Do Rehab Centers Work?

Beating the Disease of Addiction: Do Rehab Centers Work?

When faced with statistics such as the 40-60 percent relapse rate after a year, even after treatment, it’s easy to ask the question “do rehab centers work?” But this way of thinking about addiction doesn’t account for the important factors such as addiction is a relapsing, chronic disease with no cure. In this article, we will look at “does drug rehab really work” by examining facts about addiction.

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The Problem Rehab Success Rates

Does drug rehab really work? Before we look at the answer to that question, it’s important to understand the facts about addiction. Many people are still under the impression that addiction is not a disease but rather due to a poor moral compass and a series of bad choices. Of course, this isn’t true because substance use disorder is a disease, much like hypertension, asthma and type II diabetes. It even has similar relapse rates.

To answer the question “do rehab centers work?” we must understand that the problem with this misconception is that it creates false beliefs about treatment, such relapse is an immediate failure of treatment. In its purest form, addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. Addicts are expected to relapse to an extent before they finally overcome addiction. Therefore, the real purpose of rehab, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is to:

  • Reduce or stop drug and alcohol use
  • Reduce criminal activity
  • Improve work-related productivity
  • Improve social function
  • Improve mental health

According to NIDA, various long-term studies have shown that all of these areas are improved in people who go into treatment and stay in rehab for the entire treatment plan. In fact, according to them, one short-term rehab program is not usually enough to stop substance abuse. Treatment should be a long-term process that may involve several interventions.

Relapse Does Not Mean Treatment Failure

Do rehab centers work? If the statistics only measure relapse rates, then it may seem like rehab is a waste of time. However, since relapse is likely due to the characteristics of the disease, relapse does not mean that treatment has failed.

A good way to understand this situation is to look at other chronic diseases that also don’t have cures, just ways to control the disease. A patient being treated for type II diabetes is expected to improve. However, if they suddenly stopped treatment, then their symptoms will surely return. Addiction is much the same way; if treatment and management of the disease stops, then symptoms will likely return because addiction is usually a life-long disease.

Rehab Completion

Do rehab centers work if the program is short? One of the most important factors in addiction treatment success is the completion of a rehab program and the entry into aftercare services. Do addiction treatment centers work? If you spend enough time on it, then yes. According to NIDA, the least amount of time that one should spend in treatment programs is three months.

The rehab center itself is usually held responsibly for encouraging the patient to continue with their treatment until the entire process is complete. They should also help the patient find ways to manage their disease once they leave rehab, such as through aftercare services and 12-step programs.

The Bottom Line

Do addiction treatment centers work? The bottom line is yes. However, individual success may vary and it may not work right away. Over the long-term, rehab is the most successful way to overcome addiction, and it has helped thousands of people to break the cycle of addiction for good.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.