Can You Choose to Leave Rehab?

Published by Raffa Bari | Last updated: 23rd September 2022 | All Sources


Clinically Reviewed by Dr. Olalekan Otulana (Advanced Practitioner)

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All information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
Last Reviewed: 4th August 2022

If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, completing a treatment programme at a residential rehab gives you the best chance of beating that addiction and making a full and long-lasting recovery.

There are numerous benefits to such a programme, but in order to make the most of them, you need to complete the course and participate in the various therapies and treatments as fully and openly as you can.


Can I leave rehab if I choose?

Can You Choose to Leave Rehab?Rehab centres tend to be very structured places with rules and schedules in place, but they are not prisons and you cannot be forced to stay if you decide to leave. The recovery professionals working with you will almost certainly try to convince you that remaining is on your own best interests but, at the end of the day, the choice will be yours.

The same is true of attending rehab in the first place. People close to you may try to convince you that it is a good idea and may even stage an intervention to help you to face up to the consequences of your addiction and associated behaviours.

You cannot be made to go against your will though and, even if you could, the treatment would be far less likely to be successful. It sounds like a bit of a cliché but in order to change, you must really want to.

If you do want to make that change however, rehab is the best way to do so. Leaving early once you have started a treatment programme could see any progress you have made go to waste, with all the negative consequences that could entail.


What about court-ordered rehabilitation?

You might have heard about court-mandated rehab being a thing in some places, but such things are very rare in the UK.

A course of drug or alcohol treatment may sometimes be offered as an alternative to a punitive sentence, or as a condition accompanying a lighter sentence. These instances are usually only in relation to less serious offences where the person’s addiction or substance misuse is deemed to be a contributory factor and the treatment involved will almost always be outpatient-based rather than a stay in residential rehab. Even then, people can choose not to attend – but there may be serious consequences if they do not, like a suspended sentence kicking in.


How rehab works

Residential rehab offers a holistic, tailored programme delivered in a safe and secure environment that allows you to really focus on your recovery. It provides evidence-based treatments delivered by experienced therapists, clinicians and other recovery professionals.

The whole rehab process is carefully designed to address every aspect of your addiction, from a medically assisted detox that can help you to process the drugs and alcohol already in your system, through therapy sessions encouraging you to explore the root causes of your substance misuse to relapse prevention sessions that can help you prepare strategies for when you leave.

You might also receive treatment for any mental health issues you are experiencing (If addiction is the causation), and well-being therapies and workshops to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle. This combination of elements is one of the reasons why rehab is one of the most successful ways to treat addiction. It is also why leaving early could seriously hinder your chances of going on to make a lasting recovery.


Reasons for leaving rehab early

Sometimes people check into rehab and feel like they have made a big mistake. It may not be what they expected, they might feel self-conscious, out of place or simply feel like they can’t manage to quit or complete the programme.

Some commonly heard reasons for leaving rehab early include:

  • ‘I can’t take the cravings or withdrawal symptoms’
  • There’s no denying that overcoming the physical dependency to a drug can be very tough. You are likely to experience strong cravings and may also suffer psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can continue for a long time after the initial detoxification, but you will be in the best place to go through this difficult process. If you leave after completing detox, any pain you’ve already gone through could all be for nothing as you are more likely to go back to the drugs or alcohol.
  • ‘I miss my home and people close to me’
  • ‘I don’t need rehab any more’

Quitting drugs or alcohol is not only for you. Addiction can be very painful for partners, children, other family members and loved ones to live through. It can be difficult to be away but completing your treatment will be for the benefit of everyone. Visits, phone calls and live chats can also help you get through it.

Some people may feel they have already done or learned enough partway through their course of treatment. Over-confidence can be very risky however and relapse may be much more likely if you do not complete the treatment programme – which will be evidence-based, tailored to your own needs and put together by people with a lot of experience in addiction recovery.


Consequences of leaving rehab early

People who do not complete their rehab programme are much more likely to quickly return to drugs or alcohol, with all the costs and potential risks this brings. This includes potential harm to your physical and mental health, damage to relationships, work and more.

People who have been supportive of your attempts to quit may not feel able to continue to offer that support if you drop out of rehab. Any fees you have paid may also be down the drain.

An NHS study found that almost half of all drop-outs from rehab occur in the first two weeks of the programme, and more than 60% occur within a month. That early period can be very difficult but if you persevere, the eventual rewards and benefits can be huge.


How to support a loved one who wants to leave rehab early

For all the reasons mentioned above, the very best thing you can do for a loved one who wants to leave rehab early is usually to try to convince them to stick it out and complete their course of treatment.

If you confidential advice for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, contact us today to find out how we can help.

Raffa Bari

Raffa Bari - Author Last updated: 23rd September 2022

CQC Registered Manager

Raffa manages the day to day caring services here at Cassiobury Court. Dedicated to the treatment and well being of our visitors she is an outstanding mental health coach registered with BAAT (British Association of Art Therapists). Raffa has outstanding experience in managing rehabs across the country and is vastly experienced at helping people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.

Dr. Olalekan Otulana (Advanced Practitioner)

Dr. Olalekan Otulana (Advanced Practitioner) - Medical Reviewer - Last Reviewed: 4th August 2022

Dr. Olalekan Otulana MBChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, DFSRH, FRSPH, MBA (Cantab)

 Dr Otulana is a highly experienced GP and Addiction Physician. He has a specialist interest in Substance Misuse Management and he has a wide range of experience in the assessment, management (including detoxification) and residential rehabilitation of clients with various drug and substance addiction problems.  His main aim is to comprehensively assess patients with addiction problems and determine their treatment needs for medical detoxification treatments and psychological interventions. He is also experienced in managing patients who require dual drug and alcohol detoxification treatments.

A strong healthcare services professional with a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Cambridge University Judge Business School.