Our success rates may mean little.
The statistics about relapse notwithstanding, rehab centers often tout their effectiveness – and say they have the numbers to back up their claims. Many quote success rates of 70% or higher. But those claims depend on how “success” is defined. In some cases, the figure may only refer to the completion rate – that is, the percentage of people who finish the program. Or it could mean a relatively short period of post-program sobriety — say, a year after completing treatment. And any post-program figure may be questionable since it could be a self-reported one (in other words, it’s a number that’s only as good as an addict’s word). The bottom line, says Dr. Akikur Mohammad, a psychiatrist who teaches addiction medicine at the University of Southern California, is that any success rate that sounds too good to be true probably is. The programs play with numbers to “get some patients, to get some money,” he says.
Still, some programs stand by their figures. Cliffside Malibu, a high-end treatment center in California, reports a 70% success rate – based on one-year of post-program sobriety. And while program founder and Chief Executive Richard Taite allows that “people can make all sorts of outlandish claims” in the industry, he notes that Cliffside does extensive monitoring to make sure its rate is accurate. “I have a full-time research fellow on staff,” he says.
Dr. A R Mohammad