Why drug rehab centres don’t work

why drug rehab centres don’t work

6 Reasons Why Drug Rehab Centres Don’t Work.

Author, Caroline McGraw, from which this article is adapted to a South African context, says that despite the increasing prevalence of both outpatient and inpatient addiction treatment programs, more people than ever are dying from drug overdoses? Why the low alcohol rehab success rates? Why the low drug rehab success rates? What’s going on what do we need to learn about why drug rehab centres don’t work? Mark L Lockwood is an addiction psychology expert, with 20 years of experience, that has also done a 180 degree turn-around from the general rehab recovery model. He has turned his drug rehab centres into private and comfortable homes where people travel and heal and thoroughly enjoy their experience in a mature, self-reliant environment, and has seen much success with this unique new model. Although there are a handful of amazing centres in South Africa, most ‘registered’ centres with unqualified professionals, offer little hope of any kind of lasting recovery from addictions. “Our clients are some of the most intelligent and amazing people in the world. They suffer emotionally, and are wanting their own healing more than anyone else. When they make the changes for themselves it makes all the difference in the world…and it lasts!


It’s sad but it’s true. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), opioid overdoses were responsible for a record 28,000 deaths in 2014, the last year of data available.

Plus, addiction recovery rates for popular 12 Step groups such as AA may be as low as 5-10%, according to Dr. Lance Dodes, the author of The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

Here are six reasons behind the low drug and alcohol rehab success rates that are so common today. In the process, we’ll also discuss what programs can do to help people recover as we understand why drug rehab centres don’t work.

why drug rehab centres don’t work

Reason #1: Absence of Dual Diagnosis Residential Treatment

Until recently, mental health conditions and addiction were considered separate. A major reason why drug rehab centres don’t work!

Now, however, we know that a very large percentage of people dealing with alcohol or drug addiction have a dual diagnosis: a substance abuse issue coupled with a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. What we know from 20 years of experience is that there is always a more powerful underlying emotional issue than just presenting addictions. A lot of what we know about addiction is completely wrong, according to best selling international author Johann Hari…and we tend to agree. “Advanced Mindfullness, DBT and CBT skills coupled with durable emotional and step work from registered professionals rather than just from the recovering addicts model is a good start”, says Mark L Lockwood, Addiction Psychology Expert. “People are told they have a character and a moral problem, they are broken down, and then the idea is to build them up again through submission to the twelve steps….clients are often told if they miss a meeting, or don’t stringently follow the steps to the letter that they will relapse. This is radical fundamentalism and perhaps an addiction in itself”.

For example, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), of the 20.2 million people with a substance use disorder in the United States, at least 7.9 million (39%) had a mental illness of some kind.

Many addiction recovery professionals believe that the actual dual diagnosis rate is even higher, as mental health concerns are often under reported.

Many alcohol and drug rehabs now list dual diagnosis treatment as part of their offerings. But if you look closely, you may notice a disconnect between the services listed and the supports provided from people without actual degrees in this stuff, who have attended a day course in trauma and framed it on their office wall, as a testimony of their skill-set.

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Since there’s no standard definition of what constitutes “rehab,” the quality of inpatient alcohol and drug treatment centers varies tremendously. One major, major issue in South Africa especially at the moment, is the number of professional counseling hours provided. Anyone can ‘register their rehab centre’ as an address and even make millions off unknowing medical aid companies who spit out a fortune of unskilled medical help. It’s a con really and it needs to stop. A large number of centres charge R60 000 or 5000 USD a month and offer clients one session by a degreed and registered professional. The rest of the money is spent on outings, horse rides and kept as profit.

Some inpatient addiction treatment programs offer the minimum number of counseling hours required by the state in which they operate.

That can be as little as 1 hour per week, or approximately 4 total hours in 28 days. A crazy fact that affects more than 50-80% of centres in South Africa. A BIG reason why drug rehab centres don’t work.

Make sure you check on this as you go through your research on why drug rehab centres don’t work. By way of comparison, Caroline McGraw’s centre in America offer 120+ hours of licensed professional counseling for each participant over the course of 28 days.

Reason #2: Shame and Guilt

When people first come to an inpatient addiction treatment center, chances are they’re having a hard time. In many cases they’ve just finished detoxing from alcohol or drugs, so they’re still dealing with physical issues as their emotional issues start to rise to the surface.

Many people enter alcohol and drug addiction treatment feeling frightened and unsure, but also willing to take a shot at changing their lives. But what happens next?

Too often, they get a barrage of shame and guilt messages. The non-professional counsellor tries to break them down, get through defence mechanisms and bring order to the chaos through force. Program leaders tell them that they are broken, flawed, damaged, or deficient in any number of ways. They’re told that no matter what they do, they’ll always be addicts. They are also told that there is one way to skin a cat and to not ask questions to the contrary. Many of the people I have worked with, who are unskilled and run addiction centres themselves are quite mad. Some take steroids, don’t go to meetings and walk their own walk, and others are aggressive to the point where they get personal satisfaction through their break-down techniques.

Encouraging? Inspiring? Not so much. So check this out as you conduct your addiction treatment research.

Reason #3: Focus Solely on Physical Coping Strategies

Many inpatient addiction recovery centres address only physical-level behavioural changes. These are what we can do to address physical cravings for drugs or alcohol, such as aversion therapy.

While these certainly have their place, they’re not the whole picture.

In order for you to heal thoroughly, you need to address and heal on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. Every person has these 4 levels of self.

In particular, we’ve noticed that many addiction recovery centres avoid working with emotional issues. They say they will, but then don’t.

This is ironic, because often when people use the term “mental health issues,” they’re really referring to emotional health issues.

