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What Happens When You Leave an Addiction Treatment Program Early?

Starting addiction treatment is a big deal for you and your loved ones. Two thumbs up and a pat on the back for gathering the willpower to check into rehab. Remaining in treatment all the way to the end is just as crucial. If you leave an addiction treatment center earlier than scheduled, you run the risk of falling back into old patterns of substance abuse and addiction.

Severe and discomforting withdrawal symptoms may begin to take their toll, or you may get an epiphany that rehab is not right for you. This pattern of thinking is normal considering withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, fear, frustration, and confusion can interfere with logical thinking. You probably even made it through detox and began therapy, only to suddenly feel as if you’ve reached the end of your rope.

From start to finish, addiction treatment programs take a step-by-step approach to helping you recover physically and mentally. These two aspects of recovery go hand in hand, so leaving rehab early means treatment will be incomplete. The biggest issue with unfinished treatment is the risk of relapse. Hopefully, the information provided here will help you appreciate the benefits of going all the way and avoid sabotaging your chance of beating addiction.

The Comprehensive Nature of Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment is the process of helping those troubled by substance abuse get clean and stay clean. Whether the addictive substance is alcohol, cocaine, heroin, meth or prescription opioids such as codeine or oxycodone, a treatment center can assist in recovery. Both inpatient and outpatient programs are designed to deliver comprehensive treatment in stages, beginning with intake and detox and ending with psychological therapy.

Detoxification: Detox is the process of cleansing the body of drugs or alcohol. It is done in a safe and supportive environment under the supervision of a physician. You may be given medications to help relieve withdrawal symptoms. Giving up can cross your mind during this period due to the severe discomfort of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, body aches, anxiety, trouble sleeping, or seizures.

Symptoms may last for weeks depending on whether the addiction was mild, moderate, or chronic. However, symptoms may get worse before they get better and leaving means you will no longer benefit from medical supervision.

Stabilization and Maintenance: Once symptoms subside and you no longer crave the addictive substance, you are considered stabilized. Cravings could pop up occasionally. If they do, your doctor may give you small doses of drugs approved by the FDA, such as methadone, buprenorphine, or suboxone, to help reduce the risk of relapse.

By the time you get to the maintenance stage, you may feel brand new and ready to go home. However, substance abuse is often tied to problems that affect you mentally or psychologically and should be addressed before you leave rehab.

Psychotherapy: Individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), family therapy, group therapy, and holistic treatment involving meditation or sports are part of an all-inclusive approach to treating underlying mental health issues linked to addiction.

You may be surprised to find out that stress, anxiety, guilt or some type of mental condition such as depression is the reason for substance use and abuse. Without addressing the root causes of addiction, you are essentially back to square one and at a high risk of relapsing.

Substance abuse triggers are not going to disappear from your home, work, or social environments. Leaving before therapy ends also mean you will lose the opportunity to develop coping skills and a plan to help you maintain sobriety.

Common Reasons People Leave Addiction Treatment Early

• Feeling forced by family or friends to seek treatment
• Not mentally prepared or committed
• Guilt, anger, shame, or resentment
• Overwhelming withdrawal symptoms
• Missing home and family or losing control emotionally
• Feeling they have more important priorities than seeking treatment
• Being in an addiction treatment program makes them feel labeled as an “addict”
• False belief that they are different, smarter, or stronger than others undergoing treatment
• False sense of confidence believing they are “cured”
• Dislike for the structured environment, e.g., the residence, food, curfew, etc.
• Have been in rehab before and feel it’s a waste of time
• Extenuating circumstances such as attending a wedding, graduation, birth of a child, or family vacation

Risks of Leaving Rehab Too Soon

• Risks to physical and mental health caused by heightened withdrawal symptoms, e.g., seizures
• Returning to substance abuse triggers unprepared
• Experience may make you refuse to seek treatment in the future
• End up feeling like a “failure”
• Temptation to resume drug or alcohol use
• Likelihood of relapse
• Family and friends are likely to be disappointed

What to Do If Your Loved One Quits Treatment Early

Be compassionate but firm: Negative reactions such as accusations, gilt-tripping, chastising, or threatening to not allow your family member back into the home may do more harm than good. It can actually trigger relapse. Let them know you understand the difficulties they face while lovingly encouraging them to return and complete treatment.

Review risks and benefits: Help your loved one see how courageous they were to seek treatment and how much they’ve accomplished so far. Talk about issues that can resurface at home or work if they quit now. Help them understand that sobriety means a healthier, drug-free life and improvement in their personal life.

Discuss other treatment options: If residential treatment is not a good fit for your loved one, ask them to consider intensive outpatient treatment instead of giving up altogether. This way they can seek treatment during the day while continuing to live at home. They also get to maintain family ties, go to work, and feel like they “belong” rather than feeling extricated from the rest of society.

Think Again Before You Leave

Formal treatment for substance abuse does not last forever. However, staying in treatment will take as much willpower as it took to start the journey to recovery. You’ve come this far. Instead of trying to abandon treatment, think about all the benefits of getting over addiction if you remain committed to the end.

Overwhelming feelings may surface, and you may be tempted to jump ship. Practicing positive self-talk and drawing strength from your family, friends, peers seeking treatment, and therapist can give you the courage to stay the course.

When designing their treatment programs, addiction treatment centers in South Florida consider the various factors that cause clients to walk out of rehab prematurely. Detox may involve the use of medication therapy to reduce uncomfortable symptoms and make withdrawal more tolerable. Additional preventative measures, e.g., 24-hour supervision and emotional support, are woven into the programs to increase your chance of completion. Call us today at 866-754-9113.