Although understanding of the science of addiction is still evolving, there is a general consensus that addiction includes physical dependence (the body habituates to a drug) and mental dependence (drug-seeking behavior and taking the drugs despite knowing they are dangerous). Although different treatment programs may employ different methodologies, most include the following programs:
- Detox. In some cases, medication may be involved to treat the potentially dangerous side effects of withdrawal (e.g., the use of methadone to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms).
- Maintenance treatment. Once detoxed, a program to continue abstinence is crucial (and may or may not include medication).
- Counseling. Both individual and group counseling are forms of maintenance therapy that are intended to address the psychological aspects of substance abuse (i.e., the root causes stemming from one’s personal history).
- Complementary therapy. This is an optional and supplementary form of treatment, and offerings vary from program to program but may include practices such as massage, yoga, art classes, and acupuncture.
- Aftercare program. A vital part of therapy to help prevent relapse after a structured treatment program ends, aftercare may include residence in a sober living facility, attending counseling sessions (including individual and group meetings), and checking in at least weekly with a sponsor or counselor.
The key to a successful treatment program is that it provides a safe, drug-free environment, geared entirely toward recovery in both the short term and long term.However, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, high relapse rates are a grim reality of addiction treatment. There is a 40 to 60 percent relapse rate among substance abusers, which is similar to relapse rates among other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension. These relapse rates beg the question, why aren’t treatment programs universally more effective?
The Effectiveness of Rehab
According to NIDA, drug treatment programs are effective. A recovering individual’s success depends on many variables, including:
- The extent and type of problems the recovering person suffers from (Is there a co-occurring mental health disorder that complicates the substance user’s recovery?)
- The compatibility between the patient and the treatment and service providers (Were the services provided properly tailored to the patient’s needs?)
- The relationship between the recovering patient and providers (Was the care compassionate and trust-building? Did the patient feel he was heard and treated well?)
NIDA, quite rightly, explains that relapse is not failure. Addiction is a chronic disease, and for this reason, one type of intensive rehab treatment is not necessarily going to prove effective in every case. Relapse signals the need to reinstate an existing treatment plan, modify it appropriately, or initiate a new treatment program.
Although drug treatment outcomes are worthy areas of study, especially to the extent that they can potentially help improve recovery services, in-depth research studies appear to be few and far between. Part of the reason is that “success” in the treatment context is highly challenging to quantify, and the most accurate studies would need to be conducted over many years to accurately monitor sobriety outcomes. Even then, a relapse could happen after decades of abstinence, and would that be considered a success or failure?
In view of limited research, it is necessary to seek insights about drug treatment outcomes where they are available. For instance, the University of Memphis has an Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation that conducted a study of treatment outcomes in Tennessee in 2002 to 2003. The survey involved over 2,000 participants who had received treatment from publicly funded facilities in Tennessee for alcohol and other drug abuse. Insightful highlights of the study, which may be construed to provide some indication of the effectiveness of treatment programs in general, are as follows:
At the six-month mark after the admission date, 66.2 percent of the survey participants reported that they were still abstinent.
The longer a participant remained in rehab, the better their outcome; participants who were in treatment 91 to 180 days had a rate of abstinence of 71.6 percent.
Quality of life improved for many post-treatment; the number of unemployed participants went from 60.6 percent to 36.4 percent.
In the two years before treatment, 50 percent of participants had been arrested but at the six-month mark since treatment started, only 11 percent had been rearrested.
About 70.2 percent rated treatment “very helpful” while 22.1 percent gave it a “somewhat helpful” rating.
Like NIDA, the Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation found that substance abuse treatment is effective. In specific, treatment improves a substance abuser’s life in the following essential ways:
- Improved physical health
- Better relationships
- Higher living standards
- Less criminal behavior
- Greater employability
Get Help Today
Substance abuse and addiction are treatable issues, and comprehensive rehab treatment can help you or your loved one find lasting recovery. Contact us today, and we can connect you with a comprehensive rehab program that will help you achieve the best treatment outcome for your situation. Call now.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton