Top 5 Reasons People Leave Treatment Early


One of the most predictive factors of someone building a successful recovery is their length of time in treatment. Because addiction is fundamentally about compulsive behavior, people need time to break the cycle. We are helping the brain gradually change and settle down such that the person feels more empowered in their life. Sadly, we often experience people who leave treatment prematurely at CeDAR. Why are they cutting short their course in treatment? These are some of the most common explanations of why people leave addiction treatment early.

1. Financial

Services at CeDAR have become more readily accessible through insurance payors. This is incredibly positive for our patients but can contribute to a shorter treatment stay. The medical utilization team at our hospital works with insurance companies to secure coverage of treatment based on medical necessity. If an insurance company feels that benefits should no longer cover a certain level of treatment, we often find it difficult convincing people to extend their treatment based on medical and clinical recommendations. Once payment dries up, many people find it very agonizing to offer to pay out of their own pocket for ongoing services.

2. Confidence

One of the most enjoyable parts of our job at CeDAR is watching people improve and feel better. Strangely, this feeling of wellness can lead to a shorter episode of treatment, one with potential dangers coming in the near future. It takes time to change substance behaviors, and we realize that just because someone feels better, doesn’t mean they will go forward, abstaining from substances. We try to help people think realistically about their relapse potential so as to build a good protective recovery program.

3. Conflict

We often find patients experiencing a wide range of emotions in early recovery. This includes emotional conflict, fear and aggression. It is very common for someone to complete medical detoxification, feel hopeful towards a better future, and then to start picking vague fights with other patients and staff. Why are they doing this? There can be a multitude of reasons why people would find themselves in conflict, but one thing we know for sure is that this conflict needs to be processed to understand it. Sadly, early recovery conflicts can lead to a breakdown of the treatment process and the person leaving before working through the issue.

4. Unique Needs

There are times in which we will refer people to alternative treatment programs. This is often to address very specific needs, such as an active eating disorder. In this way, we are working with a patient and family to establish the ideal fit for this person. The person may return to CeDAR after reaching milestones in the other treatment or they may re-engage with their continuum of care through another route.

5. External Life Requirements

We are helping people make changes within their lives, but those lives keep moving along. People might be working a career, seeking to graduate school or have requirements raising children. In these cases, the person might leave addiction treatment early to tend to those needs. We work to strike a balance for the person, both accepting the needs of life while also being on the lookout for any patterns of treatment avoidance. For instance, a person who has been unemployed for the past year now suddenly has urgent job interviews? This can seem suspicious as we know how addiction carries a lot of ambivalence around change. If this story applies to you or a family member, we need to be realistic about the necessity of recovery as a foundation. No stable recovery translates to no stable employment and no stable home.

Read more CeDAR Education Articles about Treatment and Care