Traveling for Treatment

In a perfect world, a comprehensive drug addiction treatment program that offers all the necessary resources to safely and effectively heal from drug addiction at an affordable price would always be available right around the corner. This is, however, not always the case. In fact, it is very often not the case.

  • Rural locale: Clients who live in a rural setting may have few choices when it comes to drug rehab. It may be just as easy for them to attend the rehab that is closest but still hours away as it is to hop on a flight and head to a drug rehab program that truly fits their needs.
  • Waiting lists: At many programs, especially state-run facilities, there are long waiting lists. Choosing to wait means continuing to live with a life-threatening disease, and this is just not a risk that many families are willing to take.
  • Insurance: Insurance companies will be tricky. Some require that you only work with certain programs or programs that meet certain conditions. Some programs will only work with certain insurance companies. For some families, the first question is, “Will you work with my insurance?” and if it requires going out of state to get a “yes” to that question, then that is what some families choose to do.
  • Cost: If the only programs nearby are expensive – for example, if the individual lives in a city where the cost of living is high and drug treatment program costs are high as well – then it may make more sense to head out of state and find an intensive inpatient program that is just as affordable as an outpatient bare-bones program nearby.
  • Resources: Even affordable programs that are nearby that have no waiting lists may not have the resources necessary for an individual client. For example, if a client is living with both an anxiety disorder and a substance use disorder, both issues must be treated simultaneously. If the nearby drug rehabs offer minimal, if any, psychiatric care for the anxiety disorder but an out-of-town treatment program can provide a range of treatments and therapies for this purpose, then the out-of-town rehab is the better choice.

Things to Consider

There are some things to take into consideration when determining whether or not an out-of-town treatment program is the better choice. There are pros and cons with every decision made in recovery, so understanding the potential issues can help clients and their families to make an informed choice. Some potential considerations for choosing a drug rehab program that is out of town include:

  • Cost of travel: Depending on where the person seeking treatment lives as compared to the drug rehab program, it can be expensive to get from point A to point B and back again. Additionally, it is recommended that all clients be escorted to treatment in order to ensure a safe and timely arrival; thus, three round trip fares will be needed: one for the individual in treatment, one for the companion accompanying the person to treatment, and one for the companion escorting the individual back home.
  • Distance from family: It can be exceedingly helpful for family members to take part in addiction treatment as much as possible. This can mean attending family therapy sessions or couples counseling with the person in treatment, going to educational workshops held for family, participating in family visitation and events, and attending support groups just for them. When a loved one enrolls in an out-of-town rehab program, however, family therapy must wait until the return home in most cases, and family members will need to seek local support and treatment independently.
  • Distance from alumni support: Aftercare and alumni programs help to drive home the principles learned in drug addiction treatment. Continuing to engage with therapists and peers from treatment can be helpful during the transition into independent living in recovery, but if the treatment program is far from home, this may be impossible. Clients may choose to enroll in a sober living program that is close to the drug rehab program in order to take advantage of these benefits.
  • Possible abrupt transition into independent living: Going from active addiction to an out-of-town drug rehab program may have been a welcome change of pace at the onset of treatment, but shifting back home after a period of monitored care in a healing environment may feel abrupt. This can be addressed by choosing a sober living program, either near the drug addiction treatment program or close to home, to enjoy continued monitoring and support, and a slower return to independent living.
  • Legal issues: For those who are remanded to a treatment program or have legal issues that require them to stay local, it may not be an option to leave town for any reason, even to enroll in a drug treatment program.

Benefits of Out-of-Town Addiction Treatment Programs

  • Healing environment: Choosing an out-of-town drug rehab means choosing an environment that is healing in nature. Separate from all that is familiar, perhaps in a different climate and environment, can be healing in itself – a positive change from an environment of addiction to an environment of healing.
  • Commitment to treatment: When a client is far from home and enrolled in drug rehab, it is far more difficult to simply leave, call a friend or a connection and return to a life of active addiction. Choosing a treatment center that is unfamiliar and far from home may increase the likelihood of sticking to the program when things get difficult.
  • New faces: It is not uncommon when choosing a drug rehab that is close to home to run into people also enrolled in the program who are familiar. In some cases, this may inhibit the comfort level of clients, especially when sharing in groups, but would be a very unlikely occurrence when choosing an out-of-town drug rehab. New faces and new people can add to the feeling of getting a fresh start in recovery, and putting drug and alcohol use in the past.
  • Distance from at-home stressors: The act of traveling to treatment in combination with the new environment and unfamiliar faces can all contribute to the perspective shift that is necessary to jumpstart recovery – a sense that drugs and alcohol are part of the past, and the future will be brighter starting with the present work in treatment.
  • Comprehensive care: It may also be that choosing an out-of-town treatment program will expose the client to a range of different therapy options not found elsewhere or to a specific set of treatments or a specialization that is needed for optimum recovery.

The answer to this question will be unique for each person, based on the individual circumstances as well as personal goals for the rehab experience and beyond. What makes sense for someone else may not be the best fit for you, and vice versa. But it is important to consider the option of out-of-town treatment, exploring possibilities and programs that can provide the most comprehensive care possible, before enrolling in the program that is geographically closest.