Here’s Why You Should Avoid Leaving Rehab Early

Last Updated: Aug 18th 2021

Reviewed by Laura Riley

Can you leave rehab early? Yes, you can. However, it is not advised. Leaving rehab early against medical advice (AMA) is an issue that treatment facilities often have to deal with. But leaving rehab before it’s recommended by your treatment team can affect your long-term fight against addiction, in the wrong way.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people progress through addiction treatment at various rates so there’s no predetermined length of treatment. But research has shown, without a doubt, that good outcomes are dependent on adequate treatment length. It’s not recommended for anyone to leave their rehab program early.

What Could Happen?

Lack Of Necessary Skills

People who leave rehab early have frequently not learned the skills needed to maintain sobriety. Leaving rehab early can make you feel secure in your recovery when you’re really not. You might feel that you are cured of your addiction when recovery will probably continue for months or years after your treatment has ended.  Even if a person completes detox, long-term recovery depends on additional factors including:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Building a post-rehab support system

Relapse is a lot more likely for people who leave AMA.

Harming Relationships with Family and Friends

Addiction often has a negative effect on the important relationships in a person’s life. Deciding to quit rehab can put a serious strain on the relationships with the family and friends who are supporting their recovery. Alienating your support system makes relapse more likely.

Legal Issues

Some people are in rehab because of a court order.  They may be required to complete rehab as part of their sentence. Leaving rehab early may result in legal penalties.

Financial loss

Rehab can be expensive and so is addiction. Quitting could take a toll on a person’s finances, especially if they relapse and need to start over again. Leaving rehab early can end up causing problems that could take a toll on a person’s finances. 

Why Do People Leave Early?

There are many factors that influence a person’s decision to leave early. Some of the reasons are:

Overpowering withdrawal symptoms

Coping with the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of withdrawal is not easy. People experience intense cravings and anxiety during detox and this often leads them to believe it’s easier to keep taking the drug than quit. However, leaving rehab early will only make the situation worse. 

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)

A drawn-out withdrawal period may lead to the development of PAWS. PAWS usually develops when a person stops using after long-term addiction.  Symptoms include: 

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue 
  • Mood swings 
  • Loss of focus
  • Violence.

This again leads them to believe it is easier to resume using the drug than quit.

“I’m not like the other people here.”

People affected by addiction often experience denial. They see themselves as stronger or smarter than the other people who use drugs or alcohol. This way of thinking can prevent them from addressing their issues and getting the help they need.

“I don’t need rehab.”

To make sure a person is ready to leave, some skills need to be learned over a longer period of time. However, after finishing detox and a couple of weeks of rehab, some people think they have learned all they need to beat their addiction. Although confidence is an important part of healing, overconfidence is often hurtful to long-term recovery. Those who leave rehab with a less developed set of skills may not be able to avoid relapse.

How To Encourage A Loved One Who Wants to Quit Rehab

How-To-Encourage-A-Loved-One-Who-Wants-to-Quit-RehabTalking to a friend or family member who wants to leave early can be hard but it’s important to do it if they’re thinking of leaving rehab. Here’s what you can do:

  • Give comfort: Let them know that they are loved and provide reassurance.
  • Offer support: Tell them that you’ll be there for them during and after rehab is completed. Praise them for their courage and strength for sticking with treatment.
  • Remain positive: Remind them that you knew them before they became addicted and that you want that person back.
  • Set realistic goals: If your loved one is thinking of leaving rehab early, setting a goal of just one more day could be the key to their completion of rehab.
  • Encourage sharing: Show interest in what they are learning and doing in rehab.
  • Look forward to the future: Help them focus on a future in which they are sober and healthy. Remind them of what they want to achieve after completing treatment.

When you talk to them, it’s important to be loving and firm but it’s best to avoid threats. An individual in addiction treatment who has strong, genuine social support is less likely to leave early and experience a relapse.

10 Reasons Rehab Helps You Fight Addiction

Rehab isn’t always shown accurately in the media. There are many myths around what treatment centers are really like. It’s not an expensive vacation resort where people spend their time idly fighting withdrawal nor is it just for the rich and famous.

It’s also not a terrifying place like a jail full of criminals either. What it is, is a place where regular people receive treatment for substance abuse and other types of addiction. If you or a loved one are battling an addiction, here are some reasons to consider rehab.

