If you’ve watched any medical shows (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy fans), you’ve probably heard the term “AMA” before. It means going against medical advice and it’s a term in real life too. For example, paramedics will have you sign a form saying that you’re aware you’re going “AMA” if you refuse to take an ambulance as they’ve recommended. AMA (or ACA, against clinical advice) is a thing in the world of addiction as well. When recovering addicts leave treatment early, they’re going against medical advice. Unfortunately, clients leaving treatment early is not an uncommon thing.

leave treatment

However, leaving treatment is preventable. But it takes effort from all around. Here are a few of the top reasons people consider leaving treatment early and ways each can be prevented.

They Did Not Want to Go in the First Place

Treatment only works if you want it for yourself. But addicts often have a hard time seeing any potential benefits of recovery, especially when the various highs of their drugs of choice are clouding their vision. Furthermore, addicts can’t see a future because they live in the moment – and not in a good way. When we think of living in the moment, we think of seizing the day, doing what you can with the moment you’re given, and not obsessing over the past. But addicts live in the moment in a much different way. Their lives are dedicated to their drug (or drink) of choice. The downtime between highs is dedicated solely to working towards that next hit. There is no future outside of that cycle.

However, taking that step into recovery requires that you do see a future – and one that is much better than your current state in addiction. If coercion was involved in a person’s decision to get treatment, then it’s not really the addict who wants to be there. An addict who doesn’t want to be in treatment will likely jump at the first excuse to leave treatment early.

How to Prevent Leaving:

As a loved one of the addict, try to let him be in charge of the situation. The decision to get help needs to be the addict’s choice. Of course, there are certain situations (as in legal instances) in which coercion is inevitable. But if you can, try and let your addicted loved one come to their own conclusion that they need help. However, that’s not to say that you can’t help him come to that conclusion. Just don’t replace your loved one’s disposition with your own strength.

The treatment facility will do their best to keep a picture of a better tomorrow in the addict’s mind. They’re trained to help people decide not to leave treatment by reminding them that recovery is worth it. New Start, specifically, incorporates many different types of therapy as well as outings and events with our Amplified program. Music therapy with Rock to Recovery, bike rides, and gym sessions are just a few examples of the therapeutic and recreational activities we offer to keep our clients engaged and focused on their treatment.

The Withdrawal Symptoms are Too Much to Handle

Withdrawal is what your body goes through when it’s no longer getting the drugs it’s addicted to. And it’s no joke. All withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable, but some are even painful and dangerous. That’s why it’s so strongly recommended that people don’t detox on their own. If an addict’s withdrawal symptoms aren’t managed properly, there’s no doubt he’ll want to leave treatment and use again to find relief.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms:
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms:
  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
Benzos Withdrawal Symptoms:
  • Body aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue

How to Prevent Leaving:

As the addict, the only thing you can really do to combat wanting to leave treatment for this reason is to keep in mind that the discomfort is only temporary. Your body harbored a physical addiction to your drug of choice. It needs time to adjust to life without the drug. Most withdrawal symptoms don’t last more than a few days to a week. After that, you have a healthy, sober life to look forward to. Additionally, you hold a lot of power within your own mind. Withdrawal and treatment both become a lot more manageable with a little practice putting mind over matter.

The rest is up to the treatment facility. A detox facility should manage the withdrawal symptoms and make sure clients are as comfortable as possible. New Start’s detox staff will get the client to a doctor to address any other health concerns as well as to get them any medications they might need. They’ll also check a client’s vitals regularly and do whatever else they can to help each client through this period. New Start views our clients as individuals and we treat them as such.

Something Else Seems More Important

A person needs to be solely focused on their treatment if they want it to work. If something else is going on in the addict’s life at the time, it can be hard to keep their focus on their recovery. For example, if a client hears that they received an eviction notice while in treatment, they might feel like they need to leave treatment to deal with it. Or maybe the recovering addict’s best friend is getting married during that treatment period. A client might also really be worried about their job while in treatment. Any of these things can seem like valid reasons to leave treatment. But they’re not.

While these things may all seem important, none are as important as a person’s sobriety. Think about it… addiction can take a person’s life. With your life in the dangerous hands of addiction, you won’t be able to do any of those things or anything else for that matter.

How to Prevent Leaving:

The recovering addict needs to constantly remind himself that nothing else matters if his life is lost. And the risk of that happening skyrockets in addiction. The easiest way to stay focused on your treatment is to be open and engaged in every activity, whether it’s individual therapy or a group therapy outing.

Loved ones of addicts can help by only relaying words of support, love, and encouragement. Everything else can be saved for when the person graduates treatment. Some things may seem necessary to tell the addict – like that eviction notice, for example – but they’re actually just distractions during this time. All your loved one needs to know is that you support their decision to seek help and that you’re proud of their efforts.

Unrealistic Expectations About Recovery

Some people might go into treatment thinking it’s going to be easy and amazing right from the start. And you can’t really blame them. Addiction takes over a person’s ability to think rationally. And, on top of that, a lot of addicts haven’t been to treatment before. They don’t realize the work that goes into it. So, when they’re forced to confront their emotions and develop tools to live a functional life – rather than simply being medicated until the drugs leave their system – some may choose to leave.

How to Prevent Leaving:

Recovery is worth it and sometimes some of the methods and activities will really resonate with you. But it’s unrealistic to think that everything is going to be easy and amazing. Instead, you should acknowledge that the real reason you’re there is to work through your addiction and take that first step into recovery. That implies effort. Keep an open mind throughout your treatment process. And if something doesn’t go as you expected, don’t make any rash decisions. Instead, take a moment to ask yourself if the treatment program is actually bad or if your expectation was just unrealistic.

leave treatment

There are many reasons a client might consider leaving treatment early. But none of those reasons actually validates giving up this shot at sobriety and recovery. Recovery will open the doors and give you the opportunity for a solid, happy life clean and sober. It will give you the room to be the father, mother, sibling, spouse, and friend you once were. It can give you your life back… but only if you allow it to.

There’s virtually nothing worth giving up your recovery for. But relapse does happen. If it’s happened to you, New Start can help. Call us at 855-737-7363 for a free and confidential assessment. We’ll help you get back on that recovery path.