Gauging the Effectiveness of Drug and Alcohol Treatment
If you are affected by serious drug or alcohol problems, the universal recommendation is entry into a substance rehab program. There are programs available for recovery from all forms of substance use. In addition, you can find programs suitable for all levels of addiction severity.
But exactly how effective are rehab programs? In other words, how many people who participate in these programs eventually recover? These may seem like straightforward questions. However, the answers to them are more complicated than you might expect.
Understanding the Chronic Nature of Addiction
Science has firmly established the nature of substance addiction as a chronic brain disease. When you develop an addiction, your brain undergoes extensive, long-term changes in its function. These changes do not just disappear when you stop taking drugs or drinking. Instead, they continue to impact you over time.
A number of other serious health conditions also have a lingering, or chronic, impact on your well-being. Common examples of such diseases include:
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- High blood pressure
Short-term treatment is not enough to deal with the effects of these diseases. Instead, you need to continue managing them as part of your everyday routine.
Is Relapse a Part of Chronic Illness?
Relapse is inevitably part of chronic illness. Why? It takes considerable effort to manage this kind of condition on an ongoing basis. Some people maintain their management routines and never relapse back into serious problems. However, many people do relapse.
Doctors are well-aware of this fact. They also know that relapse is not a sign of ultimate treatment failure. Instead, it is simply a sign that you need to re-establish your care routine and get your recovery back on track.
What Is a Rehab Success Rate?
Given this information, how is a rehab success rate calculated? This depends, in large part, on how the impact of substance relapse is gauged.
Recovery from substance problems is often not viewed the same way as recovery from other chronic health issues. The possibility of relapse is usually accepted as par for the course for most such issues. For example, when people with diabetes relapse, their doctors do not consider them treatment failures. Instead, support is provided to help them improve and return to healthier blood sugar levels.
Addiction experts apply the same standard to substance recovery. Do you fail when you relapse after receiving drug or alcohol treatment? Absolutely not. You have simply experienced a recovery setback. With help from your doctor, you can re-establish your sobriety and return to a health-supporting lifestyle.
Reported Rates of Relapse After Completing Rehab
How often do relapses occur in people who have been treated for drug or alcohol problems? When all such problems are considered together, the estimated low end for the rate of relapse is 40%. The estimated high end is 60%.
These may seem like extraordinarily high numbers. Judging them at face value, you might think that successful treatment is not all that common. However, it’s crucial to compare the relapse rates for substance problems to those for other chronic illnesses. This is the only way to put the risks for a substance relapse in perspective.
As it turns out, people affected by addiction do relapse somewhat more often than people with type I diabetes. However, they relapse considerably less often than people with asthma or high blood pressure. This means that, in the context of other chronic diseases, addiction relapse is not at all out of line.
Dual Diagnosis and Rehab Success Rates
There is an issue that can seriously impact your chances of recovering from substance problems. This issue is known as dual diagnosis. It occurs when, in addition to drug or alcohol problems, you also have a separate mental illness.
The presence of dual diagnosis complicates your overall recovery process. That is true because addiction and mental illness can feed off each other. Unless you receive specialized care, the symptoms of both problems can become worse than they otherwise would.
The potential consequences of dual diagnosis are reflected in the rates of recovery from serious mental illness. Illnesses that fall into this category include:
- Bipolar I disorder
- Major depression
Roughly 6% of all Americans will develop one of these conditions at some point in their lives. Of those affected, just 33% experience a full, long-term halt in their symptoms.
These may seem like long odds. However, the right kind of care can increase your chances of recovering from dual diagnosis. Effective treatment plans address both your mental illness symptoms and your addiction symptoms. Also, it helps to remember that mental illness is chronic, just like addiction. As with substance problems, relapse is not the same as failure.
Defining the Success of Rehab Treatment
Given all of these facts, what defines successful rehab treatment? Effective rehab should help you stop using drugs or alcohol. It should also help you:
- Gain a better understanding of addiction as a chronic condition
- Avoid relapsing while still in treatment
- Understand the factors that increase your risks for substance abuse
- Learn ways to lower your risks for future problems
- Develop practical skills for maintaining your sobriety when rehab ends
Alumni Involvement and Aftercare Success
Since addiction is a chronic condition, your work is not done when rehab ends. Instead, you now face the challenge of staying sober from day to day. But you do not need to meet this challenge on your own.
Recovery experts universally recommend that you follow up rehab with an aftercare or continuing care program. This kind of program provides ongoing professional support for your efforts. In many cases, you also gain support from other sources. That can include mutual help from other rehab alumni and recovery peers.
What Do You Want Recovery to Look Like?
Your perception of the recovery process can be crucial to a long-term successful outcome. According to the common view of recovery, a drug or alcohol relapse is the same as treatment failure. However, experts know otherwise. Yes, relapses are relatively common events. This means that there is a good chance that you will experience one after your treatment ends.
But a relapse is not a reason to bring your recovery efforts to a halt. In fact, quite the opposite holds true. If you relapse, it is time to talk to your doctor and get help re-establishing sobriety as soon as possible. It is also time to examine the factors that led to your relapse. By doing so, you learn what not to do in the future. In addition, you increase the odds that you will ultimately achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.
Breaking the Stigmas Surrounding Rehab
Breaking the stigmas surrounding rehab can also be crucial. Someone who is unaware of the nature of addiction might assume you have failed if you relapse. When added to the stigma of seeking treatment in the first place, this can potentially deter your recovery efforts.
Do what you can to avoid such a possibility. Even if you relapse more than once, you can still achieve long-term success. This is true no matter the severity of your addiction or how long you have been affected.
Direct Your Own Rehab Success Story With TDH!
At The Discovery House, we understand the ongoing challenges posed by addiction recovery. We’re dedicated to both your short- and long-term success. From the opening stages of substance detox onward, we support your recovery with expert treatment. No matter how you define a positive outcome, we’ll help you reach that goal. To learn more about rehab success at TDH, call us today.