What If Your Loved One Wants To Leave Rehab Early?
Patients at addiction treatment centers have the right to leave their programs against medical advice if they choose to do so. But even though the treatment process can be difficult, it is important that your loved one follow-through with their program to the end.
A significant percentage of those who enter drug or alcohol addiction treatment drop out early (estimated between 30-60% across different studies).
This group is at a far higher risk for relapse or continuing use, overdose, and other negative long-term treatment outcomes than those who complete substance abuse treatment.
If you learn that your loved one is having a rough time and wants to leave treatment and go home, there are some ways you can try to reassure them and convince them to stay.
What To Do If Your Loved One Wants To Leave Rehab Early
If your loved one leaves inpatient drug/alcohol rehab early, or against medical advice (AMA), you need to have a response ready. This response should include:
- clearly-set boundaries for your family member, to ensure that neither you nor any other family members will enable them as they fall back into old patterns
- safeguards against fatal drug overdose, which are more common for those who have lost tolerance due to detoxification (e.g. keeping naloxone/Narcan on-hand in case of opioid overdose)
- alternative plans to return your loved one to an alcohol or drug treatment program as soon as possible
Common Reasons Why People Want To Leave Rehab Early
According to experienced treatment providers, some people leave rehab early for a wide variety of different reasons, all of which may come out when you visit them in treatment, share a phone call, or exchange letters or emails.
These reasons may include:
Resistance Or Doubt
Many people are sent to rehab who don’t really believe:
- they have a real substance abuse problem
- that they need help from a treatment program
- that they can live a life without drugs or alcohol
- that they want to live a life without drugs or alcohol
If someone didn’t want to go in the first place, it can take time for them to adapt and find their motivation after they arrive. And some may do or say whatever they can to convince you or others to help them get out as soon as possible.
Detox often makes up the first portion of a patient’s time in rehab and can produce very intense and lingering symptoms as a person’s internal body chemistry is disrupted and takes time to rebalance.
These withdrawal symptoms can include agitation, mood swings, illness, pain, intense cravings, seizures, sleeplessness, and more. And even with close medical supervision and support, many people will simply need these feelings to stop, even if it’s worse for them in the long run.
Belief They Are Cured
Sometimes, someone will finish detoxing, go through some initial treatments, and feel that things are different. They may then want to go home and get back their normal life early, since the following days or weeks of treatment are, in their mind, unnecessary.
However, the positive experience and mindset many people have in a treatment facility may be temporary, and finishing the full treatment program can be important for developing lasting motivation and coping skills for a long-term recovery.
How You Can Help
Understanding where your loved one is coming from when they try to leave alcohol or drug rehab early is a good first step. But you also need to know what to say and how to convince them to stick with it.
Here are some tips to frame your response:
Validate Their Feelings
Being heard and understood is important, so make sure to really listen to what your loved one is saying and validate their feelings. Detox and addiction recovery are difficult, grueling experiences, so allow your loved one to vent if they need to.
Remind Them Of Their “Why”
Your loved one may need to be reminded of what their alcohol or drug use has cost them in the past and what sobriety can offer them in the future. Who or what is important enough in their life for them to finish their rehab program?
Ask Them What They’ve Learned
You can try to change your loved one’s focus by asking them to share just one thing they’ve learned through their addiction treatment program, or just one good thing that they have experienced that day.
This may be enough to get them to change their perspective and accept that some good is coming from the process.
Encourage Them To Stick It Out One More Day
Sometimes, a person’s recovery journey has to be taken minute by minute, hour by hour, or day by day. Encourage your loved one to give the rehab center one more day, and then one more day after that.
Then let them know how proud you are of them for it.
To learn more about modern residential treatment options for substance use disorders, please contact Ohio Recovery Center.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2021/Reaching-Out-to-a-Loved-One-with-Substance-Use-Disorder
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK571073/