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Is Drug Rehabilitation the Best Way to Fight Drug Addiction?

Updated on December 27, 2017
Photo used by permission of Henry Garciga
Photo used by permission of Henry Garciga
A local meeting place
A local meeting place

Maybe America needs a more effective strategy for fighting drug abuse

These days, many people - even celebrities and professional athletes - go to drug rehab, often making headlines in the process. On a personal note, many if not most Americans have a friend or relative who has either gone to rehab or is there now. Thus America’s prevailing wisdom seems to be that if you have a drug problem - go to rehab.

Well, does rehab work?

Depending on which source you cite, drug rehabilitation works anywhere from 15 to 90 per cent of the time. In an article for the Web site OSI – Baltimore, the current success rate for addicts - defined by someone who has stayed drug free for a year - is about 40 per cent.

Is 40 per cent good enough? Let’s do some research on the issue and see if it is.

History of Drug Rehabilitation in the U.S.

Bill Wilson and Bob Smith founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. In the following years, the various members of AA developed the Twelve Step program. In 1946, the organization added the Twelve Traditions, which stress that members remain anonymous in public media and avoid involvement in public issues and religious affiliations.

In 1953, Jimmy Kinnon founded Narcotics Anonymous. An offshoot of AA, the organization utilizes both the Twelve-Step program and Twelve Traditions. As of May 2010, there were over 58,000 NA weekly meetings in 31 countries.

President Richard Nixon, who declared an “all-out war on Drugs,” was the first American President to see the value of addiction treatment programs and also provide federal funds for such treatment. In 1971, Nixon requested $155 million targeted for treatment of drug addicts, particularly American soldiers returning from the Vietnam War addicted to drugs such as heroin.

Then in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan dismantled Nixon’s program. “Just say no to drugs” became the mantra of the Reagan administration – just in time for the crack cocaine epidemic that struck the country about the same time.

In 1994, the Rand study analyzed various strategies for combating drug addiction in the United States, particularly as it relates to use of cocaine. The study found that drug treatment options were overwhelming more cost effective than source control, interdiction and domestic law enforcement.

The same year, the state of California produced the study known as the California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment (CALDATA), which found that for every dollar spend on drug treatment programs, the state saved $7 in health care and crime costs. CALDATA estimated than in California drug abuse cost the state over $3 billion per year, 70 per cent of which was costs associated with crime.

Types of Drug Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation Centers, of which there are thousands across the U.S., provide drug rehabilitation to anyone who can pay for the service. The National Substance Abuse Treatment Services Survey estimates that the average cost of rehab is about $7,000 per month and perhaps as high as $36,000 for a 90-day program. Needless to say, many people cannot afford such exorbitant costs, but health insurance may pay for some of it.

These centers provide detox for the physically addicted, as well as addiction treatment and relapse prevention. Aftercare services for sober living may also be provided. But keep in mind that anything extra, such as your own counselor, will cost you more. It’s also possible to get your own Sober Coach, but this is very expensive. (Incidentally, in the middle 1980s members of the band Aerosmith used a sober coach for a time.) For more information about finding a rehab center, click on the following link:

Fortunately, cheap or free treatment options are available. The Salvation Army has a drug rehabilitation program - paid for by donations - that is free to participants. Entry requires a lengthy interview and a six-month commitment. You can’t beat free.

Other programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous cost the addict no money to take part. Both organizations use the 12-Step program, which invokes the help of God or a Higher Power as necessary for becoming clean and sober. These programs also utilize the disease concept of addiction. However, such strategies may not be scientific enough for some participants, because, after all, it’s impossible to “catch” drug addiction if you’ve never used drugs!

More scientific or imaginative techniques for attaining sobriety include acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy, electro stimulation, massage, meditation and yoga. And maintenance therapies may include the use of drugs such as methadone, buprenorphine, ibogaine or naltrexone (an opioid antagonist).

This is the current state of rehab in the United States.

Does Portugal have the answer?

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized the possession of all drugs for personal use. The only penalties for such possession are administrative in nature and only involve small fines or community service.

As of 2014, statistics have indicated that since this change of policy, HIV and Hepatitis B and C infections have decreased and drug-related deaths have also decreased, while drug use in general has also decreased. The crime rate has decreased too, dramatically reducing the size of Portugal’s prison population.

Portugal’s new strategy has been to fight drug addiction by making it a health issue rather than a criminal one. People who use drugs can be given treatment and access to reintegration programs, but they don’t have to do anything in particular about their drug use.

Critics disagree with these claims of success, saying the statistics are not accurate. Interestingly, 25 other countries have introduced similar drug decriminalization policies.

For more information regarding this issue, please click on this link.

Could another strategy work better for the US?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drug abuse costs Americans $484 billion per year. So it appears rehab, as effective or ineffective as it may be, isn’t working well enough to rid the country of drug abuse.

Perhaps a better strategy is drug abuse education in public and private schools. At this point, drug education in America’s public schools could certainly be more extensive. Programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) make an attempt to educate children about the dangers of drug abuse. However, this program has numerous detractors, so perhaps other models would work better or at least be acceptable to more people. The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools offers numerous programs and grants designed to ensure the safety of students in America’s schools.

Whatever programs are used, education seems to be the most effective weapon in the battle against drug abuse in America. If children were sufficiently educated about the dangers of drug abuse, drug traffickers could offer bales of free heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine and no child would take any of it. Then drug source control and interdiction, as well as incarceration of drug offenders and rehab would be totally unnecessary.

There needs to be a massive campaign to educate America’s children about the dangers of drug abuse!

Please leave a comment.

