Leaving addiction treatment early is never a good idea. Unfortunately, some who seek help for their addiction find reasons not to see the program all the way through. Addiction treatment can be challenging in the beginning, but completing a program is the best way to learn how to stay sober. It is best to stay through the length of the program to avoid dangerous outcomes like relapse and/or overdose or having a more difficult time in rehab a second time.
The reason many people leave treatment early is a misunderstanding of how successful treatment works. Successful treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism typically requires continual evaluation and modification. This means that the approach is similar to one taken to treat a chronic disease. Treatment has to be appropriate for the individual and ongoing to be successful. Drug treatment doesn’t have a predetermined length, but it is generally accepted that treatment less than 90 days has limited effectiveness.
Reasons for Leaving Too Soon
Deciding to enter an addiction treatment program can be difficult. Many fears and objections have to be overcome before a person decides to get help. But the struggle often doesn’t end there, unfortunately. Treatment programs can be challenging in the beginning and clients attending them usually leave early for the following reasons:
- Denial of a problem or needing help – Entering treatment can either be voluntary or due to an outside motivator (ie. an employer, legal trouble). Once in treatment, however, a person might believe that they don’t really have a problem with addiction. He or she might put up with the requirements of a treatment center for awhile, but then decide that they are done.
- Program is too difficult – Addiction treatment is not typically seen as an easy program. Some of the most successful treatment programs challenge clients to grow emotionally and spiritually. This can be overwhelming at first because it is a rapid change in lifestyle and behavior. Clients who don’t ask for help from leaders and peers are at a high risk of leaving treatment too early.
- Withdrawal Symptoms – For most, severe symptoms of withdrawal subside after the detox period. But other symptoms like anxiety, depression, and delusional thinking can persist for weeks or even months after sobriety starts. Withdrawal symptoms can be very distracting to one’s recovery and should be addressed as a part of the individual’s treatment plan.
- Doesn’t think the treatment is working – Unrealistic expectations of the length and immediate effectiveness of addiction treatment programs can also create discouragement. This often happens when a client enrolls in a treatment center or program that doesn’t meet their needs. If someone seeking addiction recovery experiences an initial negative experience, chances are they will think that treatment simply doesn’t work for them.
- Belief that he/she already has the tools and knowledge to stay sober – There are very valuable coping strategies, life-changing conversations and lessons, and tools learned in addiction treatment. If a client decides to leave too early, he or she will most certainly miss out on these opportunities. Treatment should be started with a willingness to learn and be open to the experiences of others. Believing that you can stay sober after only a few short days or weeks of sobriety can lead to dangers like relapse or overdose.
The decision to enter a drug treatment program can be difficult. Staying in a treatment program can be challenging. But completing a treatment plan that meets your needs for recovery greatly increases your chances of staying sober.