With Such High Relapse Rates, is Treatment Really Effective?


The purpose of drug addiction treatment is to stop drug abuse and also return people to the real world where they can be productive members of society. The skills learned in rehab are invaluable, and they are intended to be applied to life for the long term, not just immediately after treatment.

Research that tracks recovering addicts who have received treatment and follow their aftercare plans finds that these individuals are more likely to stop using drugs, decrease their criminal activity and improve their social, psychological, and occupational functioning. Yet there are still many recovering addicts who don’t fall into the same category and end up in and out of jail and rehab. This begs the question: How effective is drug rehab, really?

Principles of a Successful Recovery

The effectiveness of drug rehabilitation is very much connected to the individual, the type of treatment they receive, how long the treatment is, and what they are doing after they leave treatment. It also depends on the extensiveness of the patient’s problems, what services are available to help these problems, the family environment at home and the interactions the patient has with people in their treatment regimen.

While each addict’s journey is unique, there are some principles that should be included in every successful treatment regimen. They include:

  • Medical detoxification is usually the first step in treatment
  • No single treatment is effective for all addicts
  • Treatment needs to be readily available
  • Treatment needs to be flexible
  • Treatment should address all aspects of addiction, not just the using portion
  • Remaining in treatment for a significant time period is critical; generally, around 3 months is ideal
  • Individual, family, and group therapies are essential
  • Conventional medication is often beneficial, especially for those suffering from co-occurring disorders
  • Treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective
  • Recovery is a lifelong process; some recovering addicts require multiple rounds of treatment

Aren’t Relapse Rates High?

Though relapse rates are high for addiction, they are similar to what other relapse rates are for chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. This is because addiction is a brain disease that doesn’t just go away with one stint in rehab. Instead, it takes a lot of regular work and effort to keep on a healthy track, and any disturbances can put a person at risk for relapse, just like binging on donuts or chocolate can make someone with diabetes very sick.

When treating a person with diabetes, the patient requires continual evaluation. If you know anyone with a chronic disease, you know that constant monitoring is involved: tracking blood sugar, monitoring weight gain, and regulating blood pressure. There are many lifestyle changes that need to be made, too, such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. In order to facilitate these changes, patients may get rid of all tempting foods from their pantry, stop dining out with friends and switch up their daily habits.

Living with an addiction is similar. To prevent the risk of relapse, patients need to clean out their homes and get rid of all reminders of their addiction. They need to change up their routine, find new activities to fill their time, and take any warning signs seriously. Any deviations can be a major setback for the addict, such as returning to an old hangout or attending a party with alcohol.

For both diabetes and addiction, being part of a self-help group is very helpful. It allows these people to receive the guidance they need in a welcoming, supportive environment. Conventional medications may also be used to help manage the symptoms. The more the patient sticks to this regimen, the lower the risk of relapse.

While relapse rates are higher than we would like to see, we encourage people not to focus so much on the statistics. Too many recovering addicts think that once they get a hold of their sober life and the symptoms recede, they are recovered. With this mentality, it’s only a matter of time that these individuals put themselves in a position that they aren’t ready for, or they get too comfortable with their recovery and end up not working at it. With a realistic mindset, a personalized treatment regimen, and continued care, success rates would be much higher.

Could Better Care Make the Difference?

A key factor in effective treatment is the type of care that is delivered. Though some rehabilitation centers are revamping their treatment modalities, recent examinations show that the majority of treatment centers are rooted in outdated methods. These outdated methods look at drug-using behavior only. Though they may be effective at getting the addict clean, they don’t do much in terms of teaching the addict how to live a fulfilling, sober lifestyle and working through past problems.

An interesting report published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University concluded that the majority of people in addiction treatment don’t receive nearly enough care. Some of the reasons cited were because the treatment centers were led by non-medical professionals, and the credentials and experience for offering a full range of evidence-based services were seriously lacking.

If more addicts received comprehensive care, the relapse rates would be lower. In addition to exceptional care during treatment, facilities need to recognize the importance of continued treatment. Day 30 should not be “the end.” It should be the start of a new life, and the treatment center should put together a comprehensive aftercare plan plus be available for continued intervention if needed.

The River Source Comes Out on Top

Though there is no single method of treatment that works for every addict, The River Source is confident that we can help most addicts. We have a full range of addiction treatment services that address all aspects of the individual: mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual.

Each patient of ours receives a full evaluation before being admitted into our facility, and we screen for coexisting conditions such as anxiety or depression. We have naturopathic medical doctors and licensed counselors who treat our patients, and we remain on the cutting-edge of new treatment techniques. In fact, some of the treatment modalities we offer (hypnotherapy, biofeedback, infrared sauna, and IV therapy), other facilities are only beginning to learn about!

We are also proud to report that we had a success rate of 73% in 2013. This is higher than the average because of our patient-centered care that includes the 12-step program. To learn more about how we can truly help your loved one for the long term, call our integrative treatment facility today at 866-294-9331.

About the Author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Help is Waiting, Call Now:

Our programs

Welcome to The River Source, the place where new beginnings are created. We commend you for taking the first step in your recovery, and we want you to know that we are here for you.