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Updated on December 10, 2022
8 min read

How Effective is Rehab?

Anyone who develops a substance use disorder faces a unique and difficult set of challenges.

Addiction is a chronic disease, meaning there is no "cure."

However, drug treatment programs can be effective in helping a person overcome and live with it.

There are a variety of treatment programs that can help with addiction recovery.

Whether or not the results of a treatment program are effective is based on many factors, including the patient and the program.

Rehab Success Rates

It’s difficult to determine an exact success rate for treatment programs.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that only about 10 percent get treatment in an appropriate facility.

The only chance for a program to be effective is for an addicted person to enter and participate in it. There’s no guarantee, but without beginning treatment, there is no chance for recovery and far too many people don’t take that first step.

Still, individual treatment programs claim success and base those claims on:

  • Program completion
  • Sobriety rates immediately following treatment
  • Interviews of clients
  • Internal studies

Assessing sobriety rates immediately after treatment is problematic because many people eventually relapse.

According to the Butler Center at Hazelden Betty Ford:

  • 88.64% of people who complete treatment remain alcohol-free after one month
  • 85% to 95% of people who complete their program are drug-free nine months after rehab
  • 80% of people say their quality of life and health improved after rehab

It is estimated that 1 out of 3 people who complete a drug or alcohol treatment will remain sober. Relapse rates decrease the further someone gets in their treatment programs.

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The Truth About How Addiction Treatment Outcomes Are Measured

When it comes to defining ‘rehab’ and its outcomes, the answer is not clear-cut.

Facilities may advertise success rates in the 90th percentile. This is misleading. As there's no standard definition of rehab, there can be no common metric of success.

Some treatment centers measure success by how many people complete their programs. Others consider sobriety in the following months and years.

It's also essential to note that rehab does not always work for everyone. Some programs fail because when the person relapses, the program places the blame on the patient.

As many rehab centers do not follow up with their patients, the ‘100 percent’ success rate that many advertise only applies to people who complete the length of their stay.

Criteria for Measuring Treatment Effectiveness

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most effective treatment programs typically include:

  • The understanding that addiction is a treatable disease that alters brain function and behavior and there is a risk for relapse even after long periods of abstinence
  • The ability to attend to needs in addition to treating the drug or alcohol use, including medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal issues
  • A combination of evidence-based therapy and medication-assisted therapy tailored to a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture for an appropriate length of time
  • The understanding that no single treatment program is right for everyone.
  • Support for co-occurring mental health issues
  • Medically-assisted detox
  • Continuous monitoring of drug use during treatment
  • Testing for the presence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B & C, and tuberculosis

Treatment success should be measured in terms of the following:

  • Reduced amount and frequency of substance use, with lengthier gaps between relapses
  • Better employment or education status and attendance
  • Better physical health, indicated by fewer medical visits
  • Improved mental health, proven by enhanced mood, personality traits, and behaviors
  • Stronger relationships with friends, family, loved ones, and others
  • Better legal status, such as following probation or executing fewer crimes
  • Better safety, such as fewer car accidents or injuries

Many rehabilitation programs track progress as people work through treatment, identifying any problems and making sure they're addressed.

A good program also provides recovery meetings, alumni groups, and a patient portal for access long after treatment is finished.

For the best quality treatment, it is essential to find a reliable and trusted facility that holistically treats the patient, rather than just their substance use symptoms.

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Types of Drug Rehab Programs & Therapies

The most common types of addiction rehabilitation programs include:

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Partial hospitalization programs
  • 12-Step Programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, etc.)
  • Support groups

Each program will have its own unique combination of treatment plans and therapies. Common methods include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Medically supervised detox
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy

Inpatient Rehab vs. Outpatient Rehab

What’s the difference between inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment?

Inpatient treatment, sometimes called residential recovery, includes full-time, intensive programs designed to treat serious addictions.

These programs remove a person from his or her usual life for a time so his or her focus can be entirely on recovery.

People receive around-the-clock medical and emotional support. They do not go to work or attend school while in treatment and they live on-site at the treatment facility.

Inpatient treatment program participants receive instructions for what they can bring with them to the program and what they can and cannot do during treatment.

There are also policies concerning communication with friends and family. Family support is important during treatment and some facilities provide counseling for family members.

Outpatient programs are part-time and support a person’s recovery while he or she goes about a usual routine with work and school.

