Leaving Rehab AMA — What Happens Next?

leaving-rehab-ama

Written By: Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.

It’s safe to say that most, if not all, addiction treatment centers in Florida and throughout the nation deal with patients leaving against medical advice (AMA) at some point. When a patient wants to sign themselves out of treatment prematurely, it can be dangerous for them. For treatment centers, this means they have to let someone go even when they know they might be at high risk of adverse medical issues. It’s a tough choice, but there are things centers and family members can do to help prevent addicts from leaving rehab ama.

Why Someone Leaves Against Medical Advice

Leaving rehab AMA is never the right choice. You are in rehab for a reason, and if you choose to go before proper discharge, relapse can occur. There are several reasons that people leave treatment AMA. Here are some of the most common.

They Didn’t Want to be in Rehab in the First Place

They may have been convinced to go to rehab by friends and family members. Once they’re at the facility, the addict may decide they want to leave. Unfortunately, these types of patients cannot be forced to stay. Additionally, they have a high chance of relapse if they do leave the safety of a drug or alcohol center.

However, addicts can engage in addiction treatment despite initially entering drug rehab reluctantly. Despite wanting to leave ama, an addict can continue to engage in clinical therapy and work on their underlying issues. Thus, the motivation of the addict is not always a necessity to recovery in the beginning. Learn more about how to help a loved one that initially refuses help here.

Emotional woman holding her head

They Act on Their Emotions

As people detox, sober up, and face emotions that have suppressed with drugs and alcohol, feelings can go awry. Despite the efforts of doctors, nurses, and addiction specialists, some people decide to leave, and nothing can stop them.

Detox is Too Much for Them

Despite efforts to make detox as comfortable and safe as possible, some people find the idea overwhelming. Once they begin to experience drug withdrawals, they feel the need to leave and get immediate relief. As a result, they can turn back to drugs and alcohol. Our preferred drug and alcohol medical detox programs at Lighthouse Recovery Institute make the process as comfortable as possible. Through combining other comprehensive therapies and medication-assisted treatment, many patients find immediate relief of their symptoms.

They Feel Rehab is a Waste of Time

Some people will insist they can sober up on their own, despite previous failed efforts to do so. Chances are they will fail again, and a full stay in rehab is inevitable if they ever want to achieve sobriety. Most people who believe this will quickly dismiss treatment and leave their treatment center before they complete their programs. 

These situations are hard to diffuse, and it’s challenging for staff to convince people to stay once they have their mindset on leaving. At the same time, medical professionals and specialists are experts on intervening and helping patients focus on why they need to get help in the first place.

Dangers of Leaving Rehab AMA

Leaving Rehab Early

Around 17% of drug and alcohol addicts leave rehab earlier. Most patients don’t get through the 30 days initial treatment program to start their recovery process. However, leaving rehab AMA can be quite dangerous. 

For those who leave anywhere between 1-3 days after checking into a rehab center can experience fatal withdrawal symptoms. They’re enthusiastic about starting their recovery; hence, they’re more likely to try to do it on their own. However, the detox process can be dangerous when done without medical supervision, and many addicts can experience life-threatening side effects.

Ama Drug Rehab Stats

On the other hand, those who leave treatment after 7-14 days are also at risk. For them, the chances of relapse are even higher, with the most risk of overdosing. Because most of them went through the detox process, they’d try to get a more intense rush after leaving treatment, which may result in a fatal overdose. 

What Can Treatment Centers Do?

While it is inevitable for some people to leave AMA, the best and most reputable treatment centers work to prevent this from happening as much as possible. By continuing to develop new ways to keep patients from leaving rehab before they are ready to do so, more addicts have a higher chance of recovery.

Treatment staff understands the complexity of dealing with highly emotional addicts in crisis, who at times may decide to leave treatment against medical advice. Luckily most often, the staff is successful in convincing a patient to stay. If a patient seems to be at high risk of leaving AMA, a staff member might shadow them until everything calms down.

Modern Options

New techniques are always developing in treatment as added benefits to enhance patient experiences. Additionally, these new modern techniques, such as yoga or Neurotherapy, also increase appeal for addicts to stay in treatment longer.

Additionally, each patient receives a unique treatment plan to make their stay suitable for their needs. When treatment is catered to the individual’s own specific needs and circumstances, they have a better chance of completing the program.

What’s Next

Ideally, there would be no patients discharging against medical advice. The goal is to make them see that their life and treatment stay is worthwhile. Going to rehab saves many lives, so taking the risk to leave AMA is never worth it.

Sometimes patients in rehab fall susceptible to the negative thoughts and patterns that characterize their disease of addiction. In other words, they have become psychologically and physically dependent on addictive substances for so long that these drugs run their lives. 

It causes them to think that recovery isn’t possible for them when the truth is that recovery is possible – but it does take hard work.

The disease of addiction can be so cunning, baffling, and powerful that the individual reverts back to what they know. This means that even though they may be hopeful coming into treatment, their desire to change may fade, and they may push to leave as quickly as possible. 

The best way to combat people leaving rehab ama is by getting honest, checking the motivation behind wanting to leave prematurely, and turning to staff and family for immediate support.

People holding hands for support

What to Do When Your Loved One Walks Out of Rehab

Hearing that a loved one chose to leave treatment early is devastating to anyone. Here are some things you can say and others to avoid when talking to them.

DO: Remind them of the reason they checked into rehab in the first place. 

DON’T: Try to blame or call them a failure for leaving rehab AMA.


DO: Contact the treatment facility to speak with their former therapist or counselor.

DON’T: Try to figure out the situation by yourself; chances are their therapists have seen these behaviors before and can provide guidance.


DO: Trust the treatment center is doing everything in their best interest.

DON’T: Make it easy for your loved ones to refuse treatment. Avoid giving them money or help them get back on their feet. 


DO: Talk to your loved one and let them know that you understand their reasons for leaving, but you don’t support them. 

DON’T: Let them back in the house or go back to their old behaviors until they find a new treatment center or a different addiction program.


DO: Reach out for support for yourself.

DON’T: Blame yourself. Attend local meetings for families with struggling addicts to understand what your loved one is going through and how you can help them.

Seeking Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorders, take the first step by getting help today and committing to remain in treatment long enough to heal from the inside out—Call Lighthouse Recovery Institute for assistance at 1-866-319-3297

Cite This Article
Geraldine Orentas. "Leaving Rehab AMA — What Happens Next?." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Jun 5, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/addiction-treatment-centers-in-florida-amas/.

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