What Happens after Discharge from Drug Rehab?
A good drug rehab treatment program will arrange for ongoing addiction support for patients both during treatment and after they are officially discharged. This requires clinicians to interact with members of the recovery community, religious leaders, and government agencies (such as employment or social services). For many, arranging childcare or handling legal issues often means the difference between a successful course of treatment and dropout. Drug rehab case managers should facilitate communication between the patient and external providers and modify the treatment plan to reflect these new actors.
Once a patient has been discharged from intensive drug rehab treatment, they are still at risk for relapse and need a continuing care plan to ensure that they stay sober and seek help when they encounter triggers or relapse. Although many of the same objectives and goals will carry over from the initial treatment plan, the focus will shift to using coping mechanisms to stay sober. Even though the intensive portion of treatment may have ended, the patient will need to continue outpatient services, group or individual counseling sessions, job training or 12-step meetings to ensure lasting sobriety.
After the intensive period of treatment, good drug rehab programs continue to support the patient during recovery. Continuing care (or aftercare) provides an opportunity to work toward treatment plan goals that were not met during the intensive portion of the program. Depending on the program, aftercare can consist of case management, referral to group, individual or family sessions, or drug testing. Alternatively, aftercare can take the shape of organized social or recreational activities that provide clinicians the opportunity to observe patients in a real-world setting. During aftercare, clinicians often act as buffer between the patient and employer, judicial system or family members. When necessary, the clinician can help provide documentation to these parties so that positive progress can continue to be documented.
Once a particular drug rehab program has served enough patients, formal alumni events for past participants may be organized. Not only does this offer a way for clinicians to help identify former patients who are at-risk for relapsing, but including current patients in the activities means that former participants can serve as mentors for those still in early recovery. Supportive relationships that developed during intensive treatment may be maintained as a result of alumni programs.
In order to improve treatment for future patients, administrators at drug rehab centers often undertake studies to examine the effectiveness of their treatment offerings. Factors such as rates of completion, abstinence, quality of life, stability at work and at home, and reduction of criminal behavior are of particular importance. The information gleaned from these surveys will help the drug rehab facility pinpoint services that should be added to its treatment portfolio, as well as services that probably need to be retired. These studies may also identify drug rehab employees who require additional training or subjects that require company-wide education.
When determining what is a good vs. bad outcome, drug rehabs have begun to move away from life-long abstinence as a benchmark of success, as they recognize that recovery is an ongoing process that may require acute intervention periodically for the rest of the patient’s life. The same concept can be applied to medical-based issues such as heart disease or diabetes. When someone is treated for an acute flare-up of diabetes, success is typically achieved when the patient is able to self-administer medication to control the condition. If the diabetes flares up again, the initial treatment is not seen as a failure; rather, we all realize that this is a chronic problem that requires periodic medical or pharmaceutical intervention. Instead of striving for permanent abstinence, drug rehabs now consider program completion to be a positive result and acknowledge that relapse may very well occur.