Why Drug and Alcohol Treatment Doesn’t Work

Consider this: 7 out of 10 people who complete a treatment program of 90 days or fewer relapse within one year. And 64% of people entering rehab have already been to one before.

These disconcerting numbers add fuel to the fire of the anti-rehab and anti-A.A. movement. They demand our attention—and some answers.

Why do rehab centers in general not have more stunning success rates? Why doesn’t treatment always work?

Sometimes, something is lacking from the treatment regimen. But it may also be that we are overestimating the power of treatment programs while underestimating the importance of personal responsibility.

 The success of treatment depends on your willingness to take personal responsibility for your addiction.

People often ask the question, “Is alcoholism inherited?” or “Does childhood trauma cause later substance abuse?” often hoping to shift the blame of their substance abuse to something, someone, or anything else. After all, it’s easy to blame genetics or family history for an addiction.

Is addiction genetic?

While research shows that people with a family history of substance abuse or childhood trauma have a greater likelihood for developing an addiction than those without such a history, there are many people who avoid abusing substances despite unfavorable family histories. Social, economic, genetic, psychological, and biological conditions point to risk factors and possible challenges, but they do not have to—nor should they dictate anyone’s future. Ultimately, a risk factor is not the cause of addiction or relapse.

This is one reason many people do not succeed in rehab. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their addiction, they still play the blame game. Some have been left feeling hopeless because they think there is nothing they can do about a condition caused by circumstances, but this isn’t true. At Duffy’s, we give you hope that real change is possible.

Why should I take responsibility for my addiction?

While it’s easy to shift blame, it’s hard to admit that my disease is at least partially caused by my own choices. It’s not comfortable to say that I, to some degree, brought this on myself, but recognizing personal responsibility for my addiction provides me with hope that I can change.

This is a difficult concept, but it’s also liberating and crucial to long term success in recovery. The first step in A.A. says, ” We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Understanding my ability to choose my own future frees me to determine my own destiny, not succumb to a painful fate of jail, institution, or death.

The success of treatment depends on your willingness to take personal responsibility for your recovery.

If we’re honest about it, we’d probably admit that many of us are lazy. We want a pill to make us lose weight. A magic wand to clean our house. And a miracle rehab program to cure our addiction for us.

We know that sustainable weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle and not a pill. We understand that no matter how much we wish the house to be clean, it won’t clean itself.  Yet do we understand that this is also true for rehab?

For some reason, we still expect to find an easy fix when it comes to addiction. When recovery gets hard—or we relapse—we throw our hands up and say that treatment just didn’t work.

Lasting sobriety takes hard work

We forget that treatment programs are just that—programs. No matter how well-structured, intensive, expensive, nationally certified, evidence-based, or statistically successful, programs in and of themselves don’t not lead to recovery. No matter how caring, professional, or brilliant the counselors may be, their influence cannot guarantee recovery.

The people at rehab will do all they can to help you, but you must meet them half way. You must accept the help, embrace it, and use it. Treatment can only be successful if you put in the work.

Lasting sobriety only happens through hard work and commitment. You are the owner of your recovery. Treatment gives you the tools and skills, but it’s up to you to put them into practice in your life.

So are you using the tools? Are you working the steps and taking it one day at a time? We’re here to do everything in our power to help. But in the end, the program works only if you work it.

* There is no simple answer to this question, no single “x factor” that completes the recipe of a successful recovery. Given the complex nature of addiction, the disparities among treatment regimens and individual differences, it is impossible to provide a clear answer. Personal responsibility plays a significant role in recovery, but it is not the only reason rehab is or is not effective. The goal of this blog is to point out an overlooked contribution of treatment effectiveness.