Why Rehab Doesn't Work

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Unfortunately, rehab doesn’t work for every addict. Why a rehab didn't work could be due to a lack of commitment, the wrong treatment programme, or that the individual didn't get enough support.  

Addiction is always destructive and hard to overcome, especially on your own.

Rehab acts as a bridge to recovery. But as mentioned, unfortunately, rehab for alcoholics doesn’t always work, in the short term or long term.  

That doesn’t mean it’s not effective, but there are the nitty-gritty things that you must be aware of before enrolling in a rehab programme.  

It is obvious that going to rehab can be a life-changing experience.  

The aim of rehab is to help people live a drug-free life. Some people achieve sobriety in a rehab programme but after returning home they relapse.

Some drop out of treatment at the initial stages for being unable to resist substance abuse. 

So what could be the reason for giving up on rehab?  

Here are some reasons why rehab might not work:  

Lack Of Participation 

If a person joins a drug addiction treatment programme unwillingly, they are more probable to quit it in the middle and can’t reap the perks of drug rehab.

Defeating addiction demands active participation and submergence in the healing process. If an addict doesn’t embrace or accept the changes they require, to live substance-free, drug rehab likely won’t work for them. 

Doesn’t Spend Sufficient Time In Addiction Treatment 

People who want drugs treatment have usually been addicted for a long time. They and their family members and friends have started to observe how drug use or substance use is impacting their health and life negatively.

Some people join treatment centre before their life falls apart, but a lot of addicts never join. Because the detoxification of drugs and the end of addiction is a gradual process, the recovery and the healing process are too. 

Recovery and abstinence take time. A 3-day programme by insurance companies has been offered because it is most probably to be covered by healthcare.

Still, many people require more than a month to make impressive lifestyle changes necessary to get over their addiction.  

During drug rehab or any medical treatment, an individual manages through problems that lead to substance abuse and problems that arise because of addiction.

To avoid relapse, an addict has to replace old habits, learn new practical skills, and get used to a positive and healthy way of life. 

That can’t happen overnight. Drug rehab usually doesn’t work for people who want more time than allowed by the rehab programme they select. 

Rehab Programme Is Not Suitable For Their Individual Needs 

People deal with addiction in different ways. Addiction treatment must be tailored to the addict for successful recovery. The best treatment options use a personal assessment to develop a unique treatment plan. 

This treatment plan should focus on: 

  • How addiction affects the alcoholics or patients (their health, life, and relationships) 
  • How the patients deal with the side effects of addiction 
  • What caused the patients to abuse drugs? 
  • Which parts of an addict’s life were affected by the drug abuse and substance abuse? 
  • History of the addict and what medical treatment they have taken in the past 

A rehab programme that doesn’t treat the root cause of drug abuse and other addictions, like co-occurring disorders or trauma, is unlikely to result in a lasting recovery.

Unaddressed and unresolved issues can reappear later and cause a relapse. Addiction treatment that doesn’t manage a health problem cannot heal the addicts. 

Learn more about the Abbeycare alcohol treatment plan here.

The Patient Doesn’t Think He Has A Problem 

Although there are various reasons that someone plans to join rehab, accepting that you have a serious issue. It is common for many people to join a rehab programme without being fully convinced that they are patients.

However, if you never come to the conclusion that you genuinely have an addiction and are helpless over it, the possibility of relapse increases. Ask yourself: is your drug use is stopping you from doing things in life?

Are you limiting your own success by continuously using drugs? If “yes” then you must seek help. If drugs limit you in any way, then seek treatment. 

why rehab doesn't work

Lack Of Support From Friends Or Family 

Addicts in outpatient rehab programmes usually struggle to be consistent with their treatment progress if they don’t get enough support from friends or family members.

Some people leave an inpatient rehab programme and are shaken by the difference in the atmosphere of the rehab centre and home life.  

Without enough support from your family, it can be extremely difficult for people to achieve and maintain sobriety and that's when rehab doesn't work.

This is specifically the case if they live with people who are patients. It can be difficult if their friend or family do not pay attention to their recovery process.

Preventing relapse is extremely challenging without encouragement. 

That’s the main reason why aftercare is offered from periodic check-ins to ongoing substance abuse counselling to many people in the recovery process.

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous with their related twelve-step programmes can also be helpful to stay sober and prevent relapse.

These groups offer group therapy and connect people to share their stories with their team members and remind each other of the moral principles, strategies to handle stress, and coping skills learned in rehab programmes. 

Drug Or Alcohol Cravings 

With medical treatment, the vast majority of addicted individuals crave drugs or alcohol, and this may remerge even after detox months or years later.

Cravings are mental or physical urges to use alcohol or drug that are very tough to resist.

That’s why addiction treatments usually start with detoxification to prevent relapse by reducing cravings so that recovering people can focus on coping mechanisms.

The medication-assisted treatment uses light drugs that relieve withdrawal symptoms or create an adverse reaction to alcohol or drug abuse. 

The aim is to weapon recovering people to get over the stronger substance (liquor, heroin, etc.) and eventually living a substance-free life.

In other words, through MAT drug addicts with severe cravings during drug and alcohol treatment can have a successful recovery. And this is the only rehabilitation treatment that can prepare them to stay strict in sobriety if withdrawal symptoms return. 

A Traumatic Event 

A traumatic event can cause an addicted individual to turn to substance abuse as a way to handle stress even after or during drug rehab.

Despite the healthy habits and strong coping skills for everyday stress, the mental and physical effects of trauma may be too severe for an addicted individual to resist their old methods of comfort.  

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: October 31, 2023