Updated on April 3, 2024
8 min read

How Effective Is Rehab and Drug Addiction Treatment?

Anyone who develops a substance use disorder (SUD) faces a complex set of challenges. SUD is a chronic disease, so there’s no absolute cure. However, drug treatment programs can be effective in helping you overcome and live with it.

Fortunately, many treatment programs can help with drug and alcohol addiction. Whether or not their results are effective depends on many factors, which we’ll discuss in more detail.

What is the Success Rate of Rehab Programs?

Assessing sobriety rates immediately after treatment is problematic because many people eventually relapse. Still, individual treatment programs claim success and base those claims on:

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

Another one of the main challenges in determining the true success rate of these programs is the accessibility of the treatment.

Data from 2020 reveals that only 13 percent of people with drug use disorders can access the treatment they urgently need.1 The only way a program can be considered effective is if people with SUD have the chance to access its services.

However, 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 those who finish their program are drug-free nine months after rehab
  • 80% of people say their quality of life and health improved after rehab
  • 1 out of 3 who complete a drug or alcohol treatment will remain sober
  • Relapse rates decrease the further someone gets in their treatment programs

How are Addiction Treatment Outcomes Really Measured?

Facilities often claim high success rates, but these can be misleading due to the lack of a standardized definition for rehab success. As a result, success measures vary.

Rehab facilities’ advertised “100 percent success rate” may only reflect those who completed their programs. It’s a short-term measurement method, as many centers may not even follow up with their clients after treatment.

Some rehab facilities have more long-term measurements and track their clients’ sobriety months or years later. However, other facilities inappropriately attribute failure to the person.


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Are There Criteria for Measuring Treatment Effectiveness?

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

  • Recognizing drug or alcohol addiction as a treatable disease with relapse risks
  • Addressing medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal needs
  • Providing evidence-based therapy and medication that cater to personal characteristics
  • Understanding that one treatment doesn't fit all
  • Supporting co-occurring mental health issues
  • Offering medically-assisted detox
  • Continuously monitoring drug use
  • Conducting tests for diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B & C, and tuberculosis

How Should You Measure Success in Addiction Treatment?

You should measure treatment success in terms of the following:

  • Reduced amount and frequency of substance abuse, with lengthier gaps between relapses
  • Better employment or education status and attendance
  • Better physical health as fewer medical visits indicate
  • Improved mental health, better 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

Does Relapse Mean Failure?

Relapse is a common occurrence in the journey towards recovery. It’s crucial to recognize that relapse doesn’t mean a person has failed. Instead, it is a prevalent aspect of the recovery journey and provides valuable learning opportunities.

Recovery involves reaching new goals, maintaining long-term sobriety, and addressing life with a new, healthier mindset. A misstep or mistake doesn’t mean all efforts didn’t help.

How Do Rehabilitation Programs Support Long-term Recovery?

​​Rehabilitation programs play a crucial role in supporting long-term recovery. These programs monitor progress and address any issues that arise during treatment.

They may offer various resources, such as recovery meetings and alumni groups. Programs also provide a portal for continued access after treatment completion. 

To ensure top-notch treatment, choosing a reputable and comprehensive facility is important. They should focus on holistic healing rather than merely addressing substance use symptoms.

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What Can Improve the Success Rate of Addiction Treatment?

Successful treatment requires a multi-pronged approach that treats the person 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 other essential aspects of successful addiction treatment:

1. Comprehensive Rehab Treatment

A full continuum of care means you transition through various stages of treatment. A high-quality course of treatment include:

  • Medical detox: During medical detox, you receive constant medical attention for withdrawal symptoms.
  • Residential or inpatient treatment: You live on-site, participate in therapy sessions, receive counseling, and learn methods and strategies for long-term recovery.
  • Outpatient treatment: You transition back into your day-to-day life while still receiving treatment at the facility.
  • Aftercare: Aftercare involves following a customized relapse prevention plan. You also attend alumni programs and support groups.

2. Dual Diagnosis Treatment

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

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

3. Multidisciplinary Staff

A high-quality rehab facility needs medical professionals to provide thorough treatment, including:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Therapists
  • Dieticians
  • Fitness instructors
  • Recovery mentors

High staff-to-patient ratios can also make a significant difference in treatment effectiveness. This is because it increases attention given to individual people’s needs. In contrast, low staff-to-patient ratios lead to a higher risk of medical issues and lower satisfaction. 

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

What Therapies Are Common in Drug Rehab Programs?

Each program has its 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

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Inpatient Rehab vs. Outpatient Rehab

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are beneficial. Whether or not a program is effective for you depends on your addiction and circumstances.

Here’s the difference between the two:

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient treatment, or residential recovery, is a full-time, intensive program for serious addictions. It removes you from your everyday life to concentrate on recovery. 

This treatment offers 24/7 medical and emotional support, requiring you to live on-site and temporarily step away from work or school commitments. You receive guidelines on what to bring and the dos and don'ts during your stay. 

These programs also have specific policies regarding outside communication, emphasizing the importance of family support. Some facilities also offer counseling for family members to aid in the recovery process.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient programs are part-time and support your recovery while you go about your usual routine with work or school. It doesn’t restrict interactions with friends and family.

You go home after treatment sessions. However, there are overnight programs that allow for attendance at school or work during the day.

Common Questions on Rehab Programs

Learning about success rates may make treatment seem challenging, but recovery isn’t just about staying sober. It involves making small improvements and changes that help you reach a healthier and happier life.

Here are some common questions about rehab facilities:

How do you make sure a rehab center is credible?

The most credible treatment centers have licenses and memberships with professional associations.

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

Treatment is likely working if you’re displaying improvements in your behavior, mindset, relationships, legal status, and substance use.

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 it?

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

Will you lose your job if you go to rehab?

No, you won’t lose your job if you attend rehab. Various laws are in place to protect staff members when they participate in recovery.

Will you lose your kids if you go to rehab?

There’s no way to guarantee that you won’t lose custody of your kids if you go to rehab. However, treating addiction is the best way to provide them with a better future. If you finish rehab, you are more likely to keep them in your care than if you refuse to seek help.


Successful addiction treatment requires a comprehensive approach. It includes different levels of care, dual diagnosis treatment, and multidisciplinary staff.

Treatment can be expensive, but insurance coverage or payment plans are available.  Additionally, attending rehab will not result in losing your job or custody of your children.

Relapse doesn't mean failure and is a common part of recovery. Seeking addiction treatment is a step towards a healthier and happier life, so don't be afraid to seek help and take the first steps toward recovery.

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Updated on April 3, 2024

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