The statistics for success rates for drug and alcohol treatment seem to vary according to who is measuring success. The very definition of “success” seems to vary quite a bit also. Success depends on definitions of rehabilitation. If you are getting the impression that this is a murky topic, you are right. There are those who do not see total abstinence as a goal the idea of success changes dramatically. The bottom line is that an overall picture of success from treatment is actually pretty good.
If we take just one figure as emblematic of the overall issue we can get a sense of what is happening. According to one study 51% of addicted people who enter inpatient rehab complete the treatment program. Of that group, 21% remain sober for at least five years. Before jumping to conclusions about how to interpret these numbers we should consider similar figures for other health problems.
The “relapse rate” for drug addiction is something on the order of 40-60%. A disease such a diabetes is 30-60%. Putting the statistics in the larger context of treatable health issues changes the way we look at success for treatment. Health problems which require long-term treatment and attention generally carry a relapse rate that can appear alarming at first glance. Upon consideration in the larger context, the success rates appear much more promising.
Rather than focusing entirely on statistics—statistics by definition lie anyway—we should focus on personal outcomes and how we need to live our lives. For someone who is struggling and suffering with addiction, treatment offers recovery and healing. The choice between a continued downward spiral in a doomed drug or alcohol problem, and a chance at a healthy life from rehab and treatment is not much of a question. The benefit of treatment is not in the numbers. It is in the results individuals actually find in their lives.
What is more, the statistics are only bleak if taken in isolation. Placed against the recovery rates for similar health problems, the recovery rates for addiction are extremely encouraging. The science of addiction continues to evolve. With this, the forms of treatment also change and become more effective and more available.
Some things to consider are the fact that not all treatment centers track their clients beyond the time that they leave. Many of these people remain sober and live productive drug-free lives. There are some treatment programs which do not consider total abstinence to be a measure of success. This is a thinry issue for some, but this fact complicates claims of success.
I went through drug and alcohol treatment, and when I made the decision to seek treatment I did not consult the statistics. I looked to the state of my own life. Countless other people make the decision to seek treatment with the same motivation. Countless people the world over find a new lease on life by going through drug and alcohol treatment at a reputable rehab facility.
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