3 Reasons Traveling to Drug Rehab Works Best

Traveling to Drug Rehab Works Best

I often get asked if is it better for a person to go to drug or alcohol rehab close to home or far away from home. In most cases, traveling to drug rehab treatment is preferred over going to a place near you. I know this may seem to be counter-intuitive and even logistically challenging but there are three main reasons to travel to a drug and or alcohol treatment center.

Drug Addiction is a Deadly Disease

Put your personal feelings and desires aside and do what is best for the person seeking help.

When making a decision about rehab, keep in mind that this is an important endeavor. It’s not to be made in haste or emotion. I know this sounds severe, but it’s a life-and-death decision. 

Many times I see spouses, parents, friends, and significant others ruin a treatment opportunity. They block the people needing drug or alcohol treatment and subconsciously sabotage their loved one’s treatment program. This is because they want the person seeking treatment placed in a substance abuse treatment center near them.

Emotions in Families with Addiction Run High

Now keep in mind most treatment programs do not allow visitors during the first few weeks of treatment so being near your loved one does neither of you any real benefit.  I say subconsciously because, in the thousands and thousands of cases of placing people in treatment, I have asked someone why they initially objected to their loved one traveling to rehab treatment (when it’s best suited). In all this time I have never been given a real valid reason why they shouldn’t travel. 

Here are the three reasons to travel out of state for drug rehab. I will kick off the list with the most important point.

  1. Leaving treatment early can be avoided

Most people going through treatment have an overwhelming desire to leave treatment prematurely for all the wrong reasons.  This happens typically sometime in the first few weeks. This is such a common occurrence I wrote an entire article about all the different reasons people come up to leave treatment early.  Hint: your loved one will try to trick you to leave with your permission. 

Traveling to drug rehab advice
Leaving against medical advice is considered high-risk behavior.

Most treatment professionals believe the number one reason to travel to treatment (when possible) is to prevent clients from leaving treatment before it is completed. This is called leaving treatment against medical advice or leaving rehab AMA (for short). 

Why would a client want to leave treatment against medical advice? On almost every occasion, it is because, for the first time in many years, the drug addict has stopped feeling emotions. So when a negative thought or feeling enters their mind (instead of using their favorite substance to numb themselves out), they have to feel, process, and deal with their uncomfortable feelings.

Reality sets in, and they are filled with fear, remorse, anger, and or resentment. The proverbial “fight or flight kicks” in, and the person in treatment tries to bolt. 

Drug Treatment is Voluntary

Now keep in mind rehab is not jail, and anyone can walk out of rehab at any time they wish. This is true of every treatment facility. One of the significant advantages of having your loved one going to treatment far away from where they live is the amount of time it actually takes to leave treatment. It’s not easy to book a flight and get on a plane. During this time (3-6 hours), most treatment centers have a rescue team that works with the client and their loved ones to discourage the client from leaving rehab AMA. Very rarely does a person in treatment leave AMA when they traveled far to get there. 

Now on the other side of the coin, when fight or flight kicks in and the person in treatment can call a friend and get picked up around the corner, 9 times out of 10 they will leave treatment.

Come-on for years they have been running from their feelings, using a substance to numb themselves out. Of course, when it’s so easy to leave treatment AMA they will leave early.

If you leave AMA your insurance may not cover another treatment center

I have seen this happen so many times. It’s very sad when someone leaves treatment early AMA, and their insurance will not pay for another treatment program. Keep in mind that insurance companies don’t want to fork out $50,000 – $100,000 or more to pay for substance abuse treatment if they don’t have to.

When a person leaves any treatment center AMA, they give their insurers a reason to deny their next treatment claim.

This does not happen in every instance, but since 2014 I have seen it go from the exception to the rule of thumb. 

Now, let’s move on to reason number two.

  1. It’s Better to be Far Away From Bad Influences and Emotional Triggers

I had a family member living in Southern California who needed treatment. I placed that family member (at the time 17 years old) into a treatment center in Utah. There were three reasons I picked the Utah facility. First, I needed that family member far away from their bad influences and far away from their emotional triggers. They had a slew of friends that they were getting in trouble with and acting out with.

In order to have a successful recovery I believed they needed to be where the friends could not stop by treatment.

Second, it was a one-year program at this specific facility. I believed it was the best-suited program to treat my family member’s conditions. Lastly, I didn’t want them leaving AMA. Since the facility was over 500 miles from where we lived, I felt fairly certain they would not leave AMA.

Leaving Rehab Early
Leaving Rehab Early is not a good idea. AMA

Addiction Runs in Families … Here’s Another Story

Another family member (at the time, 19 years old) needed treatment. We sent that adult child to a treatment center in Arizona. They were also from California but were currently in college, living in Oregon.  We wanted to get them away from where they lived as they were battling depression as well as addiction.

The weather in Oregon is well-documented to exacerbate depression.

