Can a person check themselves out of a rehab centre?

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Can a person check themselves out of a rehab centre?

Yes, a person can check themselves out of a rehab centre. People leaving rehab against medical advice is a common problem that treatment facilities usually face.


Still, leaving rehab before your treatment providers suggest can adversely affect your long-term coping with addiction.

The percentage of addicts in treatment facilities who leave against court-order rehab treatment or medical advice ranges from 3% to 5%, with a 17% average. [1] 

Leaving treatment centres early against medical advice usually results in high healthcare costs and mortality. 

Aspects that predict AMA discharge involve: 

  • Young age 
  • No insurance coverage or Medicaid 
  • Being male [2] 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Lower socioeconomic status 

Rehab is not a jail, but it offers patients confidential help. Anybody can walk out at any time they want. Even laws have also changed in the drug treatment arena.

Now you can get permission for your loved ones to leave rehab on the basis of their legal, emotional, financial, and living situation. [3] 

Can patients leave rehab early on their own? 

Yes, patients can leave rehab on their own, but it can affect their efforts of maintaining sobriety and attaining long-term recovery in the wrong way.  

What does “early” mean? Generally, it’s leaving the treatment facility anytime under a month, while that depends on various factors such as the facility being unsanitary, dead bugs in the food, the staff being mean, etc. 

Although leaving the alcohol addiction rehab treatment plan is an option, it is highly discouraged, and those who want to leave the rehabilitation centre before completing their treatment have a high possibility of relapse.  

If you’re an addict, nobody can force you to stay in a treatment facility against your own will. You can leave anytime, but before walking out that door, ask yourself why you would do that? 

Think of the potential consequences and how leaving rehab early might affect your life.  

Reasons for leaving rehab early 

There are many factors that impact a person’s decision to leave the treatment centre. For example, post-acute withdrawal syndrome, experiencing denial and overpowering withdrawal symptoms.

Here are the most common reasons for leaving addiction treatment centre early. 

1) Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) 

A lengthy withdrawal period may cause PAWS. It usually develops when a person quits substance abuse after a long-term addiction. Symptoms could be loss of focus, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and violence.

This again makes them believe that it is easier to resume using drugs or alcohol than quit.  

2) Feeling awful

Detox is difficult, and it’s normal to experience many unpleasant symptoms according to your dependence on the substance and your addiction severity.  

For example, you might have chills, nausea, muscle aches, headaches, or tremors. Withdrawal isn’t confined to physical symptoms; it affects your mental health as well.

You may feel angry, anxious, depressed, or irritable. You might experience minor heart attacks. Cravings might be intense, and you might feel like you’ve lost your best friend, a feeling of emptiness.  

The good news is that symptoms will ease in a few days, and you’ll start to feel active, healthy, and better.  

3) I don’t like this place 

Maybe things aren’t going the way you planned, and you feel like you selected the wrong addiction centre. The food quality is poor, or you don’t find it suitable for you.

Maybe you’re frustrated or bored, or you miss your family’s support. It’s normal to feel like a fish out of water at the initial stages of the recovery process. Be patient; the first couple of weeks can be the hardest. 

4) I don’t want any therapy or treatment 

Maybe you feel like you can stop the drug use without help, but you must be open & honest with yourself – if you could stop on your own, you would have overcome your addiction by now.

If you’ve been in a rehab centre for a while, or you’ve made it through withdrawal, you may feel like you’ve got the problem figured out, and further treatment process isn’t necessary.  

Your possibility of a positive outcome, quick recovery, and healthy life is substantially improved if you stay in treatment for at least three months.

The National Institute on drug abuse stated that studies show that most people must be admitted to an addiction centre for longer. Think about the progress you’ve made so far as a recovering addict, don’t throw it all away. [4] 

5) Overpowering withdrawal symptoms 

Dealing with the mental, physical and emotional panoramas of withdrawal is quite difficult.

Patients encounter anxiety and intense cravings during detox and this usually leads them to believe it’s way easier to keep using the drugs than quitting. Still, leaving rehab early will make the situation riskier. 

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Can you leave rehab early and what happens if you do? 

Leaving treatment early before you complete your rehab process is your choice, just like you decided to enter rehab in the first place.  

Still, if you are in the middle of the addiction recovery process and are making progress with your medical condition, it’s important to remember that people usually leave treatment early because of anxiety, not because they’ve considered the pros, cons, and outcomes of their decision.  

If you’re currently a part of an inpatient treatment or rehab programme and thinking of leaving treatment, talk to your counsellors or therapists about your feelings.  

They’ve been through this before with other patients and can handle your concerns about treatment options, long-term sobriety, recovery, therapy, detox, progress, and time frame. 

You might also want to talk about your concerns in group therapy because others may have the same feelings, and you might be able to resolve the concerns. Furthermore, if you really want to leave, you can.

But before making a decision, notice your medical condition for at least 24 hours.  

How does leaving early affect recovery? 

Leaving a rehab programme is more like walking away from your commitment to having a healthy life and staying sober you’ve worked so hard for.

Recovery is a process, and all the days you’ve fought through withdrawal and all the progress you’ve made fighting back against your addiction will be lost if you don’t wait for your programme’s completion.

Substance abuse and addiction need counselling, healing, and patience, and if a person interrupts this process, it can have a lasting impact on your recovery process.  

What can happen if you leave early?  

Typically, if a person leaves early before the initial 28days of the treatment programme, several things can happen. If you decide to check out rehab, the sooner you leave, the more dangerous the results could be.  

  1. If you leave a drug rehab during the detox or cleanse period, it can be life-threatening. Withdrawing from alcohol or drugs can cause seizures, heart attacks, and strokes. These symptoms typically worsen within 24-72 hours. If you don’t seek medical help, you might be risking your life. 

  1. Possibility of relapse – in a rehab centre, you can use several options like detox and therapy as building blocks, essential to treat addiction, and learn how to manage and control psychological and emotional health outside of rehab. If you decide to leave a programme early, you may find yourself back to where you started, as you have not had sufficient time to learn all of the coping strategies taught during the recovery process. 

What is court-ordered rehab? 

If you’re convicted of a violation such as fraud, theft, drunk driving, manufacturing, or selling of a controlled substance, the court may offer you a chance to enter rehab rather than spending time in jail or prison. [5] 

After looking at your case, the court may consider the crime is linked to your use of drugs or alcohol and that it might not have happened if you hadn’t been high.

If a court offers you an option to be a part of a treatment process, it’s because the judge thinks you’re not a threat to other people's lives and that you have a high possibility of making healthy life changes. 

The National Institute in substance abuse has reported that for many people, legal pressure is motivating to join rehab programmes for dual diagnosis and drug treatment, maintain sobriety and stay there longer.

NIDA also observed that people who complete treatment and don’t leave early are less likely to leave drug-related law violations or criminal behaviour in the future. [6] 

It’s a win-win solution for all addicts. Rehab is cheaper than prison, and treatment relieves society’s burden of howling public health costs linked with addiction and substance abuse.  

Bottom line 

Whether you entered a drug rehab voluntarily or you’re in a court-ordered treatment programme, there are many reasons to see it through.  

Rehab centres always support people in addressing their addiction or substance abuse.

They can help if you’re seeking medical advice to face challenges like employment problems, medical issues, or lack of secure residence.  

People leave rehab early for not sharing their concerns with the healthcare providers, but with consistency, a person learns how to manage anxiety, depression, or PTSD, and you may get meds that will help live a sober life.  

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About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: November 23, 2023