Addiction is a worldwide issue. In 2021 in the United States alone, there were 46.3 million people who reported that they experienced a substance use disorder (SUD).
It doesn’t matter who you are, as addiction doesn’t discriminate. Substance abuse changes the brain, and can alter the way a person thinks, causing them to act in ways they normally wouldn’t.
It’s debilitating and difficult to deal with without professional help, and yet, some people avoid seeking help due to the massive stigma that surrounds addiction.
For example, some people falsely believe that treatment is ineffective. However, science has proven many addiction treatment options to be effective.
The success rates of individual rehab programs can depend on many different factors, including the motivation of the client to gain sobriety.
Data On Drug Rehab Success Rates
Many people are able to succeed and thrive in recovery, whether they attended inpatient treatment or an outpatient program.
In a 2021 study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that two out of three people with a SUD considered themselves recovering or fully recovered.
Because it is hard to get a specific success rate, as both addiction itself and success can vary, it is important to understand what helps promote recovery in the long-term.
Success Is Not The Same For All
What defines “success” in addiction recovery, just like with other mental health struggles, is not universal. The road to recovery looks different for everyone.
Some people may be dealing with long-term chemical dependence due to the changes addiction has made to the brain. They may relapse many times before they find long-term sobriety.
Some may need medication-assisted treatment (MAT) long-term, helping to reduce cravings and stay away from the dangerous substances that steal their autonomy.
Others may have a mild SUD, use outpatient treatment, and may never experience a relapse.
But this doesn’t mean that people who meet the criteria for the first two examples failed and the third succeeded.
Since what defines success and the path that someone takes toward recovery vary from person to person, it is difficult to determine the exact rate of success for recovery.
Relapsing Does Not Mean Failure
Another common misunderstanding is the idea that relapsing equals a failure of treatment success. Relapsing can bring a feeling of shame, defeat, and hopelessness.
But relapsing, just like with other chronic diseases, means that the treatment approach needs to be adjusted and triggers need to be reassessed.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse rates for SUD are around 40-60%, similar to the relapse rates of other chronic illnesses such as hypertension and asthma.
After going to drug or alcohol addiction treatment, many people recover. Relapsing, especially in the first few months after treatment, is common, but that doesn’t mean that treatment was, or is, unsuccessful.
Factors Influencing Success Rates
Many factors can influence the success of recovery. Readiness for recovery, recovery accessibility, and healthcare options are some of them.
Other factors that influence drug rehab success rates include:
- type of substance: Some substances are highly addictive, and can cause very severe withdrawal symptoms, to the point of becoming dangerous. This can make addiction take hold especially strong, and make stopping substance use frightening and uncomfortable.
- addiction severity: The DSM-V labels addiction in levels, from mild to severe. A severe addiction that has occurred due to the type of substance and length of time using the substance can be challenging to overcome.
- treatment length: There have been studies done showing that the length of time someone is in alcohol or drug addiction treatment matters. The longer someone is in treatment, the better the outcome.
- treatment type: Some addiction treatment centers offer more limited treatment options, while others may have a list of holistic choices, or options that vary in intensity. Since different people need different approaches to treatment, it’s important to find a treatment approach that works for you or your loved one. As with many mental health conditions, finding the right treatment fit may not happen immediately, but once it does, it can make every difference.
- co-occurring mental illness: A dual diagnosis, or having a mental health disorder that co-occurs along with an SUD, often requires specialized treatment, so both disorders can be addressed at the same time.
- therapy interventions: Therapy for drug or alcohol treatment may include behavioral health modalities along with family therapy, group therapy, and customized treatment plans. Interventions may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other evidence-based options to help clients gain insight into healthy ways to cope and manage their condition.
- aftercare and support groups: Having a strong support system once a person leaves a treatment facility can be invaluable. As with recovery from any other illness, a strong support network can help with healing and provide resources for recovery. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs can assist in adding a sense of community while also providing education and camaraderie. The shared experiences can teach group members healthy coping skills, reduce stigma, and promote sober living while also providing needed follow-up and accountability.
The Road To Recovery
People may relapse many times before achieving long-term recovery.
Recovery is often described as a journey, and on journeys there are paths that turn and twist, and things we don’t expect.
Since there is no cure for addiction, there isn’t a solid “end” to this journey.
Addiction is something that people must learn to live and cope with, just like other chronic illnesses. But it is far from a hopeless journey.
Find Addiction Treatment Today
If you or a loved one is facing addiction, visit AddictionResource.net or call us today to learn more about getting on the path to recovery.
Published on September 20, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Drug and Alcohol Dependence — Prevalence and correlates of ever having a substance use problem and substance use recovery status among adults in the United States, 2018
- National Public Radio (NPR) — There is life after addiction. Most people recover
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — SAMHSA Announces National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Results Detailing Mental Illness and Substance Use Levels in 2021