The Risks Of Leaving A Rehab Center Against Medical Advice

Although most rehab programs are voluntary, leaving against medical advice often increases risk of relapse, overdose, and other dangerous outcomes associated with addiction.

Get Help Now!

Regardless of your medical condition, it is generally recommended that you follow medical advice and receive the suggested treatment at the suggested healthcare facility.

While most people can leave a rehab center whenever they like, your substance abuse treatment staff will try to convince you to stay because of the risks to your well-being if you leave early.

Leaving a treatment program against medical advice is associated with a variety of adverse health conditions, which may lead to repeat readmission, serious complications, or death.

What It Means To Leave Treatment Against Medical Advice

Leaving a rehab facility against medical advice (AMA) is when someone leaves an inpatient or outpatient rehab program before they complete treatment.

Studies have found that those who experience discharges against medical advice face worse outcomes and multiple readmissions compared to patients who successfully complete treatment.

35% of AMA discharges return to a rehab facility within 30 days, with 16% of patients being re-admitted.

Common Reasons People Consider Leaving AMA

There are a variety of reasons that people leave treatment AMA.

The most common reasons for leaving addiction treatment AMA are:

  • fear of stigma or discrimination
  • a lack of motivation to pursue recovery
  • denial of the substance use disorder
  • cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
  • the stress of being separated from family and friends

While evidence-based addiction treatment centers endeavor to provide clients with every comfort, withdrawal and the initial phases of sobriety are unpleasant.

The strain caused by withdrawal and a major lifestyle change can make many people uncomfortable, resulting in the desire to leave in order to resume life as they know it.

The Risks Of Leaving Against Medical Advice

Asking to be discharged against medical advice is associated with higher risks than planned discharge, such as relapse and overdose.


Choosing to leave rehabilitation before treatment is complete increases the risk of relapse. The relapse rate of substance use disorders is between 40 and 60% even with completed treatment.

The relapse rates for people who leave AMA are substantially higher, as they have typically not developed the coping mechanisms and support systems that a treatment plan is designed to establish.

While relapse is a normal part of recovery for most people, it can be discouraging and may prevent some people from continuing to pursue long-term recovery.


When someone leaves a treatment facility early, there is a heightened risk of overdose as well as relapse.

Overdoses are especially common for people who resume drug use after treatment due to the person’s reduced tolerance following a period of abstinence in treatment.

A reduced tolerance can cause a person to react badly to the same dose they used before entering a treatment program.

Legal Complications

Leaving a drug or alcohol addiction treatment facility against medical advice can also result in legal complications.

While many people begin addiction treatment of their own volition, some clients are compelled to take part in treatment by a court order.

Court-ordered treatment is common when a person has been charged with a drug or alcohol-related crime.

In these cases, the addiction recovery program is legally required and leaving AMA could result in fines or imprisonment.

Relationship Strain

Leaving treatment AMA can strain relationships with family members and other loved ones who were expecting you to be committed to the recovery process.

It can create feelings of guilt, anger, and disappointment that make it difficult to heal an already damaged relationship.

These feelings may contribute to adverse effects on the mental health of the individual, which may cause them to isolate themselves and reduce their ability to communicate effectively.

Alternatives To Leaving AMA

Staying in treatment when you want to leave can be difficult; however, heeding the medical advice of your doctor is in the best interest of your overall well-being.

One alternative to leaving AMA is to transition to outpatient care. Outpatient care treats patients while they live at home or in a sober living house.

This option can provide flexibility for those who find it challenging to be away from loved ones and for those who struggle with the intensity of inpatient rehabilitation.

Adjusting the patient’s treatment plan is another alternative to leaving AMA.

Modifications to the treatment plan may include changing the duration of treatment or altering the forms of therapy and program intensity to make rehabilitation more effective.

Get Help At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one is living with addiction and is ready to seek treatment, we can help. Contact Bedrock Recovery Center to learn about our effective addiction treatment methods.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  2. National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  3. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf
  4. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed
  5. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed
  6. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed
  7. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed,%2C%20role%20reversal%2C%20and%20fear./
  8. Ohio Board Of Pharmacy
  9. The American Journal of Medicine

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: February 22, 2024

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.
(617) 657-2877
icon-angle icon-bars icon-times