Choosing to enter a rehabilitation program is a major step in an addict’s recovery. But the process isn’t always a smooth road. For any number of reasons, you may end up leaving rehab early—voluntarily or otherwise. The question becomes “What happens next?” Are you through with rehab or can you go back?
According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), rates of first-month dropout in outpatient substance abuse treatment are approximately 30%, and dropout prior to 3 months can be 50% or higher. Similarly, for inpatient programs, the longer the required stay for a program, the greater the dropout rates. In other words, many people discontinue treatment, and many of those pick it up again later.
If you have questions about how inpatient or outpatient treatment works, or if you’re ready to take the next step toward bettering your life, reach out to us at 385-327-7418. There are many ways to address a substance abuse disorder, and we can get you started.
Leaving rehab early is possible, but not necessarily the best thing for keeping your life on track. If you feel that you need to stop treatment for whatever reason, reach out to our experts for advice.
Can You Check Yourself Out of Rehab?
For various reasons, the fact is that many people end up checking out of rehab early. Most inpatient programs recommend stays of 90 days or longer to get the full benefit of the treatment. Three months is a magic number of sorts—it’s generally considered the minimum amount of time for an addict to see significant symptom improvement.
Unless your program is court-ordered, if you are 18 or older, you have the legal right to leave it. Rehabilitation participation is considered voluntary.
People may leave a program for many reasons including:
- Not being ready/motivated enough for treatment
- Lack of connection with staff
- Lack of outside support from family/friends
- Outside personal issues
- Monetary issues/ lack of finances
What’s problematic is that successful recovery methods for most substance abuse disorders require longer-term treatment. The more continuous care you receive, the better your odds are of staying clean. However, people exit treatment for different reasons.
Rehabilitation programs usually have strict protocols. You can be kicked out of rehab for violating rules or relapsing after you’ve started the program. If you are forced to leave or check yourself out against medical advice, it complicates the process.
However, there are legitimate causes for leaving a program that may be out of your control. There might be a death in the family or other emergency. And as we noted above, money is also a common issue—rehab can be expensive, even with an insurance plan, and it can cause some people to leave early.
There are also links between certain demographics and a higher likelihood of an early exit. Minority groups, younger addicts, and people faced with unemployment or lower incomes are more prone to leaving rehab against medical advice or otherwise checking out early.
Whatever your reason for leaving, make sure you weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision. Rehab can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address your substance abuse problem. Even if it temporarily complicates other areas of your life, in the long run, it will be worth it.
Try to think of rehab like any other project or task you’ve tackled—if you stop working on it halfway through, it’s even harder to go back and finish it. And the truth is you may not get another opportunity to get yourself the help you need.
Leaving Against Medical Advice
If you insist on leaving rehab early, despite the recommendation of a facility’s professional staff, it is considered leaving against medical advice.
Unless you are being forced to attend rehab based on a court order or as a requirement from your employer, it is ultimately your decision as an adult. However, doctors, therapists, and other addiction professionals are in their positions for a reason. They know how to help addicts recover and the safest ways to do so.
Keep in mind that anyone in the early stages of recovery is not going to be in the best place physically, mentally, or emotionally. Making rash decisions in a cloudy state of mind doesn’t always result in the best outcomes. Withdrawal feelings reinforce the desire to use, so it’s important to be able to get to a point where you know you can feel good without the drugs.
Leaving rehab early against recommendation may also prevent you from returning to the same program, while significantly boosting your likelihood of returning to a pattern of use and abuse.
What if I Get Kicked Out of Rehab?
A rehabilitation facility has the right to remove you from its program if you are in violation of any number of rules, or if your behavior is a danger to other clients.
“Administrative discharge (AD)—also referred to as ‘disciplinary discharge,’ ‘discharge for cause,’ or ‘discharge upon staff request’—is the termination of services due to a client’s failure to comply with program rules and expectations,” according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Reasons you may be discharged include:
- Using alcohol or non-prescribed drugs while enrolled
- Violating rules regarding relationship boundaries with other clients
- Threatening the physical safety of others
- Harassment of staff or other clients
- Refusing to attend groups or therapy sessions
- Stealing or possessing contraband
- Failure to pay required fees for services
Facilities also have basic rules regarding self-hygiene, required chores or duties, and general interaction with staff and other clients. For the most part, many of these rules are simply common sense.
