Does Drug Rehab Work? | Statistics & Success Rates

Like other chronic diseases, drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) is treatable. During treatment, a person learns not only how to control their drug use but also how to maintain a healthy, fulfilling life. 

In most cases, treatment occurs at a drug rehab program. Although rehab is the most popular form of addiction treatment, some people wonder whether it’s truly effective. 

Does Drug Rehab Work?

Different rehab facilities have different definitions of success. 

For example, some centers base their success rates on the number of patients who finish treatment. In this case, the center could boast a success rate of 100% even if most of its patients resume regular drug use shortly after treatment ends. 

Other rehab centers base their rehab success rates on the number of patients who remained sober for a certain period of time following treatment. Even these rates may not give you an accurate picture of success. 

For example, even if a person remains sober for a year after treatment, they may still struggle with relationships, work, and other areas of life that were affected by their addiction.

Thus, when searching for a rehab center, it’s important to have your own definition of success.

Defining Success

Many people think success means you never relapse (start using drugs again). However, relapse is a normal part of addiction recovery. That’s because addiction is a chronic illness that changes the brain’s structure and function. 

In fact, the relapse rate of addiction resembles the relapse rate of other chronic illnesses:

  • addiction: 40-60%
  • asthma: 50-70%

No matter the illness, relapse doesn’t mean the patient failed. It just means they need additional or modified treatment.

Lack Of Substance Use & Positive Changes

Because relapse is so common, most drug addiction specialists don’t define success as a permanent lack of drug use. Instead, they define it as an attempted lack of drug use that may involve some relapses and occurs alongside other positive life changes, such as:

  • improved relationships
  • improved performance at work or school
  • fewer mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, or trouble concentrating
  • more time spent on healthy activities, such as exercising, eating nutritious foods, and interacting with loved ones

Drug rehab helps people make these positive changes. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most people who attend a treatment program not only stop using drugs but also reduce their criminal behavior and enhance their occupational, social, and psychological functioning. 

What Type Of Drug Rehab Works Best?

The most effective type of rehab depends on a person’s needs. When searching for a rehab program for yourself or a loved one, consider these three questions:

  • Does the patient need inpatient or outpatient treatment?
  • Does the patient need dual diagnosis treatment?
  • Does the program offer evidence-based treatment?
  • Does the patient have access to aftercare?

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment

There are two main types of drug rehab: outpatient rehab and inpatient rehab. During outpatient rehab, you regularly visit a treatment facility while living at home. During an inpatient program, you live at a treatment facility and receive 24/7 care. 

Outpatient treatment works best for people with mild addictions and a strong support system at home. Inpatient or residential treatment is recommended for people with moderate-to-severe addictions. 

If you’re not sure which type of treatment you need, talk to your health care provider. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 37.9% of people with drug addiction also suffer from mental illness, while 18.2% of people with mental illness also suffer from drug addiction. 

These individuals have a much higher rate of success when they attend dual diagnosis programs.

A dual diagnosis program offers effective treatment for not only addiction but also other mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. 

However, not all dual diagnosis programs treat all mental health conditions. When searching for a dual diagnosis program, make sure the treatment providers have experience treating your specific mental health condition(s). 

Evidence-Based Treatment

No matter what type of program you choose, your treatment plan should consist of evidence-based addiction treatments. Evidence-based treatment is a treatment that has been proven successful by multiple scientific studies. Examples include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (a type of therapy focused on changing unhealthy beliefs and behaviors)
  • family therapy (a type of therapy in which a recovering individual and their family members learn how to resolve conflicts)
  • group therapy (a type of therapy in which recovering individuals share experiences and coping tips)
  • medication-assisted treatment (the use of medications to treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with opioid, nicotine, or alcohol addiction)


Another evidence-based treatment that promotes long-term recovery is aftercare planning. Before you leave rehab, your treatment providers can help you design a personalized aftercare plan of follow-up services. 

This plan will likely include strategies that reduce the risk of relapse, such as:

  • ongoing therapy
  • support groups
  • employment assistance
  • meditation
  • journaling

If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our outpatient programs offer comprehensive treatment options to help you lead a drug-free life.

People Also Read:


National Institute on Drug Abuse — Comorbidity: Substance Use and Other Mental Disorders

National Institute on Drug Abuse — How effective is drug addiction treatment?

National Institute on Drug Abuse — Treatment and Recovery

United States National Library of Medicine — Drug Use and Addiction

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.