How Do You Determine Success in Recovery from Addiction?


Double Standards

All too often, a person comes out of treatment but fails to stay in recovery from their addiction. When this happens, it is often the treatment provider who is held responsible. This demonstrates an unfair an erroneous double standard in the medical field when it comes to treating addiction.

For example, when a diabetic visits the doctor, they’re given medication, instructions, and sent on their way. Yet, when that same diabetic ends up in the emergency room two weeks later in a diabetic coma because they didn’t take their medication or ate a lot of sweets, the doctor is not held responsible. Once a patient leaves the healthcare provider’s care, they are responsible for their own actions.

However, an addict enters into a treatment program at a facility, they’re also sometimes given medications, but mainly instructions and education and only sent on their way once they have completed their treatment program. Should that same addict relapse, however, the treatment provider is the one being held responsible for the addict’s failure. The treatment industry is being looked down upon as failing these people because they don’t remain abstinent.

“I can’t be held responsible for somebody and what they do after they leave my care.”


What Can Be Done To Help?

The truth of the matter is that longer-term aftercare programs have a better chance at success. In fact, the highest success rates one can find in the treatment industry generally center around airline pilots, doctors, and other medical professionals, as these individuals are mandated to do a five year program.

What this means is that for five years, they have to regularly check in with their therapist, are subject to random drug tests, and are committed to this plan for five years. This five year aftercare program has a 90% success rate. Let that sink in for a moment. 90% versus the 10% of those who undergo shorter treatment programs, usually which last less than half a year.

What Determines Success?

One of the important things to look at when gauging a person’s recovery from addiction is their overall quality of life. Different methods work for different people. For some, abstinence is what works for them. In fact, abstinence is always the ideal method, but some people are unable to remain completely abstinent. Does this mean their recovery has failed? Not necessarily.

Take, for example, a 30-year-old man who’s lived behind a dumpster for the past few years, breaking into cars and homes and stealing to support his addiction to heroin. If he completes a 90-day treatment program, transitions into sober living, and a year or two later is self-sufficient, has his own apartment, has gainful employment, but perhaps smokes a little weed every now and then or has a few beers with friends on the weekend, is that considered success?

“Depends on who you’re asking. In my opinion, that’s an absolute success if you look at the quality of life of this individual prior to treatment; living behind a dumpster, now he has an apartment, has a job, self-sufficient. That’s a success.”

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