We have all heard of the lousy relapse rates when it comes to treating addiction. But what about some of the success rates you hear about from various treatment programs or drug rehabs? Do these programs and rehabs really have the magic answer? Let’s take a look:
Keep in mind that sometimes the numbers are manipulated a bit, and a certain treatment method or a specific rehab might distort their numbers a bit. This occurs naturally as businesses want to look good and encourage more business, even if their particular method is not really all that successful at truly helping addicts and alcoholics.
How can success rates be manipulated for recovery?
One way is through the use of discounting those who relapse or fail through some line of reasoning. For example, a treatment center might do a follow up survey and ask all of the respondents if they were still clean and sober after, say, 6 months time. Many will say that they have relapsed, and the percentage of success will not look so great. So in order to improve that rate, the questionnaire might ask if they followed through explicitly with all of their aftercare recommendations (such as attending long term treatment, going to intensive outpatient groups, or attending 12 step meetings every day). If the person has not explicitly followed their drug addiction therapy (a highly likely scenario), then the survey results discounts this “relapse” from their results because the person did not technically follow through with their treatment program.
Another way that relapse rates are misrepresented is with the whole drug-of-choice argument. Say a person is addicted to crack and they go to treatment and they manage to stay off the crack when they are released and might even attend an NA meeting or two. In follow up surveys, they correctly proclaim that they have in fact abstained from their drug of choice, while in the meantime, they have started drinking heavily in order to self-medicate over the lack of their “real” drug of choice. Under such a survey system, this type of person gets counted as a success story, when in fact, they are simply switching one drug for another and are likely no better off then when they started.
A third way that relapse rates are manipulated is due to the creative use of time frame. An example of this would be to show how your treatment center might have a really high success rate at getting addicts clean and sober for at least 30 days. This seems remarkable at first, until you realize that this particular treatment center is a 28 day inpatient program in a strictly controlled environment. Basing the success rate on 6 months or years clean time would be much more useful, but obviously not as compelling when it comes to marketing purposes.
Action items – what you can do:
1) Don’t pin your hopes on a number. Success in recovery is not magic, and there are not short cuts. It takes work and dedication to achieve long term sobriety.
2) Don’t limit yourself to a single treatment philosophy. There are different methods and programs for staying clean and sober, and the choice of which one you use is far less important than what any single person will tell you. Why? Because everyone thinks that the method they used to get sober is the only true way that works. Simply not true. Which program you choose is almost irrelevant. What matters is your conviction to stay sober and your level of willingness.