Is Inpatient Drug Treatment Our Worst Enemy?

Is Inpatient Drug Treatment Our Worst Enemy?


The thing about inpatient drug treatment is that it is both our best weapon against addiction and our greatest enemy.

It is our best weapon because right now it is the best thing we’ve got going to help the individual in the fight against addiction.  No other strategy or technique can really offer the same level of care.  Most inpatient drug treatment centers offer a variety of resources, including individual therapy, 12 step meetings, group therapy, medication support, and so on.  So basically we are drawing from all available forms of help in order to try and put forth the best effort possible in helping addicts.

But residential drug treatment is currently our worst enemy as well, because:

1) It doesn’t really work all that well, and

2) It is horribly expensive.

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Treatment doesn’t work great.  This is unfortunate.  Now granted, treatment works better than other forms of addiction treatment. For example, simply punishing addicts without trying to help them is definitely a worse route to go down.  But our success rates at even the most prestigious treatment centers are pathetic.  Looking at 1 year out and seeing how many maintained total abstinence from all drugs, the percentages are pretty dismal.

You can look around and find different numbers out there.  The most reliable data would put success rates at around 5 percent or less though. Any treatment center that is claiming higher than a 5 percent success rate for over a year of continuous sobriety is using way to many qualifiers on their data.  In other words, the success rate is really not that good, and is likely lower than 5 percent for the one year mark.

Anyway.  Combine that with the fact that treatment is expensive and getting to be even more so, and you can see that we have a big problem.  If treatment worked even 50 percent of the time, then having such a high cost to it would not be such a big deal.  But because the typical rehab tends to be a revolving door–ushering many of the same addicts through, over and over again–then the cost seems even higher, because it is obviously not working real well.

I am always astounded by the fact that a huge percentage of those in treatment have already been there before.  This is sad and just points to the fact that treatment is not all that effective.

I hate to sound so dismal because treatment is still our best weapon against addiction….but that is sort of the sad part.  Nevertheless, it is worth trying, because a small percentage do make it.

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