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What does success mean when it comes to rehab?

The Fix recently published an article entitled “Can You Trust Rehab Stats?” that rips into Scientology-linked rehab centre, Suncoast, for claiming that they have a 76% success rate. We thought this article threw up lots of interesting ideas, the first of which is: what qualifies as “success” when it comes to rehab and recovery?

Is There Such a Thing as Success?

At Castle Craig, we believe that treatment is successful when patients are abstinent.  But for how long does someone have to be abstinent before “success” can be claimed?  6 months?  3 years?  20 years?

The problem with this approach is that it suggests there is a cure for addiction, yet we know that recovery is an ongoing process and while relapse is a serious matter this can be transformed into a useful learning event. 

What if we Measure Improvement in Quality of Life?

Instead of looking at this issue in terms of black and white, success or failure, perhaps it would be helpful to measure success in terms of how treatment improves people’s lives.  In this way we could look at:

  • Former patients who live with reduced drug/alcohol use,
  • Former patients who see an improvement in their general functioning.

But again we come across a problem.  The primary goal of virtually every residential rehab programme is to promote abstinence.  Can someone whose drinking or drug use has significantly reduced be considered a success?

Residential rehab is geared towards people who have run out of options; they are often in very poor physical and mental health, have broken relationships and have inadequate personal resources. If rehab leads to genuine, significant & positive improvement in the quality of patients’ lives, surely this must be chalked up as a success?

We Want to Hear from You!

What do you think? Have you had an experience with addiction treatment? Do you have an opinion about success claims? What does “successful” rehab mean to you?

For more help and advice about rehab please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 01721 728118

Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | October 13, 2021