Every year, thousands of people rely on drug rehab to help them recover from addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that there are more than 14,500 addiction treatment centers in America. Each provides several different types of care, including counseling, behavioral therapy, and medication. Clients in outpatient programs live at home and maintain their daily routines while receiving treatment. In contrast, clients in inpatient programs live onsite while receiving treatment. The goal of every treatment program is to restore clients back to health. This means ensuring clients are productive at home, at work, in their communities, and in society. But do drug and alcohol rehab programs actually work?

First, we have to consider the fact that, tragically, too few people get the addiction treatment help they need. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that only 4 million out of the 20.7 million people struggling with addiction nationwide actually received treatment. In other words, only 19% of people with SUD receive the help they needed on average each year. To see if rehab works, we need to look at the statistics and success rates of people who are receiving treatment.

How Do You Know if Addiction Treatment is Working?

We know that addiction treatment works when a client achieves and maintains sobriety. The Office of National Drug Control Policy lists several signs of effective treatment, including:

  • Improved employment, including an increased number of days worked or spent in school
  • Improved educational performance, including an increase in school attendance and improved grades
  • Improved interpersonal relationships, including time spent with family, friends, and employers, and improved mental health
  • Improved medical status and overall health
  • Improved legal status, including fewer arrests and convictions
  • Reduced drug use, including substance abstinence, decreased use, and reduced time to relapse

What Do Relapse Rates Tell Us About Addiction Treatment?

We can also measure the success of addiction treatment by looking at relapse rates. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse report, the relapse after treatment rate is, on average, 40 to 60%. That means out of every five people, two or three will relapse at some point in their recovery journey. As alarming as those numbers are, they are similar to relapse rates for other common conditions. For Type I diabetes, the relapse rate is 30-50%. Both hypertension and asthma have 50-70% relapse rates. In that case, addiction treatment works just as well, and in some cases, better than other treatments for chronic illnesses.

We know how heartbreaking and upsetting relapse can be. But we must remember that addiction, like heart disease and cancer, is a chronic disease. With that said, treatment is not expected to cure the disease but to help manage it.

What Are the Statistics on Addiction Treatment?

People who seek treatment are less likely to relapse than those who do not receive treatment.

  • For example, a study published in the journal Addiction examined alcohol remission rates in two groups of individuals, one whom received treatment, the other who did not. The results showed that untreated individuals are more likely to relapse, with an average short-term abstinence rate of 21% compared to a 43% abstinence rate for individuals who received treatment.
  • A similar study, “How Important is Treatment? One-Year Outcomes of treated and untreated alcohol-dependent individuals”, surveyed how long individuals struggling with alcohol dependency could stay sober. The results indicated that 40% of individuals who received treatment for alcohol dependence went one year without use. In contrast, only 23% of untreated individuals achieved a year of non-problematic use.

How & Why Does Addiction Treatment Diminish the Risk for Relapse?

Cognitive behavioral therapy and peer support communities are important parts of the recovery process. After detox, many treatment clients undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to understand and change their behavioral patterns. Afterward, clients are often enrolled in peer support communities to help generate accountability and to start building a recovery community. Research shows that both can also lower the risk for relapse.

Statistics on Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is a form of talk therapy and counseling which focuses on changing behavior patterns, helping clients reduce stress and cope with complex relationships. During CBT, clients undergo in-depth explorations of their thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. This process helps clients make positive behavioral changes. As such, addiction treatment clients who undergo CBT often yield higher sobriety and abstinence success rates and in turn may be less likely to relapse.

  • One report studied 120 participants who participated in weekly CBT sessions over the course of 26 weeks. The end results showed higher abstinence rates for individuals enrolled in CBT.
  • Another study examined the effects of CBT on cocaine dependence. Individuals attended three CBT sessions for 16 weeks, then researchers followed up 6 months after the sessions. After attending all 48 CBT sessions, 53% of CBT group participants had not used cocaine. During the 52-week follow-up, 60% in the CBT group tested negative for cocaine.

Statistics on Peer Support Groups

Having support makes recovering from substance abuse easier. Research also shows that treatment clients in peer support groups have a lower risk of relapse.

  • One study examined how peer groups supported addiction treatment. Clients who attended treatment without a support group had a 24% relapse rate. After participating in the support group, their relapse rate dropped to 7%. The study also noted how peer support groups also provide relationship building and accountability.

“The most important change seen is that community members are reaching out to each other and supporting each other,” study author Rosemary Boisvert explained. “Relapse to SUD [substance abuse disorder] is not punished – the residents re-engage rather than banish or drive out those who slip,” she continued.

Boisvert also noted that individuals actively wanted to be in the peer support group, joining the organization’s board, committees, and neighborhood watch meetings. This increased involvement helped lead to improved relationships, better mood, and healthier social and emotional lives.

Addiction Treatment Reduces the Chance for Depression

Depression and other mental health challenges can trigger relapse.

  • In fact, reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) state that 33% of adults with substance abuse challenges also suffer from depression. The good news is that data shows that addiction treatment can help reduce depression.
  • In the study “A 2.5 year Follow-Up of Depression, Life Crises, and Treatment Effects on Abstinence Among Opioid Addiction,” researchers studied addiction treatment and depression. They discovered that someone struggling with substance use and depression is in treatment, the longer they stayed sober. This was true even two and a half years after treatment.

Their research also revealed that with treatment, 43% of clients who struggled with both SUD and depression maintained their sobriety. In contrast, only 24% of depressed clients remained sober without treatment.

Addressing the Myth Surrounding Relapse & Addiction Treatment

We have discussed what effective treatment is. We have also examined statistics that show addiction treatment reduces relapse risk. Now, it’s time to address a myth about relapse. Over time, this myth has created a lot of confusion about addiction treatment.

The myth is: a relapse means addiction treatment does not, has not, and will not work.

This is not true

Despite popular opinion, relapse does not mean addiction treatment has failed, nor does relapse mean that treatment didn’t or doesn’t work. It is also important to remember that relapse doesn’t have to mean a permanent return to drug use.

As much as treatment programs work to minimize relapse, it is a part of the chronic nature of addiction. Relapse does happen. In order to effectively treat addiction, individuals need to change deeply rooted behaviors and patterns. To that end, when a client working toward recovery relapses, it’s a sign that they need more treatment, not less.

We Are Solution Based & Backed By Evidence

Solution Based Treatment & Detox is more than the name of our organization. It is the core of what we do and what we work toward every day. Our programs work to restore our clients’ entire wellbeing. Our relapse prevention services have helped many our clients avoid relapse. If you’ve been grappling with indecision about addiction treatment, don’t hesitate to call our office at 833.999.1941. Our expert staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answers your questions.

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