Rehab Success Rates: Does Rehab Really Work?

There’s an endless amount of statistics and information online about rehabilitation from drug and alcohol. Some are scary, claiming that there’s no real way to recover from drug and alcohol abuse. On the other hand, some statistics claim that rehab is a type of miracle cure. In reality, it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction.

If you or someone you know is in recovery or is beginning the journey to sobriety, it’s up to you to make the most of reality. With the costs for treatments on the rise, how do you know if you’re spending money on an effective program? While there is no “cure” for addiction, it is possible to treat and manage addiction successfully.

Think of addiction like a chronic condition. When left on its own, it only gets worse. However, when you start a treatment plan, it’s possible to live a healthy and happy life with this condition. The hard truth is that addiction is something that never fully goes away. It’s always in the background. That being said, it can be overcome for a brighter future.

In this guide, we’ll break down the walls around rehab treatment to determine if it really works. We’ll look into the success rates as well as what they mean to come out on the other side with an honest answer.

Rehab Success Rates - Does Rehab Really Work?

Drug and Alcohol Rehab Success Rates

If you or someone you know is struggling to recover from drug and alcohol addiction, you’re not alone. Drug overdoses have actually become the top cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. Over 44,000 people a year die from drug overdoses. But for those who seek treatment, how often do they recover?

There’s a lot of conflicting evidence and research that goes into these statistics, and it’s true they might not all be straightforward. However, we should still get to know the numbers.

First, let’s define what rehab means. This is a more confusing term that you’d think since there’s no standard definition of “rehab.” As you might expect, since there’s no standard definition, there’s also no standard way to define whether rehab is successful. A lot of success rates are based just on how many of the patients complete their programs while others follow-up with ongoing sobriety. In addition, how are relapses counted?

These are the questions that need to be asked about drug and alcohol rehab success rates. Understanding the concept of help with drug addiction can sometimes be confusing, but it usually has to do with the individual, facility and situation.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction by the Numbers:

  • Over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have an addiction
  • 6.8 million people who have an addiction also have a mental illness
  • 16.6 million Americans are considered alcoholics

With these numbers in mind, how does rehab make a difference, if it does at all?

Rehab Success Rates by the Numbers:

  • Compared to those who obtained help with their alcoholism, those who did not get help were less likely to achieve 3-year remission
  • Between 40 – 60% of people who have been treated for addiction or alcoholism will relapse within a year

After seeing these stats above, it’s still not clear whether or not rehab is an effective way to manage addiction or alcoholism. We still need to take a closer look at how rehab works to see why it’s such an effective way to achieve recovery.

Addiction group therapy

Types of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Rehab

There are a number of different types of rehab from drug and alcohol abuse, and they also contribute to whether the program itself is successful. There are some intensive programs that are likely fit for those who are really struggling with recovery and withdrawal, and there are also outpatient programs like therapy and group sessions that are better for ongoing management.

Inpatient Treatment – With an inpatient program, there is a rigorous medication and counseling schedule that helps the patient slowly heal their body and learn coping strategies. These inpatient programs run anywhere from a month to several months, as needed, and they’re supervised by a medical professional.

Residential Treatment – These programs are similar to inpatient, yet they’re intended to last for a longer time. The patient moves into the residential facility for a long-term program which is usually over 70 days. From there, they become a part of the sober community to counsel patients into a better lifestyle change.

Detox – Detox is something that gets a lot of media attention, but it’s actually not a program in itself. Detox is the process of transitioning the body from regular substance. Detox is usually done before a patient enters an inpatient or residential program.

Outpatient Treatment – Finally, outpatient includes a number of things like group therapy, in-person sessions, and counseling. Patients continue to live in their own homes, and these programs are ongoing for a longer period of time.

Support group

Why Do Drug Rehab Programs Work?

Not all drug treatment programs are created equal. Unfortunately, there are many substance abuse programs that don’t live up to their claims. In order for a program to be effective, it needs to have a number of things:

  • Educated, experienced personnel
  • Physicians certified by the American Board of Addiction medicine
  • Individualized treatment
  • Long-term timeframe
  • Mental health counseling and treatment
  • Medications, if needed

Simply treating the symptoms of addiction doesn’t work. There needs to be a customized approach to treatment that addresses the root problems as well as coping strategies for the future. While it’s true that between 40 – 60% of patients relapse in the future, this does not mean the program was a failure.

