 percent), drug relapse rates seem pretty standard.
In reality, some relapse is inevitable with a percentage of patients recovering from any disease. In drug and alcohol rehab, however, there exists a major myth that shapes the belief that addiction rehab programs are somehow less effective than those for other chronic conditions — the myth that addiction is curable.
Addiction Cannot Be Cured
Like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, addiction is a lifelong, chronic condition, and belief to the contrary contributes greatly to society’s problematic views about addiction. Like these other conditions, addiction is treatable, but there are unique challenges to treating this disease in particular.
Treatment strategies for other diseases don’t have to consider the largest hurdle drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers must face: physical and emotional dependence on a substance. While people who are diabetic are proactive in treating their condition as it becomes a problem in their lives, people addicted to drugs and alcohol have an uncontrollable compulsion to keep using substances.
And then there’s withdrawal. The process of drug and alcohol detox starts with an experience so physically and emotionally traumatic that addicts often can’t even make it through on their own. It’s often easier to keep living with addiction than to seek help, which is why only 10% of the over 23.5 million estimated addicts in the U.S. do so for themselves.
When Rehab Doesn’t Work
Rehab tends to work when addicts are willing to work for it, although not how you might think. One study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, found that the comparison between one group of patients who were sentenced to legally mandated rehab and another group of patients who voluntarily entered treatment was surprisingly null. Addicts that enter rehab programs voluntarily are just as likely to be their own worst enemies as addicts who are forced to enter rehab and find the motivation to get clean while they are there.
In the forced rehab group, the addicts that didn’t see success from the experience reported in post-study surveys that they simply didn’t want to. In contrast, the unsuccessful cases from the voluntary rehab group didn’t finish the program because no one was making them.
Addicts Have to Want to Get Clean
Despite the lack of a standardized benchmark for rehab success, there is reason to believe that when no matter if addicts enter addiction rehab programs under their own volition or find the motivation to change by way of a court-ordered rehab stint, there is a common thread: if we look only at the addicts who exhibit that want to recover from short-term addiction, rehab efficacy is much higher.
When Rehab Does Work
Not all rehab facilities can offer the tools necessary to be successful, which is why real national rehab success rates are deflated. The ones that do have the expertise and the environment for positive change do so in the following ways:
Integration of Medical Professionals
Just because a rehab facility isn’t the same thing as a hospital doesn’t mean that there is no room for medical professionals in the process. In fact, successful detox and recovery is often paired with the use of FDA-Approved prescription drugs in a MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) Program utilizing medications such as:
- Naltrexone: Blocks opioid receptors involved in the rewarding feelings created by drinking alcohol and using certain drugs.
- Acamprosate (Campral): Reduces symptoms of long-lasting withdrawal, especially in patients with sever addictions.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): Causes unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed, discouraging alcohol abuse.
Removal of Distractions and Triggers
Many addiction treatment centers are situated in remote areas to serve as a sort of retreat for patients. By cutting out distractions and negative influences in day-to-day behavior, rehab centers can effectively give addicts a constructive environment in which to recover.
Retraining Thought and Attitudes
Another way rehab centers can be effective for their patients is by injecting positivity in their self-image. Many addicts, throughout addiction and withdrawal are plagued by feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt. When a person doesn’t believe that they can change, it’s harder to motivate change within them so to be successful, rehab centers have to inspire a better self-esteem.
What The Treatment Center Can Do For You
The Treatment Center’s mission is to be an asset to you if you have been considering rehab treatment for you or a loved one. We are a uniquely qualified rehabilitation facility, combining medical treatment with comprehensive counseling to provide results that make a difference.
Please contact us today at 844-310-9546 to explore what our rehabilitation professionals have to offer or to receive a free, confidential consultation.