Addiction Statistics: Does Rehab Work?

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does rehab work

The question “does rehab work.” is difficult to answer in terms of statistics because recovery can look different for everyone. 

We know that rehab significantly improves outcomes for people struggling with substance use disorders and mental health issues in many cases. We also know that their treatment needs to be holistic and evidence-based for rehab to help someone begin their recovery journey.

Below we delve more into what it means for rehab to “work” and the metrics that we can use to measure successful addiction treatment.


How Does Rehab Work?

When we answer the question “does rehab work” we must remember how much of a personal journey recovery is. The Office of the National Drug Control Policy wrote a white paper that detailed what it feels it means to have rehab work.

  • In that research, clients should experience reduced drug and alcohol use and improved employability after treatment. 
  • A treatment program should improve mental health and relationships and reduce criminal activity.
  • We hear what can sound like fairly dismal statistics sometimes talked about. For example, just 60% of people having completed an opioid rehab program relapsed in a week. Up to 80% relapsed in the first year. That study largely didn’t consider the use of medication-assisted therapy, however. Medication-assisted treatment programs can significantly reduce rehab rates.

Often, when comparing treatment centers, the question of the center’s success rate will come up. This is not a valuable or relevant metric, in our opinion, to determine the success or failure of a program.

There are a few reasons for this.

  • First, it’s tough to track clients for years after their treatment. 
  • The second is that we don’t currently have a set metric that determines what success is following rehab. It could be that a facility says they have a 95% success rate, yet the reasons why could be unknown. For example, they could base this rate on not having patients return for a second visit.
  • Another rehab facility could, by contrast, base its success rates on one-year follow-ups with patients. That could make it appear their rates were lower, but in reality, their program could be more effective for more people without that standardized way to compare.

Rather than asking what the success rate of a rehab center is, you can talk more about how they approach substance abuse treatment. You can learn about the level of experience, certification, and education clinicians have and the accreditations of the facility.

With alcohol addiction treatment, researchers found that around 80% of people will relapse, meaning they’ll consume at least one alcoholic beverage a day within a year.

There’s more to that, too, though. 

  • First, the longer someone stays sober, the more their chance of relapsing goes down. If you abstain from alcohol for at least five years, you have less than a 15% chance of relapsing.
  • To maintain abstinence over the long term, you often have to work hard on your recovery through continuing therapy or cultivating the coping skills you initially encountered in rehab. Going to 12-step programs and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are also an important part of long-term recovery. 
  • Also, holistic treatment centers tend to yield better long-term recovery outcomes for patients. Holistic treatment considers physical health, co-occurring disorders, symptoms of withdrawal, and various other factors when creating treatment plans. 



Why Do People Relapse?

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is, by nature, a chronic illness. 

We can compare addiction to other chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes or similar medical conditions.  A treatment plan may work for a long time to help someone keep their type 2 diabetes under control. 

Then, the treatment might stop working for various reasons, and they could experience a relapse of their symptoms. That doesn’t mean the type of initial treatment failed, but the treatment plan needs to be revisited.

The same is true of alcohol or drug addiction treatment. Sometimes, when a person relapses, they need to go back to treatment, and their team of care providers needs to reassess their current needs, which may not be the same as the ones in the past. 


What Happens In Rehab?

Just like there’s not one specific answer for whether or not rehab works, there’s also not one answer as to what happens in rehab. When someone asks what you do in rehab, while there might be general things that are common, everyone should have an individualized treatment plan for their needs.

That’s one of the big differences between a quality program and one less likely to be effective.

  • General things you might expect to do in rehab include spending most of your days in therapy. This therapy might take place in both group and individual settings.
  • You could also participate in specialized sessions if they’re relevant to your needs, like anger management or stress management sessions.
  • Family therapy may be part of a treatment program, which can help patients begin working on some of the more destructive patterns in their relationships with loved ones.
  • Alternative therapies like art or music therapy may be part of a drug and alcohol treatment program.
  • In residential rehabs, you live onsite. You receive intensive around-the-clock treatment at inpatient programs. The treatment facility environment is very structured and supervised. The healing process can be your number one focus in residential treatment. 

You can still live at home rather than at the treatment center in an outpatient rehab program. There are varying levels of care, such as intensive outpatient programs, which are more similar to residential rehab. 


Principles of Effective Treatment

Going back to the original question—does rehab work? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are certain research-based principles of effective treatment. You can use these to compare rehab programs to find the right option for you or a loved one.

  • Addiction is a treatable but complex disease that affects behavior and brain function. The brain changes that occur even long after someone stops using drugs or alcohol may explain the risk of relapse.
  • There’s not one particular treatment that’s right for everyone. Treatment needs vary depending on the patient’s characteristics, drug use history, and other factors in their life. For some patients, outpatient treatment may be enough. For others, a longer-term inpatient treatment program may be needed to begin the recovery process. Following drug treatment, sober living may be needed for some people to return to daily life gradually. 
  • Treatment should be readily available.
  • An effective treatment program will treat the patient holistically, dealing with multiple needs. Along with drug abuse, treatment should include services for medical, social, vocational, psychological, and legal problems.
  • It’s imperative that someone remains in treatment for long enough. Research shows most people with addictions need to be in treatment for at least three months to see a significant reduction or complete stop in the use of drugs and alcohol. Recovery is a long-term process, often requiring multiple treatment episodes.
  • Behavioral therapies are the cornerstone of effective addiction treatment, including individual and group counseling and family counseling.
  • Medications, especially when combined with behavioral therapy, can be an important part of treatment for many patients.
  • A person’s treatment and services plan has to be assessed and changed continuously as needed to ensure it’s meeting their evolving needs.
  • Many people with addiction disorders also have co-occurring mental illnesses that need treatment.
  • Medically-assisted detox is only the first part of recovery—it’s not a standalone treatment.
  • Treatment for addictive substances doesn’t have to be voluntary to work.


Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Orange County, CA

So, does rehab work? The answer is an overwhelming, yes, but in a very individualized way that’s highly dependent on the level of care you receive. If you’re looking for one of the best rehab experiences in Orange County, CA, the Costa Mesa Opus Health team brings a vast level of experience and would be glad to talk to you about treatment options available if you call us at 855-953-1345.


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