Many people have heard the term “rehab” before but few actually understand what it really means. This can be a difficult topic to address as rehabs tend to vary depending on where the treatment is being received and also in the programs they offer for the different stages of recovery. For individuals suffering from an addiction, it is imperative that they find the right treatment to meet their needs, as addictions are often characterized as being chronic and progressive. Nationally there were more than 63,600 people who have died from a drug overdose in 2016 (which is the most recent year for which we have full data on these statistics) and preliminary data has started to show that the 2019 number will be even more staggering. With drug overdoses projecting to only increase within the next year, treatment is vital in order to help save addicts from this fate. Understanding treatment options and how the process works can help addicts and their families when deciding what treatment is best for them.

Statistics on the efficacy of rehab are hard to read, mainly because treatment comes in many different forms and mostly relies on the motivation level of the addict. Recovery is also a process and assessing where an individual is in that process can be ever changing as motivation levels tend to fluctuate. Part of that process can include undergoing multiple types of treatment programs and/or involve one or more relapses as addicts try to learn what a life in sobriety looks like for them. Joe Shrand, MD, medical director of the Castle Adolescent Rehabilitation Unit at the High Point Treatment Center in Brockton, MA, recently stated that “the fact that relapse is more common than uncommon just shows how difficult it is to break addiction. Getting professional help is often your best hope of taking control despite the fact that it can take more than once to get it right”. Unfortunately, there is still much research to be done to know what exactly is the “right” type and amount of treatment needed to cure addiction. Getting professional help or advice can be a good start.

One important point to remember is that no one goes into rehab intending to fail. Studies have shown that drug and alcohol use can alter the brain’s normal chemistry levels, increasing activity in the pleasure and reward centers that leave an addict developing an overwhelming craving to use. Long term and chronic substance use may cause brain damage or permanently alter the brains natural chemistry and may take days, months, years or even a lifetime to reverse the effects. It is hard enough staying involved in treatment when the body is working at its most functional level, let alone when an addict is still experiencing side effects from their last binge. Aside from the physical ailments, most rehabs focus around group and individual therapy sessions which help addicts to uncover deeper psychological problems as well as learning how to deal with emotions in healthier ways. However, this is a lot easier said than done, as many addicts have used drugs in order to avoid this very thing – painful experiences or memories.

Most treatment centers also emphasize the importance of support groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Smart Recovery) and working a 12-step program. The New York Times has suggested that the AA program has as high as a 75% success rate for those who use and follow it rigorously. Generally speaking, the more resources that an addict has (including high motivation levels), the better their outcomes are in getting and remaining sober. Another difficult aspect to treatment is that some facilities do not keep outcome data and even if they did, most treatment is given in conjunction to other treatment so knowing what exactly is helping can be tricky. Overall, it is important to review treatment options to make sure that what they offer is best for each addict’s individual needs. Getting the opinions and help from multiple resources can also be helpful as many different treatment options can be used in conjunction with one another. Rehab can work for anyone who is determined and motivated enough to take suggestions and recommendations of how to run an effective program. It works if you work it!