The Dangers of Leaving Rehab Against Medical Advice (AMA) by Rehab Recovery Centers

Deciding to enter addiction treatment can be extremely scary, especially if you’ve never been to rehab before. You might even be nervous about the length of time you are expected to remain in the program. However, you need to follow the advice and directions of the doctors and therapists in charge of your rehab program.

When someone decides to leave treatment earlier than their addiction counselor suggests, that is referred to as leaving rehab against medical advice (AMA).

When you attend treatment for a medical condition, you understand the gravity of following your doctor’s orders. Similarly, leaving a drug and alcohol rehab program too early can cause dangerous and potentially life-threatening consequences.

What Does it Mean to Leave Rehab Against Medical Advice (AMA)?

While you are allowed to leave addiction treatment at any time, there is a set amount of time that you are expected to participate in your recovery program. For some people, it might be 30 days, while others have a treatment plan for upwards of 6 months. The doctors and counselors will consult with you to determine how long you will require addiction treatment services before you are ready to leave the program.

If your rehab program is set to last for 90 days and you decide that you want to leave after one month, you will be leaving against medical advice (AMA). This is extremely dangerous, as these programs are set up to provide you with all of the tools you need to recover in a certain timeframe. Leaving early will prevent you from receiving vital coping mechanisms and education on relapse prevention skills.

Why Do People Leave Addiction Treatment AMA?

According to the National Library of Medicine, 1 to 2% of all medical admissions result in an AMA.[1] This study also looked at the people who decided to leave against medical advice to determine who is most likely to AMA from a residential treatment program.

You are at an increased risk of leaving rehab AMA if you are:[1]

  • Young
  • Without insurance or using Medicaid
  • Male
  • Suffering from substance abuse

There are many reasons why someone might leave an addiction treatment program against medical advice. If you are not fully committed to recovering from addiction and living a sober lifestyle, you are likely to consider leaving AMA.

Other common reasons for leaving rehab too early include:

  • Learning about a family emergency
  • Missing friends and family
  • Financial reasons or having no insurance
  • Becoming overwhelmed during treatment due to the emotional vulnerability of therapy or group counseling
  • Feeling like you cannot recover from sobriety
  • Struggling with withdrawal symptoms or cravings

According to the National Library of Medicine, “withdrawal management services are a crucial beginning step in engaging patients with SUDs in addiction care and recovery. It is critical to optimize care in these settings to prevent AMA in order to successfully retain patients in treatment.”[2]

In other words, if you do not attend a medical detox program that provides you with proper withdrawal maintenance treatment, you are at an increased risk of leaving rehab early

The Dangers of Leaving Drug Rehab Against Medical Advice

When you decide to leave drug rehab early, you run the risk of not receiving proper addiction treatment care. This means that instead of getting all of the tools you need to maintain sobriety, you are going back into everyday stressors with an increased risk of relapsing.

Many adverse effects can occur if you leave addiction treatment AMA. Some of the risks include:

  • Lack of access to aftercare support, relapse prevention planning, and guidance
  • Having to re-enter treatment again
  • Leaving with a false perception of rehab due to not getting the full experience
  • False sense of confidence in your sobriety, causing you to put yourself in dangerous or tempting situations without healthy coping mechanisms
  • Failing to learn about the factors that led to your addiction in the past, causing you to repeat the cycle
  • Overdosing during a relapse due to a brief period of absence and a loss of tolerance to the substance you abuse
  • Getting in trouble with the law, losing relationships with loved ones, or dying from an overdose during a relapse

To sum things up, leaving addiction treatment too early can lead to an array of adverse effects, including suffering from a fatal overdose. With that being said, you must understand the importance of listening to the doctor’s and therapist’s recommendations during an addiction recovery program.

How Loved Ones Can Help Prevent Individuals from Leaving Rehab Early

If your loved one is attending a rehab program and expresses their desire to leave, it is important to remain calm and collected. While feeling angry, scared, or confused is normal, speaking to them in a frustrated tone will only exacerbate their negative feelings.

To prevent your loved one from leaving treatment too soon, consider the following:

  • Remind them of why they went to treatment in the first place
  • Provide your love and support while encouraging them to try to stick it out for one more day
  • Ask them what they have learned throughout treatment as this might allow them to notice the benefits of remaining in the program
  • Speak with their treatment team to find out how they can help your loved one feel comfortable with continuing their treatment program

Find Help for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

Struggling with the disease of addiction is never easy, especially if you are attempting to do so without any help. Thankfully, addiction treatment programs are ready to provide you with the support and tools you need to recover.

Rehab Recovery Centers can help you find a drug and alcohol rehab facility that suits your individual needs. Contact us today to learn more about how to find an addiction recovery center near you.



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