Matthew Perry’s memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, is out and it’s making the news worldwide. It is an unflinching, and often very sad account, of Matthew’s highs and lows in life. He documents the impact of childhood trauma, the extreme mental and physical pain of his addiction to alcohol and opioids, the health consequences of alcohol and drug use, as well as difficulties forming and maintaining relationships. So clearly, he writes about his powerlessness over drug addiction and alcohol addiction. Matthew’s story certainly demonstrates the truism that career success, wealth or fame do not protect people from addiction. He also doesn’t shy away from the harm done to family and friends – addiction is a cruel disease, and loved ones are often deeply harmed by the fallout. We wish Matthew so well in his recovery process.
We also want to address here some of the headlines coming out in connection with Matthew’s story. It’s often the most shocking soundbites that make the news. With Matthew Perry’s memoir, this is certainly the case. For this reason, we’re presenting here some of the everyday facts about addiction and recovery, the averages as opposed to the extremes.
Fact 1: 50% of people only need 2 serious attempts to recover, to achieve long-term recovery from addiction
Addiction is very often described as a chronic relapsing condition, a lifelong illness, an incurable condition. Many of the headlines around Matthew Perry’s memoir have focused on how many attempts that he has made to sober up, including going into rehab 15 times. News headlines have included:
- ‘From rising to fame as a sitcom star in Friends to 15 rehab stints, alcoholism and weeks in a coma: a look back at Matthew Perry’s brutal struggles after actor revealed his drug addiction nearly killed him‘ (Daily Mail)
- ‘Friends star Matthew Perry reveals he’s been to rehab 15 times, had 14 surgeries due to addiction‘ (News24)
- ‘Matthew Perry said he attended 6,000 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, went to rehab 15 times, and underwent 14 surgeries over the course of his drug addiction’ (Insider.com)
But what is the average? How many attempts does it take people with addiction to achieve stable recovery?
In this study, researchers analysed a sample of 2,002 nationally-representative adults in the United States. Their aim was to identify the average number of times it takes for a person with an alcohol or drug use problem to resolve their problem. They also wanted to analyse the key factors associated with the number of attempts to recover, and achieve long-term recovery. The researchers found that 50% of the study participants needed only 2 serious attempts to recover (the median), with an overall mean average of 5 attempts. Across the whole sample, the range of serious recovery attempts was between 0 and 100. Sex, age, income and education did not significantly affect the number of recovery attempts, nor the primary substance (e.g. alcohol v. opioids). However, people with depression or anxiety had a higher median of 3 serious attempts to recover. Black people and unmarried people had a greater number of recovery attempts.
In this study, three in four people who reported alcohol or drug problems in their past said they were now in recovery.
“More than 1 in 10 adults (27.5 million) in the U.S. reported ever having a substance use problem, and, among those with a problem, nearly 75 % (20.5 million) reported being in recovery. Reporting lower prevalence of using substances in the past year and having received treatment for their substance use problem were associated with being in recovery.”Jones, C., Noonan, R., and Compton W., 2018
Fact 2: An alcohol detox or drug detox, by itself, does not treat addiction
We empathise greatly with Matthew Perry, who describes detoxing many times in his book. Many news outlets have covered this, reporting that Matthew has made 65 attempts to detox. To offer some balance to this, what’s vital to say is that a physical detox from alcohol or drugs is NOT enough to recover from addiction.
“Withdrawal from alcohol is an important first step to overcoming your alcohol-related problems. However, withdrawal isn’t an effective treatment by itself. You’ll need further treatment and support to help you in the long term.”NHS
For this reason, Help Me Stop does not offer alcohol detox or drug detox by itself. We only offer detox and intensive rehab for addiction together. There is no point in dealing with the physical addiction to alcohol or drugs by itself, without specialist therapy for the psychological dependence. Rehab must address the cravings to use, the discomfort most people with an addiction feel when they are NOT using drugs or drinking alcohol. In recovery circles, people say it’s the thinking that’s the problem, not the drinking. Fundamentally, most people with addiction use drugs or drink to relieve their pain, suffering or unresolved trauma. Specialist addiction therapy is vital to mitigate this. A detox from alcohol or drugs is needed when people are physically dependent on alcohol, or drugs like opioids or opiates, but it is only the start.
Fact 3: You don’t need to spend 9 million on rehab for addiction (or even £5,000)
One of the most reported headlines from Matthew Perry’s book is that he estimates spending $9 million on rehab (almost £8 million). He says in this book that he has been to rehab 15 times. In the UK, mainstream media often report on celebrities paying upwards of £5,000 per week for rehab. Stories are published about public figures going into rehab many times (the revolving door). Whilst this does happen in rare cases, and some luxury rehabs and in-patient facilities do come with high fees, it’s important to balance the discussion with the more everyday and under-reported facts.
In this article from NBC news, there’s more balance:
“The $9 million spent by Perry, who says he has abstained from drugs for 18 months, is unusual. Most addicted people do not need to stay in a traditional “28-day rehab” to recover. Indeed, most people rely on outpatient care and free mutual help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous for emotional support and skill-building.”Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine
Rehab is not just for the rich and well-resourced, and for most people, rehab is not a revolving door.
- Rehab is much more accessible today for ordinary working people, and for parents and carers too.
- It is possible to get affordable treatment for addiction, and most people don’t need to go in and out of treatment over and over again.
- Our prices at Help Me Stop represent the best value, intensive rehab for addiction in the UK. We provide face-to-face rehab in London and Hampshire, and an intensive rehab programme online. We also arrange the most affordable detox and rehab packages.
- For people we assess who clinically require residential care, we refer to trusted residential rehabs that we know provide good quality care at the more affordable rates for residential rehab.
- Help Me Stop also offer secondary care for people who are leaving residential rehab and require more support. Dayhab after residential rehab can help to prevent relapse.
- To talk about addiction treatment, please contact us, call 0208 191 9191, email email@example.com or message us on Live Chat.