As we’ve said, addiction is a chronic illness. There is no single cure that magically changes the way the patient’s body and mind are wired. It takes ongoing care and management. There are good days, bad days, and in-between days. As long as the patient recovers from their relapse and keeps moving closer to recovery, it’s a success.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you love is struggling with the challenges that come with addiction, don’t be deterred by the confusing statistics surrounding drug rehab success. These programs, as long as you’re careful in your choice, are an effective way to achieve a brighter future.

Instead of fixating on success rates, we need to change our perspective on what it means to live with addiction. Things are never that black and white. Relapse or troubles after treatment doesn’t mean the entire program failed. It just means more structure and support is needed to keep moving forward.

Choosing the method of recovery that’s right for you is half the battle. From there, you’ll need to find a treatment that works for your lifestyle. Ultimately, we can all agree that drug rehab is more than worth it to protect your future and your happiness.



  1. Cathy Cavarzan says:

    There is so much gray area when it comes to addiction and success. Myself and I do not recommend this as I am only about 1% that have achieved success.I have been sober now for over 20 yrs but because of a major aha moment I quit cold turkey. Yes it can be done. However take my brother just the opposite he tried several and I mean several rehabs before he found one that has worked (so far) 2 years now. I think the success of rehabs comes down to who the person is and what they are trying to accomplish so stats are always going to change because no two individuals are the same.

    • Lynne says:

      I’m so glad to hear that you are clean Cathy, 20 years sobriety is a huge accomplishment. It is awesome that your brother has also now found recovery. This just goes to show that each person needs to walk his own path and find the thing that works. My uncle went to numerous rehabs and counselors but he never made it. He died from alcoholism when I was a few years clean. It is so hard for a family when someone does treatment repeatedly and does not succeed to stay clean.

    • Bex says:

      Your post really resonated with me and I commend you on your bravery in being so open and authentic about your personal journey. 

      I, too, manage addiction and it is something that has to be infused with mindfulness everyday.  Honesty, openness, self acceptance and self love have been instrumental in my overcoming addictions as well as meditation and implementing  the works of Joe Dispenza.  

      There are so many modalities of healing and recovery in terms of how to nurture each individual person with their specific needs.  It is a warm an encouraging space you are providing here and I appreciate the value you are providing.

      All the very best to you and your loved ones!


      • Lynne says:

        Congrats on your recovery Bex, I am so glad to hear that you have found your way. Now I’m going to have to go and look up Joe Dispenza 🙂

      • Twack Romero says:

        Without going into an essay let’s just say I have experience with this. Your line at the end of the article, I believe, is at the heart of the matter. “Choosing the method of recovery that’s right for you is half the battle.” Two things worth exploring from this statement. How do you know which method is right for you ? How will it prepare you for the ‘unexpected’ nature of life. I think it’s important that you mentioned that the ‘root problems’ need to be addressed because if they are not, then that person will be constantly fighting a battle they are ill equipped to deal with. Dealing with the underlying issues is so important as when there is a ‘blip’ in the road, that person needs to be able to draw on something other than the ‘crutch’ of alcohol or drugs. As we know, it doesn’t take long to get back into old habits. Giving someone the tools to be able to deal with this down the line is paramount. I was lucky in that I found a ‘counsellor’ I could relate to and who pointed me in the right direction to help myself in the future. The techniques I learned all those years ago are still helping me today.

        • Lynne says:

          You are so right there! When I go through a rough patch I suddenly start thinking that having a drink or taking drugs might just be a good idea. Of course I know it isn’t, but even 10+ years down the line it is my nature to revert to old bad habits and thought processes. 

          I’m glad that you have also found recovery and a great counsellor that works for you. 

        • Prabakaran says:

          The root cause of drug and alcohol addiction comes from the psychological condition of the individual due to lack of care from parents and other adverse circumstances surrounding their childhood and teenage life. They start using drugs and alcohol due to some failure or frustration whatever it is. The western lifestyle, in my opinion, is one of the cause too. In Asian countries, addiction should be less compared to the west because the lifestyle is different. The families are Joint (but now it is changing here also), People are family bound, there is less divorce, and there are rare cases of living together without getting marries and so on. Therefore, caring the addicts by the loved ones along with the treatment would be able to bring them out from the condition. I have seen people coming from rehab centers relapse again. For the worst cases, Only the way is psychiatric treatment.

          • Lynne says:

            Contrary to what you believe there are many people that come from amazing families that have not had any adverse situations. Take myself for example. I come from a loving home, with amazing parents that are still together. There was nothing but love and affection growing up. 

            There are many things that contribute to addiction. 

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