Why is program completion rate a wrong measure for rehab success?

July 26, 2016
Solace Sabah

Rehabs are based on their own programs, in which upon completion is said to be the marker for success. Many rehabilitation centers would boast of having a 90 to 100% success rate based on the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical outlook of their clients who have only just been discharged.

However, the effectiveness of recovery is not a one to two-month test post-rehab, but something, which supposedly should span a lifetime. How then, can program completion be an accurate measure for rehab success? The idea of clients coming in for treatment and being released into the wide open world after a couple of days, months, or even a year; should ever be considered as a parameter for success; is baffling, yet the simplicity and ubiquity of its use has made it convenient for marketing rehabs worldwide. The reasons for why measuring program completion is a wrong way for intimating a rehab’s success is as follows:

1) It’s NOT Scientific

The one thing about science is that scientific variables can be replicated and tested with   precision, accuracy, and repeatability. Rehab completion rates are as varied as are rehabs. It               is based on people coming in for treatment and being discharged based on clinical opinion. This is highly unscientific because usually clinical opinion is based on interpersonal intuition and forecast; which isn’t fool-proof. The more scientific approach would be to provide continuous functional assessments based on scientific and specific data such as “activities of daily living scales” or measuring concerns and capabilities over time, such as pain and emotional states of the client. Hence, simply seeing how many people have come in and out while keeping clean for a certain length of time, is far from scientific.

2) Some rehabs are ominous money-making machines

It has been reported that some rehab centers do not promote complete abstention, but  encourage their clients to go back to using, even providing them with the drugs and or alcohol they need. It is simply a place that lessens the consequences of using, providing a safer haven to use or drink until the time is up. Such ominous practices, which are based more on money-making than on actually rehabilitating addicts/alcoholics make capitalizing their success rates on completing a program, laughable yet disconcerting at the same time!

3) Definition of what recovery is; is not standardized

 If someone completes a program of recovery at a rehab, what does that mean? What kind of recovery is he/she dealing with? Is it simply abstinence based? There are other measures          such as quality of life, living functionality, improved social dynamic, employability, etc. What type of recovery does these rehab graduates possess? There is no standard by which to      measure the success of clients’ post-rehab recovery and hence it is an unreliable measure for success at any particular facility.

4) Time-scale of recovery is under-defined and time itself is an unreliable variable for assessing the quality of recovery

If we are just looking at clients who have just come out of treatment, we are looking at 28 days, 3 months, up to a year of sober living. People come in for varied time periods. Some people go in for a minimal period but with maximum recovery prospects; yet relapse after a lengthy period of sobriety. Some people go in for a maximized period but with minimal recovery prospects; yet remain clean beyond expectation. With such variables, it is hard to  measure the connection between time and decent recovery. To add more insult to injury, the use of time to measure the quality of recovery is highly unreliable due to too many other factors at work in the life of an addict, just out of treatment.

5) Role of faith, family, and friends

Many addicts hold firm that either their family was their locus of success; that the fellowship was there for them; or that their faith in a power greater than themselves could do miracles              for them that they remain clean today as a result of such action. Whatever the reasons for their sobriety and recovery, the workability of these factors are beyond the control of any           particular rehab. So, if it is any of these reasons for clean time, rehabs cannot measure their success rates based on their clients’ well-being because extra-institutional forces were more            at work with the addict to aid in his/her recovery. 

The Inadequacy of Program Completion as measure for success!

It is vital that rehabs acknowledge that program completion is an inadequate measure for success. The factors that keep some patients in recovery for the rest of their lives in comparison to those with minimal clean time after treatment, are as varied and different as the individuals who seek treatment. Program completion can only be a catalyst at most for starting a life of responsible recovery. Yet, it is up to the individual addict to seek enhancement for his/her life so that addiction is discontinued perpetually. For that to be measured and monitored will take monitoring, updating, and intervening in the life of the addict from when he/she had left treatment to the moment of death.

 Nevertheless, institutions are marketing establishments. Hence, the use of program completion is a convenient and marketable variable for attracting more clients. Therefore, the next time you or your loved one are in need of treatment, look at the treatment on offer not at the rates of success in their discharged clients. The former will indicate if it is a suitable place to seek treatment, while the latter is simply a marketing ploy with no inherent value to it except to make money for itself!

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