When the latest techno gadget hits the marketplace, consumers can read page after page of reviews and develop a sophisticated understanding of what the product is and what it’s designed to do. These review sites have become so popular that it’s common for people to demand data about all kinds of products before they choose to purchase them. It’s part of being a savvy consumer, and in general, it’s best to be knowledgeable before money changes hands. When it comes to detox, however, research can be a little disappointing. Success rates can vary dramatically depending on the measures used to define “success,” and sometimes, the outcomes of treatment have more to do with the opinions of the people in treatment, not the effectiveness of the care provided.
Not a Cure
Techniques for measuring drug detox success shouldn’t include results regarding long-term sobriety, as detox isn’t considered a treatment for addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, detox is considered a palliative treatment that’s used to ease the symptoms of the addiction. It’s a bit like using a cough drop for a cold. The method can soothe the outward signs of illness, but the underlying prompt is still in place. If people just go through detox and not rehab, they’re likely to start using drugs almost immediately after the therapy is complete. It’s just not an effective way to handle an addiction, as it doesn’t have the ability to change the way people think and the way they behave over the long-term.
The best way to measure the effectiveness of drug detox is to measure just how often people complete the entire treatment program and therefore achieve sobriety when the program is considered complete. Studies that measure this outcome seem to indicate that drug detox is quite effective. For example, in a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 61 percent of people were successful in an outpatient program. They were able to resist the urge to relapse, even though they were still living at home, which is a remarkable achievement. Inpatient programs might have even higher success rates, as there are no drugs available on the grounds. This could provide just enough disincentive to relapse to drug use, and it could keep people on the road to sobriety.
In a study in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, researchers found that people were more likely to succeed in detox if they had:
- A slow detoxification process
- Fulltime jobs
- Motivation to succeed
- A connection to a sober community
There are some things in this list detox facilities can assist with. They can help people to make connections with other patients, for example, or they can provide them with motivational interviewing therapy sessions that enhance their desire for sobriety. They can also ensure that the detox moves at a pace at which the person feels comfortable. But much of the work really must start with the person going through the process. If that person doesn’t really want to get better, deep down inside, the success of the detox is doomed at the start.
Finding the Answers
Some detox facilities place their success rates on the homepages of their websites, and it can be tempting to just collect the numbers and compare one facility with another based on the published scores. This method has some pitfalls, however, as the sites may not disclose how they define success. Families who really want to know the numbers will need to make some calls, and they’ll need to be upfront about the addiction type they’re curious about. By asking for specifics, they can ensure that the numbers they’ll hear will really relate to the issue at hand. Asking, “How successfully can you detox someone with bipolar disorder addicted to heroin?” will bring more detailed answers than will a bland question like, “How successful are you?”
The person who needs care may also have a valuable opinion to share. People may feel as though they’ll be successful in one type of program but not another, or that they’ll be more likely to stay in one program and leave another. These opinions and preferences play a big part in that individual’s success rate in detox, and that’s the most important figure of all, in the eyes of the family.
Please call us with your questions about detox success. We’re happy to share our results with you and talk about the steps we take to help all our clients to succeed.