Making Sense of Drug Rehab Statistics

By John Lee

When considering drug rehab, it’s natural to want to know how well it’s going to work. You want to know what percentage of people go through rehab and into long-term recovery; in other words, you want to know how many get cured!

Although some drug rehabs will advertise impressive success rates, you should be wary of placing too much weight on these numbers in your decision-making process.

Why Drug Rehab Success Statistics May Be Misleading

Some programs boast success rates of over 70 percent – a success rate that is so elevated above industry norms it should make you wonder how that number is tabulated. The truth is, by changing the way you calculate the statistic, you can transform an unimpressive number into an industry leading percentage.

According to a common understanding of addiction treatment in the scientific and medical communities, addiction is a disorder without a lasting cure. Programs that boast of “cures” may not be operating according to scientific principles and evidence-based treatment practices.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before trusting drug rehab statistics:

Are success rates calculated based on the number of people who begin a program, graduate from a program or continue through to the end of a continuing care program? Calculating a success rate based on the number of people who finish the entire treatment program may be of limited value if a majority of patients leave before the end of treatment. (Actually, one statistic that has real value is the graduation percentage. Programs that can retain clients through graduation tend to be of better quality.)
How is success measured? How long must someone maintain sobriety before the program considers them a success story – 1 month, 1 year, forever?
How is information gathered? Some programs, such as court-mandated treatment programs, will gather information about success using urine testing. Other programs may send out periodic questionnaires, and still others may wait until people who relapse contact them once again. Different methods of information gathering can yield different success statistics.

It’s important to find a quality drug rehab that meets your needs. In your search, it would be helpful to be able to compare the quality of different facilities by comparing success statistics, but unfortunately, these statistics are often meaningless.

Fortunately, there are ways to gauge the quality of drug rehab programs under consideration. Visiting programs, speaking with alumni and reading online about what to look for when choosing a drug rehab can help you pick a program that’s going to work well for you.