    1. Your recovery is on your terms. You won’t be made to do anything you don’t agree to. With the help of the staff, you will set up a program to address your individual needs.
    2. Around-the-clock professional support. Once you agree on your plan, your support team is always available to help you stay on track.
    3. You won’t have to go “cold-turkey.” You may be able to taper off your drug of choice or be given medications to help ease you through withdrawal symptoms.
    4. You may be able to receive outpatient treatment. If it’s not possible to stay at a facility, you may be able to opt for an outpatient treatment program. It might be a little more difficult and take longer but you will still receive a high level of care.
  • You will learn to develop a healthy routine. A treatment plan is designed to help you get better. Part of that includes learning and developing healthy habits for your general well-being. Adding structure to your life will help you leave the habits of your addiction behind.
  1. Your support team can help you during weak moments. In rehab, you are in the care of doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and other experts. These professionals should protect your health and safety at all times and to do anything in their training to help you overcome your addiction.
  2. You’ll receive guilt-free self-care. Some people feel guilty for putting themselves first. However, in rehab, the point is to focus on yourself and nurture your body, mind, and soul to regenerate and restore yourself.
  3. You’ll improve more than just mental health. Recovery is more than breaking out of your addiction. Treatment plans usually include proper nutrition and exercise which will help in recovery and also help you stay well after treatment has ended.
  4. You don’t have to feel alone. In rehab, you work with your care team and your fellow patients. There are many opportunities to meet other people who are going through similar challenges.
  5. You’re much more likely to recover in a rehab facility. Rehab is a stable, safe, supportive environment where the only goal is to help people recover. You may have self-discipline. And you may be able to eliminate all your triggers and distractions and be successful on your own for a while. But nothing compares to the level of professional attention and care you will receive at a facility that specializes in the treatment of addictions. 

How Long Does Rehab Last?

How-Long-Does-Rehab-LastPeople progress through drug and alcohol addiction treatment at various rates so there isn’t any predetermined length of treatment. Generally speaking, residential or outpatient treatment for less than 90 days is limited in its effectiveness. 

To maintain positive outcomes, treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended. For methadone maintenance, 12 months is considered the minimum although some individuals addicted to opioids go on to benefit from methadone maintenance for years.

Treatment dropout is one of the main problems confronted by treatment programs. So motivational methods that can keep patients engaged in treatment can also improve outcomes. Treating addiction as a chronic disease and offering continuing care and monitoring will aid the success of programs, but this often requires multiple episodes of treatment and quickly readmitting people who have relapsed. Leaving rehab against medical advice will end up causing more harm. 

What Helps People Stay in Rehab?

Since successful outcomes frequently depend on a person’s staying in treatment long enough to get the full benefits, strategies for keeping people in treatment are very important. Whether or not someone stays in rehab depends on factors associated with both the individual and the treatment program.

The individual factors related to commitment and retaining information usually include:

  • Motivation to change drug-using behavior
  • Amount of support from family and friends 
  • Pressure from the criminal justice system 
  • Child protective services
  • Employers
  • Family

In a treatment program, successful therapists can build a positive, healing relationship with their patients. The therapist should make sure that: 

  • The treatment plan is developed with the cooperation of the person in treatment
  • The plan is followed
  • Treatment expectations are clearly understood

In addition, medical, psychiatric, and social services should be available.

Complications

Because some issues such as serious medical or mental illness or criminal involvement increase the chances of patients dropping out of treatment, intense actions may be required to keep them in treatment. Following a course of intensive treatment, the treatment provider should make sure there’s a transition to less intensive continuing care to support and monitor these people in their ongoing recovery.

Recovering from Addiction

Recovering from addiction is the process of treating: 

  • The cause of the addiction
  • The problems caused by the addiction.

This takes a lot longer than just detoxing the drugs from your system. For some people, treating the cause of addiction can take years.

Take Advantage of All the Benefits of Rehab

If you or a loved one is in rehab, thinking about rehab, or thinking about leaving rehab early, you now know why it’s important to stay in your treatment program. And if you are in need of addiction treatment we are here for you. At North Jersey Recovery Center, we will design a program specifically for you and with your input. Don’t wait for a disaster. Waiting to hit rock bottom is never the solution. Contact us today and start taking control of your life.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.

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