Addiction treatment and rehab is not an easy road to take. Just know you are not alone. Check out the facts and stats on addiction treatment and alcoholism with our infographic. If you enjoy it, please share! Click image for full size.
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* Any sober alcoholic is a miracle
* Many adults need alcohol treatment
* Most alcoholics do not see a need for treatment
* Treatment is overwhelmingly 12 step based
* Most will end up relapsing, unfortunately
* There is a really high churn rate in AA
* Rehab can be a revolving door
* Most who find stable recovery through treatment require 3.5 tries
* Relapse is always a threat, but it gets greater later
* Bottom line: treatment works
Any sober alcoholic is a miracle
The odds are stacked against the struggling alcoholic. When we back up and look at the numbers, very few people who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction will find recovery and then stay clean and sober for the rest of their lives. In fact, the percentage of people who eventually achieve this “ideal outcome” is pretty darn low. What is more typical is for most alcoholics to never seek any help at all, and if they do, they are likely to fail at it.
This does not mean that there is no hope. Anyone who actually has the drive and determination to get clean and sober can certainly do so. There are more resources today than there have ever been for people who are trying to change their lives. There are tons of support groups and meetings. If you are in a large city, the amount of free support that you can get from others is staggering. But the motivation has to come from within, and it has to be a fierce level of commitment.
A sober alcoholic is indeed a miracle, because they have to clear 2 major hurdles: one, they need to want to get sober, and two, they need to actually seek help. Very few people will follow through on both of these things.
Many adults need alcohol treatment
Government research that is compiled from a huge group of meta studies shows that about 8 percent of all adults need help with alcoholism or problem drinking. This is a very large group of adults overall and the overall impact that this has on the world is really huge. Think about all of the relationships and the lives that are affected by so many people who are struggling with alcoholism. It is not just their own lives that are affected, but also those of their friends and families.
Problem drinking is shameful and therefore it is traditionally covered up as best that people can. But the data in these studies shows that it is much more widespread than what we observe in the real world. People hide it, and families help others to hide it. But the problem obviously exists on a massive scale if 8 percent of adults are struggling with it.
Most alcoholics do not see a need for treatment
The scary thing about the 8 percent number is that most of the those problem drinkers do not even see a need for help. That is, almost 90 percent of these alcoholics and problem drinkers do not even see a need to get help for their problem, at all. They are flying blind. They do not detect a problem. They may sense the chaos in their life, but they believe it to be a normal way to live. If one of them does manage to get sober, they can look back and say “I really thought that this was how everyone basically lived.”
Obviously, with almost 90 percent of alcoholics being completely oblivious to their problem, it would seem that the first step in helping most alcoholics is raising awareness. If these people do not even know that they have a serious problem, then there is no potential for them to seek help and try to change for the better. We cannot even make an attempt at helping someone unless they are aware of the issue and willing to take action.
Treatment is overwhelmingly 12 step based
For good or bad, treatment in the United States is overwhelmingly 12 step based. In fact, about 94 percent of all rehab clinics use the 12 step program to try and rehabilitate alcoholics and drug addicts. Is this good or bad?
Some would argue that it is good. Certainly, the 12 step program helps a great many people, and their are 12 step meetings set up all around the world, in nearly every city, and they meetings are basically free to the newcomer (they are self supporting actually). So anyone can get help, fast, by attending a local 12 step group. This is a huge strength of the 12 step program. It is more than just a set of steps or guidelines for recovery–it is an entire fellowship of people. It is a community. And they are very good at reaching out and helping others.
Now others would argue that it is not so good to have the treatment industry be 12 step based. One reason for this is because success rates are typically very low with the 12 step program, and most people do not stay sober for long. However, this may be a very unfair accusation, because no one can present alternatives that are well documented that do any better. In other words, 12 step programs may produce high rates of failure, but they are probably the best shot we have at this point. Because of the widespread availability of meetings, it probably makes sense to give the program a chance and take advantage of the existing fellowship.
Most will end up relapsing, unfortunately
So the data reveals that less than half of all the people who go to treatment will actually complete the treatment and follow through with 12 step meetings on the outside. The data also points out that out of everyone who does attend treatment, 80 percent of them will relapse within just 90 days of leaving rehab. These are not good numbers, but like I said, it is the best we have to work with at this point.
Keep in mind that the pool of all of those who go to rehab makes the numbers skew quite a bit toward negativity. In other words, the numbers would be much better if we were only measuring those who are highly self motivated and really want to make a change in their lives. Many who attend treatment do so for other reasons: some want to make a spouse happy or get them off their back, some want to make the judge happy and they are facing possible time, some want to keep their jobs or their employer happy, and so on. Many who attend rehab are not purely motivated to quit drinking for themselves.
