Does Rehab Work?

Upset girl

This isn’t an easy question to answer. The bottom line is that it can work very well or fail miserably. Most people believe this has more to do with the person’s willingness to accept help. That is a common fallacy I hear all the time, having worked in this industry for nearly a decade and having been a drug addict myself. The statement “It will only work if they are ready” is simply not true.

The first thing to know is even people who are “ready” do not necessarily succeed at treatment. Similarly, I have worked with countless people who have had interventions and stating they did not want treatment, yet who got clean and remain so to this day. And of course, they are thankful and aware of the fact they did not want the help at first.

An addict’s willingness is a frail, impermanent thing. It can be there one moment and gone the next, only to return and disappear again. The fact is, the easiest thing in the world to change is your mind.

So, if this isn’t the main factor, what is? There are so many kinds of treatment, and programs to match it can be difficult to determine the best way to help someone with substance abuse problems. However, it is clear the kind of treatment the person receives is THE key factor as to whether they will get clean and stay clean. With success rates averaging between the single digits and upwards of 75%, and every facility claiming to be the best, it can be confusing making what could be the decision between life and death.

I’m going to help you understand the distinct types of treatment, so you know what you’re dealing with, and what will work best for your situation.

Outpatient Treatment

This form of treatment is where the addict goes to the facility a few times a week for group or individual sessions. They continue to live at home and stay in the same environment. They are still around their “friends” and drug dealers and have no structure or restrictions.

While this is usually the most desirable treatment for the addict, it is the least successful form of treatment as they don’t really have to change much if anything in their life.

Inpatient Rehab

This is also known as a Residential treatment. The person lives at the facility, 24/7 and is completely removed from their usual environment so that successful treatment can occur, uninterrupted and uninfluenced. While this is often less desirable for the addict, it is much more successful for obvious reasons. Therefore, there are several types of inpatient treatment…


This is usually only for a few days and simply gets the person through drug the withdrawal process. Other medications may be used to accomplish this, and the person is then discharged without receiving any real treatment and they are usually still experiencing latent withdrawal symptoms like cravings. They almost always relapse immediately.

28-day, 12-step programs

These programs last 28 days and are based on the 12-step model. They usually incorporate detox into this time-period, and the overall concept is that addiction is a disease and that the person is powerless to overcome it. Most of these facilities utilize psychiatric medications and/or replacement drugs such as Suboxone or Methadone.

While some addicts prefer this as they don’t have to get completely sober, it often results in the cycle of addiction continuing as the length of time is insufficient to fully treat all aspects of addiction.

Dual Diagnosis

These are facilities which specialize in handling substance abuse and psychiatric disorders simultaneously. This would be for someone with a major organic disorder such as Schizophrenia who also uses drugs. The thing to be careful of here is that this is for people who have mental health issues which began BEFORE their substance abuse.

Most addicts are depressed, anxious, bipolar, have ADD/ADHD or other issues but that does not make this the right choice for them. Drugs in themselves cause many of the aforementioned symptoms and drug addicts are certainly unhappy. Because of this, they are usually misdiagnosed.

They haven’t usually been truthful with medical professionals about what they’ve been up to either. Dual diagnosis facilities deal with the primary, severe mental health problems and most drug addicts simply do not fit this model.

Faith-based programs

These are based on religion. Most are quite long-term but do not provide much in the way of treatment or therapy. These programs usually do not have a medical component, but instead, rely on a person’s faith in a higher power to remove their addiction. These programs are usually very inexpensive, and the addict basically works for some enterprise the program has developed to pay for their tuition. This exposes the addict to the outside-world regularly and with little supervision, so many people relapse while on this type of program.

Holistic, long-term

This type of treatment is usually around 90 days, however, is result-based rather than time-based. This means it takes however long it takes for each individual person. While they do have medical supervision, the focus is not on medication and replacement drugs but rather building the body back up with proper nutrition. There is a usually a built-in detox component.

Overall, they focus on helping the addict resolve the underlying issues that keep leading them back to using drugs or alcohol to cope with life. The success rates of this type of program are usually much higher than traditional methods, and they specialize in helping people who continually relapse despite traditional treatment methods.

Choose the right treatment and start now. Don’t wait until the sun, moon, and stars align. People die from this epidemic every day, often while “waiting” for something to change or while shopping for the cheapest program without regard to effectiveness. Remember, getting the right treatment is the single-most crucial factor for success.



Aaron has been writing drug education articles and documenting the success of the Narconon program for over two years.