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Going to rehab again does not mean that a person will never be able to achieve long-term recovery from substance abuse. In fact, many people require multiple stays in treatment in order to fully overcome their addiction.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success whenthey gave up.” ― Thomas Edison

Why am I going to rehab again?

“It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you’re notexpressing the utmost of your human experience.” ― Lupita Nyong’o

One reason for this is that addiction is a complex and chronic disease that affects not only the person’s physical health, but also their mental and emotional well-being. It can take time and effort to fully address all of the underlying issues that contribute to substance abuse.

Another reason is that recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process. What works for one person may not work for another, and a person may need to try different approaches or longer treatment programmes in order to achieve lasting recovery.

Relapse is part of the nature of the disease of addiction and some relapses are severe enough to warrant another treatment episode. However, this does not mean that everyone will relapse.

The United States’ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain”.

Addiction rehabilitation

How many times is too many?

“The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” — Paulo Coelho

There is no real answer to the above question. But it’s important to remember that needing another treatment admission does not necessarily mean that the previous time was a waste of time and money.

Of course, there are facilities that lack the quality care and evidence-based programmes and are unhelpful. But even quality programmes will see patients returning for another round of treatment.

What you have learnt during your first admission will stay with you and you build on your knowledge, skills and faith in yourself and will all work towards bringing you closer to your goal of long-term recovery.

Sometimes there are still things you need to learn about recovery and yourself that you did not have time to discover in your previous time in treatment. Sometimes the treatment length was insufficient to address the severity of a person’s addiction and they need longer-term treatment.

There are many factors that influence readmission.

Research has shown that the average number of recovery attempts needed in order to achieve long-term recovery is between two and five, and depends on many factors including if a person is diagnosed with any co-occurring psychiatric illnesses. However, this number can vary depending on the individual and their specific needs.

A Local Example: Meet Thabo

A young man from Soweto, Thabo’s addiction began in high school when he was introduced to methamphetamine by his friends. Despite his parents’ efforts to get him into treatment early, Sipho’s addiction spiralled out of control, forcing him to drop out of school and leading to numerous run-ins with the law.

Thabo’s first stint in rehab happened when he was just 18 and he spent three weeks in a treatment centre in Cape Town. He relapsed shortly after his release. He felt like a failure, especially after the financial sacrifice his parents had made to afford his treatment. The guilt and shame that accompanied his relapse seemed to intensify his addiction, and it wasn’t long before he found himself back in rehab.

At the age of 24 he went to treatment for a third and final time, spending six months in a quality facility where he gave himself the time and space to really tackle his addiction, down to its core. He is now 27 and is well over three years clean. He is working and even went back to school to get his Matric. He also volunteers at a rehab centre on weekends to help others by sharing his experiences – especially about what each time in treatment taught him.

He learned something new about himself and his addiction during each rehab admission, adding more tools to his recovery toolkit.


“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that youmight as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” ― J.K. Rowling

Overall, the fact that a person needs more than one stay in rehab should not be viewed as a failure, but rather as a necessary step in the recovery process.

The path to recovery is not linear, but rather, filled with highs and lows, successes and failures. Relapses can happen, and they’re not a sign of failure but a part of the recovery process. They’re opportunities to learn, adapt, and grow stronger.

What works for one person might not work for another, and sometimes, multiple rehab stays are necessary.

Call us today on 081-444-7000 to find out more about treatment options at Changes.