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If you’re considering entering into treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, you’ll no doubt be wondering how effective it is. Are you going to walk out of a rehab centre with a completely different outlook on life or will you fall at the first hurdle? The truth is the success rates of addiction treatments are very hard to measure. The effectiveness of treatment for any health condition, from diabetes to high blood pressure, varies from person to person. So, how can you know what will work for you?
We’ve used a snapshot of research on alcohol and drug treatments from around the world to give you an idea of what’s out there, the effectiveness of different rehab treatments and their success rates.
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Just as people have different tolerances to alcohol and drugs; everyone responds differently to treatment. Much of it depends on the type of addiction, the level of substances taken and the duration of the problem.
The effectiveness of addiction treatments also comes down to the individual and their personal circumstances. Anyone who embarks on a rehab programme needs to be 100% committed before they start and have a good support network around them to keep them on the right track.
Studies have shown that treatments for addiction, such as psychotherapy, can significantly reduce substance use, improve mental health and increase quality of life for people suffering with addiction. The most effective interventions for alcohol and drug addiction include:
Despite the fact that relapse is common, a study by the CDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers hope to anyone suffering. It revealed 75% of people who experience addiction, and receive treatment for it, eventually recover.
Treatment for drug addiction usually involves a combination of medication and counselling. This use of drugs with behavioural therapies, known as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is highly effective.
Effectiveness of MAT in drug addiction
People who are dependent on heroin, or other opioids, are often treated with substitute drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine. Research shows up to 90% of people who receive this type of addiction support are less likely to use drugs after two years than those who don’t have treatment. Using approved medications for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) has also shown to reduce deaths from addiction by 50% or more.
How effective is therapy for drug addiction?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) have both been shown to reduce substance use and improve treatment outcomes. In the case of cannabis dependence, several sessions of CBT over a period of time had higher success rates and lower dropouts than briefer interventions. Whereas agonist treatments (with medications such as methadone) had more favourable outcomes for people dependent on opioids and alcohol (1).
What are the success rates of alcohol addiction treatment?
While treatment for alcohol addiction also relies on medications, such as naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram, some of the most effective treatments for alcohol addiction are behavioural therapies. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and Contingency Management can help people pinpoint and alter harmful thought patterns as well as develop coping mechanisms to manage triggers.
Do the 12 steps work?
You’ve no doubt heard of the 12-steps approach to addiction. It was first introduced by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) almost a century ago and is now a common component of many off-the-shelf rehab programmes.
However, there is limited evidence to support the success rate of the 12 steps. Its efficacy has been challenged in recent years as progressive therapy options have become available to people looking for more holistic treatment. A Lancet journal estimates that only 5-8% of people who attend AA successfully maintain abstinence.
Ultimately, treatment success rates for alcohol addiction boils down to personal commitment, motivation and the intensity of the treatment. It also requires addressing any coexisting mental health issues or poly-drug use. Again, studies show a combination of both pharmacological management and psychological support yields the best outcomes.
In 2020, approximately 1 in 10 people aged 12 and over with a substance use disorder received treatment at a specialist facility. This sadly means around 18.9 million people who needed treatment didn’t get it.
The success rates of rehab are difficult to measure as definitions and outcome criteria aren’t standardised. However, research suggests longer-term treatment for addiction, such as 90 days, have higher success rates and greater impact on mental health than those who only receive short-term treatment.
Relapse is common, affecting 40-60% of people in the first year. It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic disease and should be treated as such. For instance, research shows that people who are treated for substance use disorders are just as likely to relapse as those treated for diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.
JAMA, 284:1689-1695, 2000. (2)
That’s why it’s important to treat relapse in addiction in the same way as other chronic diseases. Rather than being seen as a failure, it should be a sign that the treatment protocol needs to be adapted to succeed.
Many people who experience relapse will be able to reengage in treatment. With a good support network of family and friends, as well as regular guidance from healthcare professionals, it’s completely possible to overcome addiction and lead a meaningful life.
Community care can impact the effectiveness of treatment
In the latest government report, the number of adults who underwent treatment for addiction from April 2021 to March 2022 rose to 289,215. Nearly half of these were treated for opiates, with the second largest group made up of people with Alcohol Use Disorders. Out of all of the people in therapy, only 49% completed their treatment successfully.
Why did over half of the people sampled exit their addiction treatment? The answer may lie in the settings where the treatments took place. The majority of care was delivered in a community-based setting which has several disadvantages:
Lack of temptation
Guests at our residential wellness retreat are completely focused on the task in hand with no distractions or outside influences. Everyone stays overnight in safe, comfortable accommodation away from their home, work and social environment which could otherwise trigger a relapse.
Community-based therapy takes part in groups which can be difficult for people who suffer with anxiety disorder – a common faction of Substance Use Disorders. All of our guests have a focal therapist who delivers personalised care, alongside group work and unique somatic healing practices.
We take a whole person approach to care. Residential treatment programmes are centred on individual needs. We consider the mental, physical and emotional challenges that are unique to you and your home life, building a care plan that gives you the best chance of success and lasting recovery.
One of the biggest reasons that treatment programmes in the community aren’t as effective is the lack of ongoing support. Unless family and friends are fully vested in helping someone remain abstinent it can be almost impossible not to relapse.
At Delamere, our guests go on a journey together and can be a real source of courage and inspiration both during and after treatment. We also provide 12 months of aftercare support which statistics show is vital for long-term abstinence.
If you are concerned about drug or alcohol addiction, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today.
1. Hofmann SG, Asnaani A, Vonk IJ, Sawyer AT, Fang A. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognit Ther Res. 2012 Oct 1;36(5):427-440. doi: 10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1. Epub 2012 Jul 31. PMID: 23459093; PMCID: PMC3584580.
2. McLellan AT, Lewis DC, O’Brien CP, Kleber HD. Drug Dependence, a Chronic Medical Illness: Implications for Treatment, Insurance, and Outcomes Evaluation. JAMA. 2000;284(13):1689–1695. doi:10.1001/jama.284.13.1689.
Alex is the Admissions Manager at Delamere. Alex has organised more admissions into treatment than most. Find out more about Alex on our team page.
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