© 2011 Kelley Marks


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    • cocaineaddiction profile image


      3 years ago

      it's really nice and helpful article. people who have addiction problem, can goto :

      for recovery and hep

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      4 years ago from California

      Drug education is definitely the best way to fight drug addiction - that and treatment, not jail time. Later!

    • profile image

      Tulasi Rehab 

      4 years ago

      Great article about prevalence of the drug abuse in the society.

      I agree with the idea that we have to make our children learn to say

      'NO". The preventive approach is better than waiting for the menace to take a toll on our lives.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      I don't ignore anyone with addiction, Alex. However, I don't think drug addiction is a disease. Sorry. Later!

    • profile image

      Alex Quinn 

      7 years ago

      It is one of the saddest things to see when someone you know is going through an addiction. Most addicts can not help themselves and need the support of family and friends to get them healthy. Having the moral support of loved ones and a good drug rehab to be placed in can lead to the road to recovery. Please do not ignore anyone struggling with disease.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good post! It is useful for those who are struggling with the problem of drug addiction. Those who wish to come out of substance abuse must have strong will power and they must be ready to come out of it. People, looking for more information on drug addiction, can visit this site.

    • profile image

      Shambhavi Singh 

      7 years ago

      Various rehab centers help the abuser to come out of their addiction. Although coming out of the addiction totally depends upon the willingness to come out of the addiction. People who are looking for more information on addiction treatments, can visit this site

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Harlan Colt. Lots of folks are struggling with addiction; it's quite the mess in the U.S. And if this article helps in any way, I'm glad to oblige. Later!

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      7 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      I believe the success of rehab often depends on the genuine heart of the person. If they decide they really want to quit, they are more successful than those who are not ready. However, I know it is very hard for some who really want to stop too.

      Excellent hub, if it helps one person quit or seek help,it is invaluable.


    • profile image

      Neil Butterfield 

      7 years ago

      Very thought provoking article and who has the answers for this kind of problem? I think education at schools can go a long way and kids should be taken to centers to see the results that drug and alcohol abuse provide.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      Good luck on forming your drug rehab center, Joshua Kell. Many people need your help. It's amazing how many AA and NA meetings there are - one for every neighborhood, so it seems. Later!

    • Joshua Kell profile image

      Levi Joshua Kell 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      I went through three drug rehabs, one was a year long, nothing worked until I received a spiritual healing from God. Drug addiction is an illness and curse of the worst sort. I know a lot of drug addicts, and helping them is a large part of my life's calling. I am in the process of forming a drug rehabilitation center; and dealing with these types of illness, in others and myself, is beyond challenging. Many don't make it... Thanks for the great hub.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      Nobody needs drugs, though they can be fun if kept in a recreational context. Thanks for the comment, The Senior. Later!

    • TheSenior profile image


      7 years ago

      After years of being in support of drug rehab and against drugs - I have come to the point of why not focusing on the Why that people start taking drugs and one of the reason that I know is to deaden the pain that these people are going thru and I also feel to escape from a reality that they either don't want or can't handle.

      Seeing this commercial for 'passages malibu' and having gone to the web site - they attack the causes that lead people to a life of drugs and a lot of the causes are problems that were never solved and caused great pain for these people.

      I also agree that drug pushers are vile, however I also feel that pushers are just some of the users that are so hooked that they must sell in order to affored their drugs to escape the pain from unresolved problems that could have lead them to drugs in the first place.

    • crystolite profile image


      7 years ago from Houston TX

      Informative article,thanks.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      Once the horse is out of the barn - however that saying goes - drug hehab seems an acceptable option. Anyway, I wish you luck on your son's quest for sobriety. Attending high school can be a traumatic experience. I recall losing some self-esteem when I got there as well. Later!

    • jagerfoods profile image


      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Our 19 year old son is currently going through extensive drug rehabilitation. He was an inpatient for 5 weeks and is now at a halfway house. So far he's doing great and has a much better outlook on life. He did go through the DARE program in elementary school, we educated him at home about the dangers of drugs and still he ended up with the wrong crowd/kids in high school. Peer pressure played a huge role plus in his case he lost a lot of self-esteem once he hit high school. Not sure what the answer is but so far rehab seems to be working for him and we take one day at a time.

    • profile image

      Son of Chick 

      7 years ago

      Quite revealing for a world wide problem. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that we are far too lenient on the drug pushers. I firmly believe there should be a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for any one convicted of this insidious crime...

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      When I went to school back in ancient times, we got no drug abuse education whatsoever - and that generation paid the price. My parents were mute on the subject as well. OMG! Later!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Yeah we didn't have much of a program in school early - I did experiment with some stuff in high school - but after I saw that film which featured heroin and cocaine - that was enough! I should have seen it before then. I just looked up the high school I attended in Wikipedia - a couple of days ago - someone changed the location of mine to Meth County! Wow!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      I agree with both of you - prevention is the greatest cure for drug addiction. At the very least, every kid should know the dangers of addictive drugs such as cocaine, meth and heroin, not to mention nicotine and alcohol. Thanks for the comments. Later!

    • lmmartin profile image


      7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Great hub. Prevention is always better than cure, but when prevention fails, cure is all that's left. Wish our politicians understood that. Lynda

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      So true - I saw a film in high school that made me tell myself I would NEVER want to be in the condition of the drug abuser who was in the film. I never tried that stuff:-) Now they have DARE at our elementary school - my 5th grader just graduated from the program. It was a huge event that was held at our local high school. I thought that was cool - showing them how important our whole community thinks this cause is!

    • Tkumah profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative thank you.


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