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Does rehab work? By James Pitts
Does rehab work?
Overcoming addiction isn’t easy for people with long-standing dependence on alcohol or
other drugs. Residential rehabilitation is an option, but does ‘rehab’ really work, and what
does it take to successfully get off and stay off drugs?
Time and effort is required
Rehab does work, but overcoming dependence on alcohol and other drugs is very
challenging and not everyone succeeds the first time (just as many smokers do not quit on
their first attempt). However, it is worth the effort to become a drug-free, healthy, contributing
member of society.
Recovery from serious, entrenched drug problems requires considerable time and effort,
making long-term residential rehabilitation or ‘rehab’ the gold standard treatment. Most
clients live at Odyssey House for several months, many for more than a year. Research
shows the longer a person remains in rehabilitation, the better their chances of remaining
abstinent in the long term.
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre’s Australian Treatment Outcome Study also
demonstrates positive outcomes for Odyssey House clients. The longitudinal study followed
a sample of clients after they completed treatment. Two-thirds (67%) of people were drugfree three years later, and most had significantly improved physical and mental health.
Change lifestyle and deal with issues underlying dependence
Overcoming physical addiction to drugs is the easiest part. To stay off drugs, the person
must literally change their life: deal with underlying personal problems, learn new attitudes
and behaviours, and even find new friends, relocate or change careers to avoid relapse.
This is the cornerstone of treatment at Odyssey House. Most clients turned to drugs to cope
with issues like family breakdown, relationship problems, childhood sexual abuse, domestic
violence, physical or mental health problems, low self-esteem, or parental drug misuse.
Clients work hard to confront these personal issues, change negative values and beliefs,
and learn practical strategies for dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life, from anger
management and assertiveness to negotiation and communication skills.
Learn skills to lead responsible, productive lives
The therapeutic community environment at Odyssey House emphasises responsibility,
cooperation and respectful interactions with others, while the on-site Progressive Learning
Centre teaches English, maths and computer skills. This is particularly important for the
many Odyssey House clients who now report their ‘first intoxication’ was at 12-13 years of
age, compared with 18-19 years fifteen years ago. Consequently, they may also need ‘life
rehabilitation’ to learn practical living, job and social skills.
As an integral part of therapy, everyone has a job assignment at Odyssey House (from
answering phones or preparing meals to maintaining the grounds), taking on increasing
responsibility as they progress with treatment. This helps clients adopt normal living
patterns, build self-esteem and develop work ethics and social attitudes many people take
for granted. The goal of Odyssey House is for clients to confidently take the life lessons they
have learnt and be healthy, caring, productive, law-abiding citizens, free of drugs.
So, for people prepared to put in the sustained effort to overcome their dependence
on alcohol or other drugs, rehab definitely works on multiple fronts.
Listen to Odyssey House CEO James Pitts in conversation on this important issue.