But programs like these are in high demand, and there are only a certain number of patients they can help at a time. If a client is disruptive or refuses to accept the help offered, it is essentially wasting an opportunity for someone else.
Obviously, being kicked out of rehab will likely disqualify you from returning to that same program. Being approved to enter a facility can be a time-consuming process, and no one wants to have to start it again from the ground up.
Remember, a rehab facility does not want to have to kick you out. Their interest lies in helping people successfully recover from substance abuse. Your success is also their success. Many people who work in professional addiction treatment have had it affect their own lives. And many are recovering addicts themselves who fully understand the difficulty of getting sober.
What if I Don’t Like the Program?
This can be one of the trickiest parts of deciding whether you want to stay on with a specific program.
Rehab can be a life-changing event, full of positive experiences, a place you create new friendships—and believe it or not—have fun. But it also isn’t a vacation and it’s not always easy. Like many other situations in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in.
If you don’t want help, or you have the attitude that you cannot be helped, your experience is almost guaranteed to be a negative one. But if you are open to understanding your addiction, trying new ways to approach it, and accepting professional help, your odds of finding success will improve.
Nevertheless, some people have legitimately negative experiences with rehab. You may need more emotional support than a facility’s staff can provide; you might have serious conflicts with another client, or maybe the fundamentals of the program don’t align with your beliefs.
Don’t forget that all facilities and programs are not the same. Some might be stricter than others, or they subscribe to different methods and practices when it comes to recovery.
Also consider that when you are in the early stages of sobriety, it can be uncomfortable—physically, mentally, and socially. You are probably not going to feel overly positive or energetic at first, especially if you went through a detox period right before you started the program.
In the end, it is your recovery, and you do have a say in the matter. Switching programs may be beneficial to you. However, exiting rehab simply because you don’t “like” it may not be in your best interest in the long run, and sticking with it could greatly pay off.
Can I Ever Go Back?
There is no limit to the number of times a person can try to resolve their substance abuse issues. If you genuinely want to repair your life, never quit trying. For some addicts, it can take two, three, or even more times to finally kick their habit.
Even if you’ve successfully completed a program and then relapsed shortly afterward, you may have the option of returning to the same facility. Recovery programs do not simply toss you out into the street and wish you good luck when you’re done with your treatment. They understand it is an ongoing process with many potential pitfalls, and most encourage you to stay in touch with the staff and report your successes (and even your failures).
However, if you’ve chosen to leave a facility against doctor’s orders or you’ve been kicked out, you may not be allowed to return. But that doesn’t mean you can’t seek help elsewhere.
No “magic bullet” exists for fixing addiction. It can require multiple tries to find success in recovery. If one program doesn’t work out for you, another one might.
But don’t forget, if you leave treatment early—or you’re forced to leave—the odds of you returning to old habits and your old lifestyle are incredibly high. People who leave recovery programs without completing them are much more susceptible to relapse and regression than those who stay the full duration. It takes time to gather and learn how to use the tools you need for a successful recovery.
Don’t Quit on Your Recovery
Addiction rehabilitation is not an easy process. Sometimes, recovery can be a flat-out uncomfortable experience. It requires time, effort, and a desire to truly make a positive change in your life. Yet people go through with recovery because the benefit to their lives can be immeasurable.
The important thing when approaching recovery—no matter what phase you’re in—is to keep an open mind. Be willing to listen and to educate yourself, and above all, accept that you are dealing with a disorder you cannot fix on your own.
A professional recovery program can offer a safe, structured, and supportive environment to help you get your life back on track. It gives you the opportunity to grow and learn among people who share your exact same affliction, and with guidance from experts in addiction. Thus, although leaving rehab early can be warranted in some cases, you should always think about it carefully.
If you’d like to talk to someone about entering treatment for alcohol or substance abuse, please call us at 385-327-7418. We can help you find the right path to sobriety and regain control of your life.
Written by Christopher Dorsey
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