Are Rehab Programs Actually Helping?

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We all know one of the 22 million Americans who struggle with addiction.

You may have also known one of the 114 people who die every day from drug use.

So what options do these people have for help before they end up killing themselves? One of the most common options is rehab programs.

But with the current high rates of relapse, do these programs actually help? This article will give more info on the types of rehab facilities and treatments that do and do not help recovering addicts.

1. What Are Rehab Programs?

So, what exactly is a rehab program and how are they supposed to help people?

Rehab is a structured, organized program to help people withdraw from drugs and to teach them to live without using. Usually, a person will live in a rehab center for a period of time ranging from one month to several.

The purpose of rehab is to give people more info on different habits to help them stay clean and sober. This happens through classes, individual therapy, family counseling, and group counseling.

Classes help to educate people about addiction itself and how to fight it. Education time can also be used to teach financial management and other practical skills that people in recovery may need.

There are different types of rehab facilities:

  • Detox- People take medications to help them withdraw from and stay off drugs.
  • Inpatient Treatment- People take medication and go to counseling. They usually stay in a facility for about a month. Insurance companies usually do not cover longer periods of inpatient care.
  • Residential Treatment- People stay in a facility for an average of 71 days. Treatment focuses on peer interactions and community building.
  • Outpatient Treatment- People live at home but attend treatment.

All of these types of rehab programs use therapy as a primary tool for recovery.

2. Measuring Success in Rehab Programs

Before we make a judgment about the success or failure of rehab programs, it’s important to note that there is no one standard for a “successful” rehab center.

Rehab services can claim success based on any of the following:

  • Program completion rate
  • Drug use immediately following treatment
  • Drug use a year after treatment
  • Client interviews
  • Number of patients who return to treatment

Most programs are not successful on all of these measures. A program that has a high program completion may rate as a failure based on client reviews. Similarly, a program that has a low completion rate may have better rates of sobriety after a couple of years.

Also, how do we judge that a person has “recovered” from an addiction? All of these are considered ways to measure improvement in an addiction:

  • Reduced substance use
  • Employment
  • Education level
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Mental health status
  • Legal Status

If a person is going back to school, holding down a job, and getting along with their family are they a success? Or does an occasional relapse mean their treatment failed?

The point of all of this is to say there is more to judging rehab programs than just completion rates and total sobriety.

3. What Helps People Quit?

Many different types of treatment are used within rehab programs, so let’s see what has actually helped people reduce their drug use.

Family therapy is often used in rehab since addiction can destroy family relationships. This can include, parents, siblings, spouses, and anyone else who is close to the person in treatment. These people are crucial in helping a person to stay away from drugs.

Group counseling is used to help people feel that they are not alone. They hear others’ stories and recognize the similarities in their own lives. People who have been clean for longer can also give advice to addicts who are just entering recovery.

This creates a support system that can continue outside of rehab programs like in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotic Anonymous.

Motivational interviewing helps a person examine their own thoughts and feelings to find their personal motivation. This is great in addiction counseling because what motivates one person may not motivate another. Someone may be motivated to stop using for her kids, while another person wants to get a job.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular style of counseling for rehab programs. This type of therapy teaches individuals to take control of their thoughts and their behavior. People identify specific thoughts that aren’t true (“I’m a loser”) and to come up with true alternatives (“I’ve made bad choices, but I can make better ones”).

CBT is great for recovering addicts because they often hold false beliefs about themselves and the world around them.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) helps recovering addicts to slow-down and live in the present. This method often uses meditation. It also helps them to consider the outcomes of possible decisions before making a choice.

MBRP is great for people in recovery because they often don’t look past what they want right now to the consequences of their actions. Pausing and thinking can help them stay clean.

5. What Isn’t Helping?

Addictions treatment has changed in the past several years, mostly because some old methods are no longer effective.

These include:

  • Lectures & videos
  • Interventions
  • Confrontation

It’s basically not a great idea to yell at people, guilt trip them and bore them to death.

While government-run rehab centers and hospitals have to meet standards of care, private rehab programs are not regulated by the government or any other organization. Some rehab centers are predatory and only want to make money off of addicts rather than helping them stay clean.

Even with standards of care, many facilities do not even have licensed counselors. Several states do not require counselors to have a college degree.

There aren’t really stats to compare rehab centers with licensed therapists and centers with unlicensed therapists. It does make sense though that programs with trained counselors might be doing better than those without.

Here are some sobering statistics about rehab services:

  • About 35% of people drop out of treatment early.
  • Around 40-60% of people relapse after recovery.
  • In the first year, 50-80% of people drop out of NA/AA.

While rehab programs are pretty expensive, the cost of addictions is as well. For example, heroin users spend more than $1000 a month on their addictions. Imagine $12,000 a year for a substance that makes it almost impossible to keep a job!

This does not include the costs society pays for drug-related crimes and hospital visits.

So are rehab programs working? The truth is that it’s complicated. Some centers are helping, some aren’t. Some treatment methods are working while others aren’t.

The important take away is that you need to judge each program individually based on different factors, not just its completion rate.

Want information about insurance plans and drug rehab? Check out this article.

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