Alcohol Rehab Success Rates

More than 17 million adults aged 18 and older in the United States struggle with alcohol dependence or an alcohol use disorder (AUD), making alcohol the most abused substance in the nation. Alcoholism or alcohol addiction is actually more prevalent than drug addiction, and surveys show that approximately 20% to 50% of all rehab enrollments are for alcohol addiction treatment. People who choose professional treatment for help with alcoholism recovery have higher alcohol rehab success rates, with at least 40% remaining sober for at least 12 months after rehab—especially if they follow individualized aftercare recommendations and get involved in sober support groups after rehab—compared to 23% for those who try to get sober on their own.

Why Is Alcoholism Recovery So Challenging? 

The percentage of recovery for alcoholics is generally low and alcoholism relapse is high.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, up to 90% of alcoholics will have at least one relapse during the first four years after they get sober. However, the way a recovering alcoholic handles a relapse is key to their long-term sobriety.

Recent studies indicate that successfully completing an alcohol rehab program increases your chances of not only avoiding a relapse, but also minimizing the negative effects of a relapse.

Why Is Alcoholism Relapse So Common?

What makes it so challenging to maintain your recovery after you complete rehab and return to your daily routine? Alcoholism is a chronic, relapsing disease and cravings for a drink are a common symptom for recovering alcoholics. Resisting those cravings is challenging in a world filled with environmental triggers to drink—advertisements for alcohol are everywhere, and many environments can trigger a craving for alcohol, including restaurants, parties and social gatherings with family, friends and colleagues. Triggers can also occur when a person in recovery experience stress or emotional upheaval—many people try to use alcohol as a coping mechanism to numb uncomfortable feelings or help them through tough times. Isolation can be another trigger — many people feel the urge to drink when they are lonely or don’t have sober friends they can talk to about cravings and other issues.

The success rates of treatment programs are higher when they are designed to help people understand how the process of addiction works and provide them with healthy coping tools that will help them deal with difficult feelings or situations, and handle triggers as they arise during recovery. The statistics of recovering alcoholics show greater success for those who complete a professional treatment program and stay committed to a sober aftercare plan post-treatment, particularly when the plan includes making healthy lifestyle changes that minimize triggers and emphasizing the importance of staying committed and connected to a network of sober friends as strategies for recovery.

Statistics: A Snapshot of Alcohol Rehab Success and Benefits

It can be helpful to review alcohol recovery statistics to gain a better understanding of which factors contribute to positive outcomes and higher alcohol recovery rates.

  • Studies have shown that the majority of people seeking alcohol addiction treatment in the U.S. are adults between the ages of 26 and 34, yet there are millions of teens and senior citizens who also struggle with serious drinking problems that should be treated.
  • While men are three times more likely than women to abuse alcohol, a significant number of women also develop drinking problems and may encounter more difficulties related to their alcohol use, such as depression, unwanted sexual advances, and abuse in relationships. Further, it is estimated that 25% of women who struggle with eating disorders also struggle with alcohol abuse. Rehab programs that are integrated to address these interrelated issues have a greater likelihood of helping women make the lifestyle changes necessary support their recovery.
  • Studies reveal that nearly 10% of American adults living with mental health disorders are dependent on alcohol. Therefore, treatment programs that simultaneously treat alcoholism and a co-occurring mental health disorder have a higher probability for success.
  • According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), nearly 40% of all hospital beds in the U.S. are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol use. Rehab can help people overcome alcohol addiction and also begin the process of healing the body, and preventing or better managing alcohol-related health problems such as liver disease, cancer, and diabetes. Abstinence of 90 days or more can lead to improved fertility, a stronger immune system and cognitive improvements.

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Achieving Successful Long-Term Sobriety

When you first enter rehab, it may seem impossible to stay sober for 10 days, much less 10 years. Yet, a long-term study conducted by the University of New Mexico found that alcoholics who are able to stay sober for one to three years have a greater chance of reaching the 10-year sobriety mark. Active participation in a sober support community and getting back on track quickly after a relapse can help sustain long-term recovery. Study participants who stayed sober for 10 years reported that they had a stronger sense of purpose and greater satisfaction with their lives than participants who had gone back to drinking.

An integrated alcohol rehab program gives you access to recovery tools that aren’t available to alcoholics who sober up without treatment. Through detox, counseling, group therapy, medication therapy and recovery education, you’ll learn how to manage the chronic disease of alcoholism. The resources you’ll gain in rehab include:

  • An understanding of the nature of alcoholism and the roots of addiction
  • Coping skills for avoiding a slip or for reducing the impact of a relapse
  • A stronger sense of purpose and self-esteem
  • Stronger relationships with family, friends and employers
  • A deeper knowledge of how alcoholism affects your physical and emotional health
  • An awareness of how staying sober enhances your life potential

From the time you enter medically assisted detox to the day you graduate from rehab, you should feel reassured that a medical care team is monitoring you for your safety and comfort, and the addiction treatment team fully supports you and your recovery process. Residential 30-day or 90-day treatment programs have the highest alcohol treatment success rates, but whichever program you choose should offer a full range of services, including individual therapy, peer support groups, pharmacotherapy, treatment of any underlying or co-occurring mental health conditions, and holistic therapies. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you are to feel engaged in your recovery process and motivated to protect your hard-won sobriety.

What Factors Contribute to My Success?

It takes several factors to support and maintain the personal and lifestyle changes you learn to make in rehab. These factors can help to ensure your long-term success:

A strong support system. Your support network should include not only counselors or therapists but sober friends, partners and family members as well. Your recovery may also include a spiritual component that may provide comfort, strength and support.

Participation in self-help groups. Whether you choose a spiritually based 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a more secular group, the skills and strength you gain from active participation in regular meetings with peer support will help you grow and evolve in recovery.

Medication therapy. Relapse prevention medications like naltrexone can help you fight the cravings for alcohol. A study published in the Archives of General Psychology showed that alcoholics who took the anti-addiction drug naltrexone were almost twice as likely to stay sober as those who didn’t take medication.

Personal motivation. Your commitment to your own recovery is one of the most important factors in your ongoing success. During rehab you will learn how to use healthier strategies to cope with problems and difficult feelings, and you will practice utilizing these tools as an alternative to reaching for a drink. This transition takes time and can be challenging, so your addiction therapist and care team will work to keep you motivated as you get accustomed to using new coping mechanisms.

Statistics can teach you a lot about the factors that affect alcohol rehab success rates, but when it comes to your own sobriety, your participation and motivation are what really make the difference.