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Does rehab work?

Does Rehab Work?


The goal of any drug treatment program is relearning how to function in a workplace, family setting and community without a dependence on a specific substance. For most substance abusers, getting high, or drinking is an escape from a stressor, or dullness in their life. When the influenced state of mind begins to feel more desirable than being sober, your body has established a physical and psychological dependence.

The byproducts of this dependence are damaged relationships, career undoing, and financial strife. Climbing out of this hole can be a challenge, but the best course of action to reversing the damage is to seek professional treatment.

For many substance abusers, treatment teaches them how to channel their addictive triggers through different, more constructive outlets. Rather than reaching for the bottle (or whatever the drug of choice is) patients go through a “rewiring” to sever their associations with alcohol or drug use. Regimented therapy methods and support systems have proven to very successful.

Research shows that most individuals who remain in treatment are able to kick their drug habits, avoid illegal behaviors, regain their careers, reconcile relationships and foster mental health. However, the prognosis for success depends on how well the type of treatment plan is matched to the needs and nature of each individual addiction.

Many people question the efficacy of rehabilitation programs, and decide to quit on their own, but relapse/recurrence rates are just as high as other common chronic medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes. In other words, someone probably wouldn’t try to battle the effects of asthma or diabetes by themselves, so why treat addiction differently than you would any other serious medical condition.

Furthermore, while staying sober is the best result, you shouldn’t be afraid to fail or relapse. People who battle medical conditions relapse all the time, but with persistence and commitment to treatment, you can get back to a healthy and functional life.

How Does Rehab Work?

There are different types of rehab, which we will cover, but in general you can expect a similar strategy across all forms of treatment.

Assessment – An initial assessment is conducted by a physician and/or therapist to determine the nature or your addiction, the stage or severity, your medical history, family situation, and other contributing factors.

Detoxification – Detox is arguably the most important part of rehab. This process involves eradicating the substance from your body. Depending on the substance, this can be a very challenging and physically stressful process because of withdrawal symptoms. The benefit of undergoing withdrawal symptoms in a treatment program is that trained medical staff and physicians are on hand to help make this process as comfortable and efficient as possible. Facing withdrawal symptoms on your own is not pleasant and often results in relapse in order to relieve the discomfort.

Abuse therapy – The most common therapy sessions in a treatment program come in two forms: group and individual. The goal of therapy is to work as an educational support system for patients. By working through the details and opening up about themselves, the underlying causes and nuances of the addiction are identified. Patients will ultimately recognize things about their substance abuse that they would not have understood without the help of therapy. For example, identifying triggers and high-risk situations will provide you with relapse control and the skills you need to maintain sobriety.

Post-treatment care – Based on the patient’s progress and case, the treatment facility will establish an aftercare plan that suits the individual’s needs. For instance, they could be required to visit the treatment center once per week for a maintenance therapy session which asks them to provide detailed updates about their week, and if they ran into any situation where they were tempted to use. Post-treatment plans can also help you set up a living environment which isolates you from the pressures to relapse.

How Long Are Rehab Programs?

It’s not easy to self-determine how long of a treatment program you’ll need to maximize your success — that’s where the assessment process comes in. The physician or therapist you meet within your initial assessment will be able to tell you what duration of treatment will serve you best based on physical, mental, emotional, social, cultural and behavioral needs. Some commonly offered programs are 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day. Residential, or inpatient programs can last even longer.

Extended length programs have a very high success rate because they are immersive and give patients a very long time to explore their sober living habits — conditioning behavior and rewiring the brain takes time and practice. It should be noted, that even after a successful course of treatment, addiction is a lifelong battle, which has to be monitored and maintained, so in some ways treatment never really ends, but it does get easier with time and commitment.

Other Features of Rehab

Understanding the full scope of what to expect at rehab can help alleviate the apprehension to attend. Often times people’s biggest fear about rehab is entering the unknown, here’s a little more of a detailed look at the daily life in a treatment facility.

Scheduled Days – Patients usually stick to a well structured and carefully designed schedule. The very nature of having a schedule provides the mental discipline needed to tackle addiction. Often times, when people abuse drugs or alcohol their decision-making skills are compromised and sporadic, but knowing what each day holds provides a feeling of decisiveness and structure.

Types of therapy – Daily therapy sessions are one of the most powerful tools provided in rehab.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to alter the learned maladaptive behavior of substance abuse. It corrects problematic behavior by applying different skills such as alternative coping strategies (as opposed to coping with drugs). It also includes identifying early stages of cravings and learning to avoid situations which may pose a relapse risk.

