Advantages And Disadvantages Of Cell Phones In Treatment

  • Written by:

    Bedrock Recovery Center

  • Dr. Langdon M.D.
    Medically reviewed by:

    Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Cell Phone Use During Treatment

Addiction affects the lives of millions of teens, adults, and their families in the United States— and it can often require professional substance use treatment to overcome.

Yet entering an inpatient or residential rehab center for substance abuse treatment can be intimidating. You’re entering a new environment, and often have less contact with the outside world.

One of the ways that addiction treatment centers work to ease this transition is by allowing limited access to modern technologies, such as laptops and cell phones.

Are Phones Allowed In Rehab Programs?

Many drug addiction treatment facilities in the United States have updated their rules in recent years to allow for the limited use of cell phones during treatment.

But this isn’t true across the board. Because cell phone access in rehab can come with certain risks, some addiction rehab programs prohibit the use of these devices altogether.

Factors that might affect cell phone access in rehab include:

  • the type of rehab program (e.g. inpatient treatment, outpatient rehab)
  • specific policies of the rehab facility
  • duration of the rehab program
  • client privileges based on progress in treatment
  • personalized recommendations made by treatment providers

Cell phone access in rehab is typically considered a privilege that may be afforded on a limited basis to clients who demonstrate a certain level of progress in their treatment.

On the other hand, some inpatient rehab centers may only allow the use of the facility’s phone system, and otherwise prohibit personal phone use. This can vary from one treatment center to the next.

Can Having Cell Phones During Treatment Offer Any Benefits?

Rehab facilities may offer a range of amenities for people who are admitted into their rehab programs, including private rooms, access to a gym, laptop use, and phone use.

Allowing the use of cell phones, for instance, either on a limited basis or without restrictions, can be beneficial for a number of reasons.

Here are some of the advantages of tech-friendly rehab:

Social Support

Addiction is an isolating disease, and research shows that both building new connections and healing old ones can be supportive to a person’s recovery.

Many people use their cell phones to stay connected with other people, such as friends, family members, romantic partners, and spouses.

Allowing cellphones in treatment is one way that rehab centers can promote this connectivity, and help ensure clients have access to their social support system.

Convenience For Working Adults And Students

One of the most common barriers to beginning rehab for working adults, parents, and students is having to leave behind other responsibilities, such as work or school.

Entering rehab without access to a phone or computer may not be an option for some working professionals, nor students who can’t afford to lose access to their schoolwork.

Offering limited access to electronic devices in rehab can help clients maintain the connection they need to their lives outside, while simultaneously ensuring treatment remains the priority. 

Staying Connected With Children

Having some form of access to one’s children can be a major consideration for parents with substance use issues who require intensive treatment within a rehab facility.

Leaving home, either for a few hours, or for overnight care, can be difficult for both parents and their children. This can be confusing for children, and may cause tension or hurt feelings.

Offering access to a cell phone can help ease this difficulty. 

It may also help address issues that might arise while a parent is in rehab, such as:

  • access to childcare
  • issues at school
  • child separation anxiety
  • confusion about the parent’s absence
  • checking in with a spouse or other guardian
  • looking after a child’s mental health

Easing The Transition Into A Rehab Program

Cutting off access to the internet and the outside world during rehab can be jarring for people in this day and age. 

In addition, just entering a rehab program in general can be intimidating. Offering access to personal phone use during rehab may help to ease this transition.

Cell phone access may, for instance, be particularly helpful for those who have never lived away from home, have separation anxiety, or are entering rehab for the first time.

Entertainment During Down Time

Treatment programs are highly structured, more often than not, to ensure clients can get the most out of their treatment experience.

Treatment programming for drug abuse might include:

  • individual counseling sessions
  • group therapy
  • family therapy sessions
  • self-help/12-Step programming
  • psychiatric care
  • medication management
  • adventure or wilderness therapy
  • expressive therapy (art, music, dance therapy)
  • experiential therapy

But on weekends, when programming is less intensive, or during down time, it can be a comfort to have one’s cell phone nearby, to access music, reading materials, or to check in with friends.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Cell Phones In Drug Rehab?

For years, some rehab centers maintained opposition to cell phone use during rehab, because it can come with certain risks.

While these risks can be mitigated with close monitoring, or by limiting access to phones during treatment, it’s important to know that this isn’t risk-free.

For example, here are some of the potential disadvantages of cell phones in drug treatment:

Exposure To Triggers

Having access to a smart phone in treatment poses the risk of exposing clients to potential triggers that could disrupt or hinder a person’s progress in recovery.

For instance:

  • triggers on social media
  • drug or alcohol-related images
  • stressful news and current events
  • being contacted by an unsupportive person (e.g. a drug dealer)

Access To Contacts

With access to personal contacts, a phone in rehab could also be used by someone to try and procure drugs, or bring drugs into a facility. 

Cell phone calls and texts may not be monitored as closely as calls made using phones within the treatment facility. 

This requires a level of trust that the client who is using their cell phone is not using it in ways that could feed their addiction or disrupt their treatment.

Privacy Concerns

Cell phone policies in rehab programs will often include specific instructions on what is and what is not permitted. 

Maintaining the privacy of other clients, and rehab staff, for instance, is a common requirement in agreements with rehab clients who receive access to a personal phone.

What might be included in a drug rehab center’s electronic devices policy:

  • not sharing photos or personal information of other clients
  • not sharing photos or personal information of staff
  • not sharing photos of the inside of the rehab facility

Violations of privacy agreements may come with consequences, such as losing access to your cell phone for the duration of your treatment program.

Distraction From Treatment

Anyone who has sought recovery from addiction can tell you that the process of overcoming addiction is nothing less than a full-time job.

It requires time, patience, and a focus on healing from the effects of your addiction. External distractions, such as social media or work, can take focus away from this.

This concern is a primary reason why cell phone usage is often limited, if allowed at all, to a certain amount of time per day or week.

Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs That Allow Cell Phones

Cell phone usage is an amenity that may be offered within a range of substance abuse treatment programs, across multiple levels of care.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, our rehab programs include:

Cell Phone Access At Bedrock Recovery Center

Bedrock Recovery Center in Massachusetts does allow for the limited use of cell phones for clients within our drug and alcohol rehab programs. 

Cell phone use during rehab may depend on several factors, including:

  • the specific rehab program (e.g. detox, residential)
  • where you are in your treatment
  • recommendations of your treatment team
  • other personal factors

Our treatment professionals recognize that there can be both benefits and potential drawbacks of having access to a cell phone during addiction treatment.

We’ll work with you to determine how our cell phone use policy can best serve you or your loved one’s treatment experience, based on your personal needs.

Learn More Today About Treatment Options At Bedrock Recovery Center

At Bedrock, we work diligently to ensure we are providing a treatment experience that can set our clients up for success, not only in their recovery—but in life.

Within our state-of-the-art facility, we offer various substance abuse treatment options for people in all stages of their recovery process.

For more information about our leading Massachusetts drug rehab programs, call our helpline to speak with a treatment specialist today.

Sources:

Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Key Substance use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from 2020 NSDUH