Ten reasons why rehab is good (and may save your life)
Individuals on the fence about getting help for a drug and alcohol problem are often reluctant to do so, and when they’re weighing options, many of them wonder why rehab is good for them.
It’s only natural; addicts and alcoholics, by nature, are generally mistrustful (many times because their actions while drinking and using have made them untrustworthy). In addition, many of them have tried, and failed, to control their drinking and using on their own, or stop altogether … and if they’ve been unable to do so, how can a drug and alcohol treatment center make any difference?
Well, you — or they — might be surprised. If you’re wondering why rehab is good, we’ve got 10 reasons that may offer some clarity.
Why Rehab Is Good: You’ll Stop Using
One of the biggest reasons to understand why rehab is good for someone struggling with a drug or alcohol problem is that the entire goal of treatment is predicated on the idea of abstinence. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense to help someone overcome a problem if they’re still actively engaged in the problem, which is why, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most treatment programs “start with detoxification and medically managed withdrawal, often considered the first stage of treatment. Detoxification, the process by which the body clears itself of drugs, is designed to manage the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use.”
Why is it necessary? The NIDA points out that “because it is often accompanied by unpleasant and potentially fatal side effects stemming from withdrawal, detoxification is often managed with medications administered by a physician in an inpatient or outpatient setting; therefore, it is referred to as ‘medically managed withdrawal.’ Medications are available to assist in the withdrawal from opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, nicotine, barbiturates, and other sedatives.”
In other words: Before you even get into the treatment process, you’ve got to dry out first. Medical detox helps you do just that, so you can then get to the meat of why rehab is good: helping you deal with the reasons you use in the first place.
You’ll Figure Out Why You Use
Stopping isn’t enough, in the majority of cases, the NIDA adds: “detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery. Detoxification should thus be followed by a formal assessment and referral to drug addiction treatment.”
So what does actual drug and alcohol treatment entail? How does it work? Much of conventional treatment involves the use of behavioral therapies, which are designed to, according to the NIDA, “help patients modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use; increase healthy life skills; (and) persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication.”
How is this accomplished? Through what’s known as residential inpatient treatment, which consists of “an intensive, highly structured three- to six-week inpatient regimen,” according to the publication “Treating Drug Problems.” “Clients begin with an in-depth psychiatric and psychosocial evaluation and then follow a general education-oriented program track of daily lectures plus two to three meetings per week in small task-oriented groups. Group education teaches clients about the disease concept of dependence, focusing on the harmful medical and psychosocial effects of illicit drugs and excessive alcohol consumption. There is also an individual prescriptive track for each client, meetings about twice a week with a ‘focal counselor,’ and appointments with other professionals if medical, psychiatric, or family services are needed.”
This seems like a complex approach, but that’s because addiction is a disease of complexity with a number of components. There’s no clear reason why individuals become addicted, but as the NIDA points out, there are factors that make it more likely someone could, including: trouble at home, mental health problems, trouble in school/at work/with friends; hanging around other people who use drugs; starting drug use when you’re young; and your biology.
That, perhaps, is one of the biggest reasons why rehab is good: because drugs and alcohol are often just symptoms of larger issues that need to be addressed, and treatment can help you do that.
Why Rehab Is Good: You’ll Get Therapy
The website WebMD makes an excellent point about why therapy is a big reason why rehab is good: “Addiction is more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Even after detox, when your body is no longer hooked, you’re at high risk for relapse. Certain psychological and social factors can be powerful triggers that lead to relapse:
- Stress, especially sudden life stresses
- Cues in the environment, like visiting a neighborhood
- Social networks, like spending time with friends who continue to use
These things can create a strong ongoing urge to use again. Counseling helps you escape cravings and learn to manage what life throws at you without drugs or alcohol.”
Some of those therapies may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Trauma Therapy and many, many others. These are known as evidence-based practices, the process by which “clinical decision-making and practice are informed by experimental studies that have established the effectiveness of particular interventions for specified clinical populations.” In other words: These therapies have been studied, tested and proven effective for the treatment of addiction and alcoholism.
Why Rehab Is Good: Take a Break
By the time many addicts and alcoholics make the decision to get help, their lives are in shambles. They’ve lost jobs, they’ve grievously damaged relationships with family members and they may even be in legal jeopardy. While drug and alcohol treatment may be able to help mend those fences, what it provides first and foremost is a respite.
One of the biggest challenges for recovering addicts and alcoholics is understanding that they didn’t get that way overnight, and they won’t repair the pieces of their broken lives overnight, either. Far too often, short-term sobriety in the “real world” is followed by a relapse — a return to drug use — because dealing with the complexities of all of that chaos seems overwhelming.
Rehab is a hard stop, because the entire focus is on stopping and peeling back the physiological, psychological and emotional conditions that have contributed to the addiction. It’s not like jail; you can leave at any time, but most patients find that the ability to call a “time out” and reset themselves and address their problems in a sober setting, surrounded by sober individuals, and gifted with encouragement and wisdom of treatment professionals, is necessary in order to build a strong foundation of sobriety.
Remember: It’s a Process
Another reason why rehab is good: It’s a continuous process. Most people like to think of treatment as a “one and done” situation, where you go, check in, get help and leave having “graduated” from an alcohol or drug problem. Addiction, as the NIDA points out, rarely works that way, however: “The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely, with symptom recurrence rates similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses — such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma — that also have both physiological and behavioral components. Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem treatment a failure. This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.”
In other words — a relapse doesn’t mean that treatment didn’t work. It just means treatment needs to be modified, so if you need to go back, look at it that way. And if you’re going for the first time, going in knowing that you need to take advantage of all of the tools at your disposal and the suggestions for staying sober after treatment may mean you avoid relapse altogether.
