Rehab Success Rates and Statistics

3 min read · 8 sections
What results can be expected from treatment?
What you will learn:
Statistics about relapse, success rates, and effectiveness
Understanding what recovery looks like
Defining rehab success

What is the Standard Rehab Success Rate?

In 2021, over 106,000 people died in the United States from drug-involved overdoses.1 That’s nearly 292 people a day. Additionally, from 1981-2020, unintentional poisoning (from drug overdoses) had become the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States.2

Treatment can work, but how is the success of treatment measured? There is no standard definition of rehab, so there is no standardized way to measure the success of addiction centers. Many facilities base success rates on factors, such as:

  • The number of individuals who complete of the program.
  • The percentage of individuals who remain sober immediately following treatment.
  • Alumni interviews.
  • Internal studies.

A better approach, however, involves judging the actual quality of care a facility provides—during and after the formal treatment period.

While addiction and substance misuse are undoubtedly major problems in the United States, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that as many as 90 percent of people who need drug rehab do not receive it.3 With such a desperate need for solutions, what results can be expected from treatment?

Defining Rehab

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rehab helps individuals by using a variety of interventions to aid them in developing strategies to overcome their challenges, and supporting them to return to drug- and alcohol-free, healthy, productive lives.4 Drug and alcohol rehab is intended to help individuals with addiction issues stop the compulsive use of drugs and alcohol.5 Thus, rehab occurs in a variety of settings—including inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient programs—utilizes different forms of treatment and therapies, and lasts for varying lengths of time.5

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How Many People Relapse After Completing Treatment?

Relapse rates for drug and alcohol use resemble those of other chronic diseases, including hypertension and diabetes with an estimated 40-60% of individuals relapsing while in recovery.6

National surveys suggest that of those with alcohol use disorder (AUD), a medical condition defined by the uncontrollable use of alcohol despite negative consequences, only about one-third attempt to quit drinking each year. Of those, only about 25% are successful at reducing their alcohol intake for more than a year.7

Addiction is a chronic condition, so for some, relapse, or a return to drug and alcohol use, is part of the process. Newer treatments are meant to help reduce the risk of relapse, and an aftercare plan helps people stay the course even after they’ve completed a treatment program.6 Research indicates that most individuals who receive and remain in treatment stop misusing drugs and alcohol, reduce their criminal activity, and improve their social and psychological functioning.5

Relapse is not an indicator of failed treatment. It means that the individual needs to contact their physician or other healthcare provider to resume treatment, modify modalities, or try a different rehab approach.6

Spontaneous Recovery Research

Spontaneous remission from drug or alcohol addiction refers to the the phenomenon where an individual with a substance use disorder (SUD) stops using drugs or alcohol without any formal treatment or forced rehab. Yet the research behind this occurrence is largely inconclusive because of the limits of the data available.

Various studies and scientists use different terminology to describe this phenomenon. Some use “spontaneous remission” while others use “spontaneous recovery.” There’s also debate over what constitutes treatment. Some studies consider 12-step programs treatment while others do not. Furthermore, researchers don’t follow up with study participants after the same amount of time. Thus, the validity of spontaneous recovery is primarily anecdotal at this point.

What Is Treatment Success?

Successful treatment for drug and alcohol addiction requires customization, continual evaluations, and modifications when necessary—all delivered by medical professionals using evidence-based therapies and medications.5 There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to treatment, but it’s most successful when individuals complete the entire course of their treatment and continue with the aftercare programs. In fact, studies show that when incarcerated individuals receive comprehensive drug or alcohol treatment in prison and then follow up with continued care upon their release, their drug use declines by 50-70% as compared to individuals who do not receive treatment.10

Unfortunately, less than 42% of the individuals who enter treatment for drug and alcohol use complete it.9

Individual success in treatment depends on several factors, including:10

  • The frequency, duration, and type of drug used.
  • Criminal behaviors.
  • Family and social environments.
  • Educational background.
  • Employment status.
  • Additional physical and mental health conditions.

After Rehab, What Does Recovery Look Like?

Completing rehab is a major accomplishment, and it’s important to appreciate each day in recovery as the successful experience it is. That being said, living an alcohol- and drug-free life takes commitment beyond just giving up substances. It might be necessary to change friends and habits since returning to old lifestyles might trigger a relapse.

After completing the recommended treatment plan, it’s important to have a game plan to help maintain a new sober lifestyle. While individuals may return to work, school, and other activities, they need to surround themselves with a support system of family, friends, treatment alumni, and mentors who will encourage and promote healthy lifestyle choices and distractions.

Outside of a personal support system, there are a number of ways individuals can foster their recovery efforts, including:

  • Continuing ongoing individual, group, or family therapy.
  • Scheduling regular check-ups with physicians, therapists, and other healthcare providers instrumental in the recovery efforts.
  • Attending peer groups in the long-term support community, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or SMART Recovery.
  • Participating in the aftercare programming and/or educational opportunities provided by the treatment center.
  • Finding new, healthy ways to occupy time, which many include volunteering, starting a new hobby, staying active, or going to the movies.

Furthermore, many treatment centers and facilities offer alumni programs that allow program graduates to stay involved. Alumni programs provide accountability and let individuals remain as part of the supportive recovery community. Rehabs with alumni networks typically connect individuals with this resource while they are still in treatment so they are already part of the community when formal treatment ends.

How Do You Identify an Effective Treatment Facility?

Finding the right facility for you involves the inclusion of a physician, therapist, or other healthcare provider to help you choose a facility to address all of your needs, including addiction and co-occurring disorders. Beyond that, you may narrow the field based on location, additional services, amenities, and accreditations and certifications.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, known as CARF, is a nonprofit organization that offers accreditation of rehabilitation and behavioral health centers. In order to receive a CARF accreditation, facilities must meet a variety of requirements. A CARF-accredited facility demonstrates high-quality programming and treatment that is tailored to the individual.

Find a rehab facility that utilizes evidence-based therapies (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy) and staffs their facility with medically trained professionals, therapists, and other specialized addiction counselors—some of whom may have gone through the program themselves. Inquire about the qualifications of staff members as well as the specifics of the therapies offered prior to committing to a particular program.

Read reviews. What former clients have to say, via personal recommendations and testimonials, can speak volumes about the facility, its staff, the treatment, and the overall experience.


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