Animal-assisted therapy uses therapy animals to provide support, comfort and purpose to patients whose addiction has compromised their relationships. Illicit drug abuse can cause people to withdraw from friends and family, and the feeling of being alone only augments the desire to use, but a service animal can provide companionship and a sense of well-being during recovery.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that has been proven to alleviate the negative symptoms associated with traumatic life events. Many people abuse drugs as a way to cope with past trauma in their life. Several studies have shown that as little as six 50 minute sessions can cure post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recreational activities – Leisure is an important part of establishing new outlets to be excited about in a sober lifestyle. Facilities will block time for sporting events, art classes, field trips, and workshops. Picking up a new hobby is a great way to start your new drug-free life.

Family help – Another big reason people get worried about joining rehab is that their family will distance themselves, quite the contrary though. Good treatment programs encourage family members to be a part of the recovery process. Family therapy sessions teach your loved ones how they can assist you, or what their role has been in your drug abuse. Additionally, if you need to make amends with any family members, on hand counselors are there to help facilitate.

How Effective is Rehab?

There are different types of rehab to consider, and it’s hard to say how effective each one will be because each case is so different, but here are some average statistics categorized by treatment type.  

Inpatient treatment – Averages between $3,000-$5,000. Approximately 70% of patients complete their treatment, while about 20% maintain their sobriety for longer than 5 years following treatment.

Outpatient treatment – Averages between $1,000-1,500. Approximately 45% of patients complete treatment, while about 20% maintain their sobriety for longer than 5 years.

Residential treatment (long-term inpatient treatment) – Costs upwards of $3,000 depending on amenities and facility caliber. Approximately 50% of patients complete treatment, while 20% maintain sobriety for more than 5 years.

Based on these numbers the main take away is that inpatient or residential treatment is more effective, because of the live-in aspect. Another takeaway which may concern you is that only 20% of people remain sober after 5 years. While the numbers aren’t particularly convincing it’s important to consider that professional rehab is the best available solution to combat drug abuse. There are some other options, but research is inconclusive as to the effectiveness — making rehab the number one method for sobriety.

Choosing The Most Effective Rehab Center

With so many available rehab centers and types, it’s hard to decide what’s going to work best for you. The initial assessment will help guide you in the right direction, but when it comes to your health, having the utmost peace of mind is important. Below are some criterion that you can use to assess treatment facilities. If the rehab center you’re considering has all of these available, it’s going to increase your chances of success:

  • Many centers will advertise a specific success rate like “90 percent success.” Ask them for testimonials or try and contact people who have had some first-hand experiences.
  • When treatment centers are big advocates for follow up and aftercare, this is usually a good sign that they have their patient’s best interest at heart. In other words, they’re not trying to turn and burn through patients to maximize profits.
  • After completing a program they help their patients create a comfortable sober-life environment and establish roots in the community.
  • They are big on the inclusion of family in the recovery process. Educating family and providing them with resources to maintain sobriety is a powerful tool. Once you leave a treatment facility, your family is going to be your strongest support group to combat addiction.
  • The facility offers multiple types of treatment (i.e., group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.) More forms of therapy mean a better chance of receiving a carefully tailored treatment plan.
  • Ask them questions about the efficacy of their programs. A good quality treatment facility will have statistics and data on hand to answer specific questions.

How to tell if Drug treatment is effective

Naturally, getting sober and staying sober is the biggest indicator of a successful treatment. But, it’s tough to draw motivation from such a black and white situation. Here are some small goals and signs that you can use as motivators to make sure your treatment plan is working:

Reduced drug use – Getting sober isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem. Substance abuse is a medical condition which requires long-term maintenance and management. Even if you don’t get completely clean the first time around, if your treatment has led you to use less frequently, this is a positive sign, and you can deduce that the program is working.

Improvements in employment – A drug user’s career can suffer when the addiction begins to take hold. Successful treatment will increase your motivation to work, improve professional relationships, and take a proactive stance with career building.

Improvements in education – If you’re a student, your grades and attendance will likely improve as well as your involvement with school-related activities.

Relationship improvements – Drug and alcohol abusers have a tendency to withdraw from friends and family. Treatment plans will help you reach out and reestablish damaged or deteriorating relationships.   

Improved health – The physical and psychological damage that occurs when abusing drugs is very noticeable. Treatment should result in fewer trips to the doctor or hospital, and you should also begin to notice a positive change in your appearance.

Reduced legal problems – DUI’s and arrests are commonplace for drug abusers, and avoiding these types of situations is a good sign.

Improved mental health – Your overall mood should improve. The depression and anxiety associated with drug use should begin to fade. If your addiction is severe, psychotic episodes should be a thing of the past.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that rehab works. Not only does it work, but it’s the number one solution for the battle against addiction. Relapse rates can be high, but if you educate yourself on the various methods and treatments, entering the right program for you will improve your chances of success.

While in treatment, it’s important to have small goals and recognize the signs of improvement. Don’t look at rehab treatment as a passing or failing situation, rather think of it as a long-term approach to a long-term problem. Sobriety takes time, but if your overall life is improving as a whole than you’re on the right track.

For more information about our Orange County rehab center, explore our website and see how Luminance Recovery can help you beat your addiction.

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