There are no restrictions regarding interaction with friends and family and participants usually live at home, though there are overnight programs that allow for attendance at school or work during the day.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are beneficial. Whether or not a program is effective for someone is based on his or her addiction and individual circumstances.

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Relapse Does Not Mean Failure

Relapse is a common part of recovery. It is essential to understand that relapsing to substance use does not mean that treatment or recovery has failed.

Recovery involves reaching new goals, maintaining long-term sobriety, and addressing life with a new, healthier mindset.

A misstep or mistake does not mean that all the challenging work did not help. Rather, it means it is time to try a new treatment method or change the current rehab approach.

What Can Improve the Achievement Rate of Addiction Treatment?

Successful treatment requires a multi-pronged approach that treats the patient as a whole. Typically, a program should start with a high level of care before transitioning to lower, less intense treatment.

Success depends on the length of treatment. Treatment for less than 90 days is likely to be less effective.

The following are essential aspects of successful addiction treatment:

Comprehensive Rehab Treatment

A full continuum of care means that individuals transition through various stages of treatment.

A high-quality course of treatment may include:

  • Medical detox: During medical detox, a patient receives constant medical attention for withdrawal symptoms.
  • Residential or inpatient treatment: The patient lives on-site, participates in therapy sessions, receives counseling, and learns methods and strategies for long-term recovery.
  • Outpatient treatment: The person transitions back into their day-to-day life while still receiving treatment at the facility.
  • Aftercare: Aftercare involves the patient following a customized relapse prevention plan. They also attend alumni programs and support groups.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment is essential for people with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety or depression. These disorders can cause people to use damaging substances to self-medicate.

Likewise, substance use can result in mental health problems. As such, treating both conditions is necessary for better recovery outcomes.

Multidisciplinary Staff

A high-quality rehab facility requires medical professionals, including physicians, nurses, and therapists. It may also benefit from specialist roles like dieticians, fitness instructors, and recovery mentors.

Treatment centers lacking these specialists may struggle to provide thorough treatment. It's also essential to find a facility with a high ratio of medical staff to patients.

High staff-to-patient ratios can make a significant difference in treatment effectiveness. People receive more time and attention when more qualified professionals are available to help them.

Low staff-to-patient ratios are also linked with higher chances of medical issues and lower patient satisfaction.

Other Considerations When Researching Rehab Options

Learning about success rates may make treatment seem like a challenging journey to begin, but remember that recovery is not just about staying sober.

Recovery involves making small improvements and changes that help you reach a healthier and happier life.

You may still have some questions before searching for rehab facilities.

Here are some common FAQs:

How do you make sure a rehab center is credible?

The most credible treatment centers are licensed facilities that have a membership with professional associations.

How do you know if a treatment or recovery program is working for me?

If you are displaying improvements in your behavior, mindset, relationships, legal status, and substance use, treatment is likely working.

How much does rehab cost?

Rehab fees vary depending on the area, patient needs, and the quality of care.

How do you pay for rehab? Will insurance pay for rehab?

Insurance may cover some or all of the cost Without insurance, many rehab centers can create affordable payment plans or deliver sliding payment scales.

Will you lose your job if you go to rehab?

No, you will not lose your job if you attend rehab. There are various laws in place to protect staff members when they participate in rehab.

Will you lose your kids if you go to rehab?

There is no way to guarantee that you will not lose custody of your kids if you go to rehab. However, treating addiction is the best way to provide them with a better future.

Chances are if you finish rehab, you are more likely to keep them in your care than if you refuse to seek help.

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Updated on December 10, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on December 10, 2022
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “SAMHSA’s Annual Mental Health, Substance Use Data Provide Roadmap for Future Action.” HHS.Gov, 14 Sept. 2018.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Effective Treatment.” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018.
  3. McDowell, Terry. Substance Abuse Aftercare Treatment Phoenix Area Integrated Behavioral Health Behavioral Health Program Specialist.
  4. NIDA. "How effective is drug addiction treatment?" Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 Jun. 2020.
  5. Janet A, and Margaret G Stineman. “Effectiveness of Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation Services in Postacute Care: State-of-the-Science. A Review” Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation vol. 88,11 : 1526-34. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2007.06.768 of Addiction Treatment?
  6. Mills T., Marks E, Reynolds T, et al. "Rehabilitation: Essential along the Continuum of Care. In: Jamison DT, Gelband H, Horton S, et al., editors. Disease Control Priorities: Improving Health and Reducing Poverty. 3rd edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development." The World Bank; 2017 Nov 27. Chapter 15.

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