Why Rehab Is Good: Brain Help
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “researchers have found that about half of individuals who experience a SUD during their lives will also experience a co-occurring mental disorder and vice versa. Co-occurring disorders can include anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia, among others.” What’s more: “Studies found that people with a mental disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication.”
In other words: A great many addicts and alcoholics suffer from depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder, and they don’t even know it. All they know is that drugs and alcohol help alleviate the mental anguish they feel … but as the NIH points out, “although some drugs may temporarily help with some symptoms of mental disorders, they may make the symptoms worse over time. Additionally, brain changes in people with mental disorders may enhance the rewarding effects of substances, making it more likely they will continue to use the substance.”
Chalk that up as another reason why rehab is good: An effective one offers psychiatric services to patients, so that those with underlying mental health issues can get the help they need to address them, as well as help to address a drug or alcohol problem.
And Also, Family Help
Addiction and alcoholism take a toll on the family dynamic, as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) points out: “As a result, family dynamics can change in unhealthy ways. Lies and secrets can build up in the family. Some family members may take on too much responsibility, other family members may act out, and some may just shut down. Sometimes conditions at home are already unhappy before a family member’s mental illness or addiction emerges. That person’s changing behaviors can throw the family into even greater turmoil. Often a family remains stuck in unhealthy patterns even after the family member with the behavioral health disorder moves into recovery. Even in the best circumstances, families can find it hard to adjust to the person in their midst who is recovering, who is behaving differently than before, and who needs support.”
Many drug and alcohol treatment facilities, however, build a family therapy component into the treatment process. It’s a way of rebuilding bridges in a way that helps family members recognize the impact that addiction has, and helps patients see and understand the damage they’ve caused while in the grips of it. It’s not meant to assign blame, and a qualified family therapist doesn’t let sessions turn into blame games or shouting matches. Instead, SAMHSA writers point out, “family therapy can help the family as a whole recover and heal. It can help all members of the family make specific, positive changes as the person in recovery changes. These changes can help all family members heal from the trauma of mental illness or addiction.”
You’ll Learn to Live Again
As an individual’s addiction grows worse, their lives often devolve into a process of getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. Habits and hobbies fall by the wayside, and as a drug or drinking problem grows, basic tenets of living, like hygiene and exercise, fall off as well.
In figuring out why rehab is good, it’s important to consider that while you’re taking part in a psychological overhaul, you’ll have an opportunity, in a comprehensive and effective facility anyway, to undergo a physical change as well. Fitness therapy, for example, is often a vital component of the recovery process, and individuals who often celebrate small victories there — walking a quarter-mile on the treadmill, for example, when they couldn’t even walk up a flight of steps upon arrival to detox — build a sense of confidence and accomplishment.
Activity therapy can help build trust in community. Three meals a day can restore a diet to balance. A good night’s sleep in a comfortable room can become the norm. In other words, all of the habits that contribute to better emotional and mental health because the body’s resources aren’t being drained by drug and alcohol use can be restored, leading to an overall sense of wellness.
Why Rehab Is Good: You’ll Find Community
One of the best things about why rehab is good is the introduction to recovery support services, which “refer to the collection of community services that can provide emotional and practical support for continuing remission as well as daily structure and rewarding alternatives to substance use,” according to the Surgeon General’s report “Facing Addiction in America.”
The report continues: “Just as the development of a substance use disorder involves profound changes in the brain, behavior, and social functioning, the process of recovery also involves changes in these and other areas. These changes are typically marked and promoted by acquiring healthy life resources—sometimes called ‘recovery capital.’ These recovery resources include housing, education, employment, and social resources, as well as better overall health and well-being.”
Some of the most prominent are those that are accessible to individuals who complete treatment: 12 Step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that meet around the world. They’re free to attend, they offer peer support, and they work: Studies have “shown that participation in the groups promotes an individual’s recovery by strengthening recovery-supportive social networks; increasing members’ ability to cope with risky social contexts and negative emotions; augmenting motivation to recover; reducing depression, craving, and impulsivity; and enhancing psychological and spiritual well-being,” according to the Surgeon General.
Follow Up Care: A Necessity!
One of the best reasons why rehab is good is that it follows you. No, that doesn’t mean rehab will be on your permanent record or anything like that; it just means that when you’re part of a facility that’s as invested in your recovery as you are, you have a lifeline back to that facility after you complete inpatient treatment. That may mean enrolling in intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), in which you can extend your therapy while commuting from home. It may mean taking part in IOP while residing in a facility’s sober living housing. It may mean becoming part of the facility’s alumni association, in which graduates stay in touch and plan events to celebrate their mutual success.
Either way, aftercare is an important component of drug and alcohol treatment, and in some cases, a volunteer coordinator or recovery coach will stay in touch with you after you leave to offer suggestions, feedback, advice or just a friendly ear at the place in which your recovery journey started. According to a 2009 paper published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, a study of 20 years’ worth of continuing care data “indicate that continuing care interventions were more likely to produce positive treatment effects when they had a longer planned duration, made more active efforts to deliver treatment to patients.”
But That’s Not All!
There are, of course, many other reasons why rehab is good for those who need help for a drug and alcohol problem, but these 10 are among the best. If you’re still not convinced, look at it this way: What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, you can go back to the substances that have caused you such grief.
But you might find a new way to live, one that can help you do something about your problem and lead a productive, responsible life that’s far and away better than anything you can conceive of when you’re sitting around wondering why rehab is good. Pick up the phone and make that initial call to get help, today.