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When Drug Rehab Doesn’t Work

Providing Trusted, Evidence-Based
Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, we’re here to help.

So you went to rehab. You put in your time and thought you were good. But now you’ve relapsed.

First thing’s first, don’t beat yourself up. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that around 40 to 60 percent of all addicts who seek professional treatment will relapse within the first year. After that, the rate falls gradually. However, the risk of relapse will always be present…for the rest of your life.

One study shows that half of the people with alcoholism or other drug addiction who abstain for a year will stay clean. Fewer than 15 percent fall off the wagon after five years of sobriety.

These stats may lead you to ask, “If rehab didn’t work before, will it work this time around?”1

How To Make Rehab Stick

Man by window in deep thoughtTo make an informed decision on the appropriate next step for you, spend some time thinking about what your past rehabilitation experience was like. Were there aspects of it you didn’t care for? Does your relapse give you any clues as to what wasn’t addressed in treatment? For example, if you spent very little time identifying your triggers and devising safe ways to handle them, could that be why you succumbed to use again when life started throwing you curveballs? If you aren’t equipped to handle stress or emotional turmoil when it arises, you’ll likely reach for drugs or alcohol because they were what you depended on for emotional, physical, or psychological help in the past.

Some people end up relapsing because they think they’ve reached a place where their drug use is no longer a problem; This is a common occurrence particularly among alcoholics. After a chunk of time spent being sober, they start thinking they can handle social drinking again. But that just isn’t how addiction works. As the 12-Step program mantra goes, “Once an addict, always an addict.”2

The substances you’ve abused in the past play a considerable role in a possible future relapse. A stronger substance like heroin is going to be harder to break free from than a milder drug, like marijuana. Everyday Health points out the 85 percent risk of relapse for opioid addicts– even after a full year of abstinence.3

Another important consideration you need to take into account is your overall mental state. Do you suffer from any kind of mental illness? It is likely that you were screened for this in rehab the first time around. If not, you should be looking in a new direction for follow-up care.

Furthermore, many types of mental illness can develop at any time. Examples of this are depression and anxiety disorders. About 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. Likewise, about 20 percent of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder develop a co-occurring anxiety or mood disorder. If you’re in need of this type of dual-diagnosis care, make sure the facility you choose is fully equipped to treat co-occurring disorders.4

How Long Is Long Enough?

Studies strongly indicate that how long you stay in rehab is a major predictor of how well you’ll fare after you leave. Too often addicts say they want to complete rehab as quickly as possible. While this makes sense in some respects, adequately long stays correlate to more successful outcomes. You have to be prepared to stay as long as it takes. Reasonably, someone who has been caught up in the clutches of an opioid addiction or alcoholism for ten years shouldn’t expect to be immediately healed and have a good grip on the necessary coping skills to avoid a future relapse in the course of just one week.

It is all too often the case that individuals with a substance use disorder depart from treatment before their rehab program is complete. This typically leads to failure down the road. Even addicts who end up suffering severe consequences from substance abuse often leave treatment early. Just 15 percent of people who are placed into detox and then discharged following a trip to the emergency room end up seeking addiction rehab treatment afterwards.5

Group TherapyRehab is a learning experience. You are there to relearn what you thought you knew…or should have known. Thus, the longer you’re in rehab, the better you are equipped to face future challenges. Many substance abusers enter rehab thinking they can just get some help while in withdrawal and then go home. They have jobs, families, and responsibilities waiting on them.

But what good are you to participate in any part of your life if you aren’t going to stay clean? Would you fix just some of the problems with your car, as diagnosed by your shop, and then fully expect it to run correctly? Probably not. The same is true for you. When you follow up your detox program with therapy and support group meetings, your chance of relapsing is greatly reduced.

So how long should you stay in rehab? The ideal scenario is often 90 days or more. That may sound like a long time. And the price of daily treatment may certainly add up. But long-range thinking is necessary.

In one study, participants who stayed in rehab for at least 90 days were 1.5 times more likely to remain abstinent from alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs during their first year in recovery.6

Moving Forward Successfully in Drug Addiction Recovery

Regardless of where you’re at, you need to have some quality people by your side that will support you and urge you to stay on the right path. Preparing for life after treatment is part of the rehab process. That’s why you need time, practice, and solid support.

And if mental health issues are involved, don’t leave treatment before you’ve dealt with those contributors to addiction. At Michael’s House, we can walk you through every step of the way. Even after you leave formal treatment, know that you are never alone. Because we care. Aftercare is a critical part of the recovery process.

Please call us anytime, day or night, for more information, advice or opportunity to make a reservation.


1Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). July 2014. Accessed 20 October 2017.

2Why Do Alcoholics and Addicts Relapse so Often?U.S. News and World Report. 24 April 2017. Accessed 20 October 2017.

3Understanding Addiction Relapse.” Everyday Health. 28 December 2012. Accessed 20 October 2017.

4Substance Use Disorders.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Accessed 20 October 2017.

5Why Not Start Addiction Treatment Right in the ER?” Nashville Public Radio. 29 April 2015. Accessed 20 October 2017.

6Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-based Guide (Third Edition).” National Institute on Drug Abuse. December 2012. Accessed 20 October 2017.