“We try to think our way out of emotional problems and wonder why that doesn’t work out! A lot of addiction problems come into play when people say, ‘I can’t think my way out of this problem. I don’t know how to address it on the emotional level, so let me numb out to it.’” – Joe Koelzer, co-founder, of The Clearing Rehab Centre

The good news is that when you learn proven psychological techniques -such as Gestalt Therapy – to heal at the emotional level, you can make dramatic progress. Mark L Lockwood and his team of registered professionals use Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, CBT, Advanced Mindfullness and a existential person centred approach to therapy that is far removed from talking about the effect of drugs in a circle all day. Real recovery is hard an the statistics of 5-20 percent have now shown that this is one of the reasons why drug rehab centres don’t work. Mark claims A Course In Recovery has the same success rates as those of CBT and DBT clients. Mindfullness, and a complete change of life direction and transformation are the only thing that will work for most people. To do this, one needs to have a profound understanding of spirituality and the mind in a scientific context. Working these two fields together is what has created miracles for many of his clients, who continue to search for long awaited solace and healing from their addictions. In fact our therapist specialists have started to concentrate on a far more holistic addiction treatment view, where we are addicted to our thinking, not just our drinking.

Reason #4: Lax Screening Process

There are plenty of addiction recovery centers out there that accept people with no other criteria than “they can pay.” The uniformed and ill-equipped medical aids too, rely on the health department to know who to pay for their clients treatment but do almost nothing to screen the centres. They themselves probably don’t know much about addiction treatment traditionally. But thankfully this is changing. Many drug rehab centres, paid by top medical aids in South Africa, are offering services that are actually free to the public, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These are community programs with all the available resources online. The sponsor style, peer driven treatment is also free, non-professional help that addicts can get anywhere at any time.

This results in addiction recovery groups with participants that are all over the map.

Some people really want to recover and do the work …but others enrolled under duress or coercion.

A single person who doesn’t want to be in recovery can prevent an entire group from doing their own work.

Plus, many addiction recovery centers admit and discharge people daily. This creates a highly distracting and disjointed experience for everyone else going through the addiction recovery program as the centres become money making factories. So be sure to check this piece out as you do your research.

Some addiction recovery programs avoid these pitfalls. For example, The Clearing has a cohort-based approach, which means that everyone moves through together. Everyone starts and ends at the same time, which facilitates unified, positive progress. Their strict admission criteria also means that they turn away more than 50% of the people who request admission. Our Ocean Wellness programs and courses are much the same.

Reason #5: Under-Qualified Addiction Treatment Staff

Would you feel motivated to dive into vulnerable emotional work in a place where the staff wasn’t supportive? No way!

But sadly, unsupportive or under-qualified staffers are common in most addiction recovery centers.

Co-founder Betsy Koelzer recalls serious staffing issues during her own stay at a Malibu Treatment Center:

“The residential treatment program at the Malibu treatment center I went to was nothing more than well-intentioned contract counselors who rotated among clients weekly for sparse individual and group sessions. I later learned that my lead counselor was being paid $12 an hour and was an intern. Beyond that, we were completely outsourced to local AA meetings …”

When people are paying thousands of dollars a day for addiction treatment, they deserve much better than that.


They deserve supportive, caring, highly qualified staff members who are wholly invested in their progress.

Reason #6: Little to No Aftercare

Imagine going through a 28-day inpatient addiction treatment program and feeling as though you’ve made strides toward living drug-free … only to return home with no consistent support and no follow-up care.

Without a strong support system in place, you give into familiar patterns and give up on sobriety.

Sadly, that’s the reality for many people who go through mainstream addiction recovery programs.

Without the structure of their inpatient addiction treatment program, they lose sight of the skills they learned and return to their old habits.

So make sure you check out the Aftercare program that follows the inpatient stay.

Mark L Lockwood after working with addicts since 1997, and seeing the methods and madness while working at other drug rehab centres, has moved away himself from the programs and processes of the traditional drug rehab centre offering. “People are all different. So are their addictions and their emotions and thinking patterns. The idea that addiction is a permanent, moral failing that can never be healed is a philosophy we no longer follow as we move more towards a more holistic and spiritual treatment philosophy where we believe all things are possible Mathew 19:26.” A cure for addiction is highly possible but must be kept in context. If you have an allergy to alcohol, don’t ever touch it again, it may kill you! This, we can show you how to do. Mark Lockwood, Deepak Chopra, Sadghuru, Johan Hari and many others today are firm believers that addiction affects us on a brain and cellular level, where memory disguises the need for pleasure and reward as pain.

“We help people who are not unavoidably doomed addicts for life, but who medicate emotional problems with food, sex or substances. A major reason why drug rehab centres don’t work is possibly in their black and white, AA and NA community only approach. Can you heal from addictions to food, to gossip, drugs or anxiety? Hell yes! External means to internal problems don’t work. Learning advanced mindfulness and deep inner purpose and meaning in a world where you may feel de-realized as a person can be healed through connection, loving compassion and developing a far greater knowledge base about yourself, your soul and the world.

Choose wisely, ask for a weekly report and ask what psychologist did the treatment. Whether you’re a medical aid or a private person, everyone needs to wake up and keep the main thing the main thing. Which is helping people with emotional, neurological and psychological dis-ease recover and increase their quality of life dramatically. For more information. www.markllockwood.com

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Published by Mark L Lockwood

Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons)(psy) teaches spiritual transformation and is the founder of Contemplative Intelligence. Author of The Power of Contemplative Intelligence, Autotherapy and Recovery Magic. Our work is about the science of finding your spiritual self.

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