Does Rehab Really Work? 23 Million Reasons to Hope

Ten percent of Americans over age 18 reported being in recovery from substance abuse or addiction, according to a recent survey from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and The Partnership at

In other words, more than 23.5 million adults in the US once had a drug or alcohol problem, but no longer do. This is about 1 in every 10 Americans. 

Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership said, “This new learning provides a big reason—more than 23 million reasons—for all those who are struggling with their own, or a loved one’s substance use disorder, to have hope and know that they are not alone.”

Does Rehab Work?

Are you having doubts about the success of rehab? Maybe you’ve heard of too many relapse stories, read too many headlines about people like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston who have struggled and failed.

While Rehab does not guarantee 100% success—sometimes not even 50%—a rehabilitation program does provide a means a recovery, and this report proves it. Rehab can help, it does help, and it has helped millions already—23 million, to be specific.  

“But,” you say, “The National Institute of Drug Abuse says reported that only 31% of patients has achieved one continuous year of abstinence! Rehab may work, but it doesn’t for the majority.”

Ah, but the 31% success rate applies to those who have completed a treatment program of 90 days or fewer. Research has shown that a longer program, especially one involving aftercare, has much higher success rates for longer periods of times.

The nature of addiction makes it extremely hard to treat, and sometimes requires a longer treatment time for success. Addiction is a chronic disease, and just like all chronic diseases, it requires a life-style change. Obviously, this doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it requires months, even years.

But. It. Can. Happen!

Addiction is not a life-long sentence. Like other chronic illnesses, it can be managed successfully. 

What about Relapse?

Relapse is not uncommon among addicts. (Addiction by definition is a chronic relapsing disorder). Because addiction is considered a brain disease, studies show how the brain processing of an addict can predispose him to relapse.

On the other hand, one should always in mind these 4 important truths about relapse:

Relapse does not mean failure.

“Relapse should not be viewed as a failure; it is part of a learning process that eventually leads to recovery,” says Susan Merle Gordon, Ph.D., author of a research report by the Caron Foundation.

Relapse doesn’t mean failure. It means additional intervention is required. It means ignoring the silent voice of guilt inside of your head. It means picking yourself up and having the courage to continue while recognizing that it relapse is not uncommon and not unconquerable.

Relapse, while one of the cardinal features of addiction, is not inevitable.

Relapse rates vary by numerous factors, including

  • The severity of addiction
  • The drug of addiction
  • The length of treatment
  • Relapsed time from treatment discharge to assessment

Relapse rates for addiction (40-60%) is no different than relapse from other chronic illnesses.

Consider the following:

  • Relapse rates for Type 1 diabetes are between 30%-60%
  • Relapse rates for Hypertension  is  from 50-70%
  • Relapse rates for asthma is 50-70%

Relapse can be prevented

Relapse is often caused by triggers. Triggers can include environmental factors (such as passing a bar), stressful situations, social pressure, or bad relationships. Some triggers can be avoided, but most triggers can’t.

Rehabilitation programs help the addict deal with these triggers. It equips the individual with tools to resist the temptations so that he or she can return to a normal life, confident of consistent abstinence.

What does this mean for us?

Treatment does work. Relapse may be common, but it’s not inevitable. Recovery is not a myth; hope is not just a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Remember the 23 million reasons that recovery can be a reality, and choose a rehab today.

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