It would be interesting to see data on just those who are self motivated to change their lives. We would imagine the success rates in that case would be significantly higher. So do not get discouraged by the scary numbers, because there is definitely hope for those who want to change.
There is a really high churn rate in AA
If you look at the attendance data for AA, you can see that many who start off in recovery are not dedicated or serious enough. They estimate that only one out of every 4 newcomers in AA will still be attending within a month. So that is a 75 percent drop out rate right off the bat. If you look at a full year it is even worse, with only 1 out of every 20 newcomers still being “in the program” and attending regular meetings. So 95 percent will leave AA within the first year and never come back.
What do these numbers imply? Just that we need to be realistic about the situation if we are genuinely trying to help alcoholics. Maybe we need a new approach, or maybe we need more alternatives. Or perhaps this is just the nature of addiction, and significantly better numbers from this are not realistic to expect.
Rehab can be a revolving door
Most people have a false belief that rehab operates much like a cure. They imagine that you can send an alcoholic to rehab, and they will fix them all up, and then send them home with their problems solved. Or, they might imagine that if you could just send an alcoholic to the absolute best treatment center in the world, that surely they would be able to make some progress with the individual and help them with their drinking.
Of course it does not work like this at all. Rehab cannot cure anyone, and it really only helps to facilitate what the alcoholic truly wants. If they want to keep drinking, then rehab will not help them at all. Treatment cannot change a person’s mind. Rehab cannot force a person to want to be sober.
So it would shock most people to see the enormous amount of repeat business that treatment centers deal with. The majority of clients have been there before. Most people in rehab have already been there at least once before. Many have been in rehab multiple times. In fact, 64% of people entering treatment have already been there before.
Why is this significant? It just shows you a bit of what to expect, and the true scope of the problem. There is no magic cure, and it is very difficult to sober up and be successful in recovery. It takes real effort.
Most who find stable recovery through treatment require 3.5 tries
The data shows that most people who do “make it” coming out of rehab and manage to stay clean and sober for long periods do so after a few tries. This usually works out to about 3 to 4 visits to rehab before they finally get it. Again, what is realistic to expect? Most families and friends of alcoholics are probably expecting the magic cure, where the person goes in for rehab and comes out and never drinks ever again. The data is showing us otherwise, that the majority who finally achieve long term sobriety do so after several trips to rehab.
Getting sober is a process. It does not happen all at once. The alcoholic warms up to the idea over time. There is a tremendous amount of fear that has to be overcome first. Facing life without the crutch of alcohol is scary. And going to rehab can be a bit of a shock if you have never been there before. Without knowing what to expect, the alcoholic will have a tendency to reject the massive changes that are suggested and revert back to what they know best. In other words, the path that is suggested in rehab is one of massive change, and there will naturally be some resistance to this at first. The alcoholic might have to fail, and become more desperate, before they can seriously consider these changes in their life.
Relapse is always a threat, but it gets greater later
No alcoholic ever achieves total immunity to relapse. The threat is always there, and anyone can potentially slip up and take a drink at some point. It is not like you cross a magic line in your sobriety where you no longer have to worry about relapse. The recovering alcoholic of 20 years cannot say “Oh, well, I have gone 20 years without a drink at this point, so I think I am good now!” No, this is not the case. Alcoholics have relapsed after having several years in recovery, and proven that no one is immune to the possibility.
The data does suggest hope, however. After being sober for 4 years, the rate of relapse drops to below 15 percent. That is a very hopeful statistic in an otherwise gloomy sea of numbers. If you can make it to 4 years sober, then your chances of staying sober forever are pretty darn good. But again, no one is completely immune to the threat of relapse.
Bottom line: treatment works
In the end, treatment works. Rehab works. It just does not work perfectly.
We expect it to, and we also expect that we should be able to pay more money for a treatment that works perfectly. We expect this, because this is how most other things work in life. If you want better results, you can always pay more for them. Everything has a price.
One of the major points here is that addiction and recovery does not work this way. You cannot buy sobriety. You cannot force an alcoholic to change. And there are no magic bullets out there.
There is hope. Anyone can get sober, I don’t care how far gone you are, or how bad off you are, or how low you think you have sunk. There is hope for any alcoholic. Anyone can be sober.
But the effort that it takes is truly massive. The price of sobriety is quite high, because most people will not put in the massive effort that is required to change their whole life.
But it is there for anyone who wants it. The formula is pretty simple, really. Ask for help, then put in the work.
All data obtained from: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/