We needed to get the person seeking treatment away from a depressing atmosphere so the medical staff at the treatment center could properly diagnose their problems. The doctors looked at whether it was situational, location, and or a chemical imbalance causing depression. It turns out, in this case, there was a chemical imbalance and with medication, that issue has been resolved.  I also believe the facility we chose was best suited for their addiction issues, as they were complex.

So I am not only writing this as a person who has been in the addiction field for over 25 years. I have also placed my own family members in treatment. When it was best suited, I sent them far away from where they lived.

Traveling to Rehab is Running Towards the Solution, not Away From Problems. 

Most people suffering from substance abuse disorders have not faced up to any of their responsibilities in a long time. This leaves their loved ones at wit’s end. Instinctively, you hope they stay put, get help, and don’t run from their problems anymore. When professionals bring up that the person seeking treatment should go out of state for treatment, your first reaction may be to resist. You might feel like they are running away from their problems and responsibilities. 

Traveling to drug rehab
Traveling to rehab is a journey towards a positive future of sobriety

Although it may appear they are running away to you, there’s actually a beneficial psychological and therapeutic component in going out of state for drug or alcohol rehab. Getting a person away from their problems allows them to work on their problems in an orderly fashion.  In your loved one’s substance abuse treatment center, the clinical staff will be working hard. The team will work closely and intensely with your loved one. This allows them to face all of their life situations and responsibilities, at one at a time, in a safe environment.  

 The amount of turmoil in a person’s life when they finally seek help for any substance abuse is overwhelming. 

Typically by the time a person seeks substance abuse treatment, their world is closing in. I got clean and sober before the advent of caller ID on a “mobile phone.” Imagine that the phone rings, and you don’t know if it’s the drug dealer with your supply or someone you owe money.

Today, when a person is at their bottom and ready to go to a treatment center, they are getting bombarded by calls, texts, mail and the wrong people dropping by. The person seeking treatment cannot see any way out of the vicious cycle of addiction. However, the idea of getting away from their problems makes them willing to go to treatment. 

It doesn’t matter why a person goes to treatment, just that they do

In 2017 it was estimated that 66,000 people died in America from substance abuse. Another 25 million are estimated to be suffering from addiction.  It does not matter why a person goes to treatment, just that they do. 

This brings us to the third reason: it’s a good idea to travel to drug rehab.

  1. Matching each client with the best treatment center for them 

It is crucial to match the person seeking substance abuse and or mental health treatment with a treatment center that is ideal for that person.

There is no one-size-fits-all all substance abuse and mental health treatment center that is best for anyone.

In fact, I use 12 factors in matching a person needing help with the perfect treatment center. I published a guide called How to Choose the Best Rehab Ultimate Guide because it’s complicated. Keep in mind some treatment centers are better staffed to handle certain treatment protocols than others. You must factor in detox procedures, accreditation, insurance, clientele demographics, the average length of stay, specialties etc. best-rehab-ultimate-guide

There are a few states with a significant amount of accredited drug and alcohol treatment centers located within a 100-mile radius. Traveling to these pockets of treatment has its advantages as you can select the perfectly matched treatment center for your loved one. 

There are occasions when people cannot travel to treatment and those usually are for one of three reasons. 

Pending court cases and restriction from leaving the state:

A lot of people want to seek treatment. However, they have pending legal obligations they believe will prevent them from immediately going into treatment. In most cases, courts, parole officers and probation officers will bend over backward to allow a person to go to treatment. This is true even if the rehab is in another state.

I have had many people charged with felonies (dealing opiates, fatal DUIs, assault and battery) get permission to travel out of state to treatment. Many intimidating authorities are happy to help.

There are accredited treatment centers that have a specific staff member assigned to coordinate with the courts. Do not be afraid to ask your addiction advocate about getting the paperwork filled out to leave the state for treatment.

Traveling to Rehab with Medical Conditions

Some people, when seeking treatment, have medical conditions that prohibit them from traveling. Now, I am not referring to their current intake of alcohol or drugs but other medical conditions that require they go to a hospital immediately. People with severe medical conditions that preclude them from traveling would be turned down by any reputable treatment center when they do their patient assessment call. 

Insurance Consideration when Traveling to Rehab

Lastly, some insurance policies have a restriction that they will not provide benefits for substance abuse treatment centers out of state. In those cases, no matter how much you want to travel to treatment unless you plan on paying cash, the insurance company will not let you. 

Insurance can pay for rehab. You pay for it, you might as well use it to get help for your addiction or alcohol problem.

I always recommend getting your insurance policy benefits verified buy a treatment placement specialist. Most will do it at no charge and be able to explain every potential cost to you 

About the Author Bruce Berman

He has personally has assisted several hundred people into treatment for alcohol, substance abuse, and dual diagnosis. He has maintained continuous recovery from various addictions since September 1989.  Besides himself, he has placed his own children, employees, family members, friends and other loved ones into various treatment programs. Whether you are struggling with addiction or a loved one is most likely the author has dealt with a similar situation in the past. Bruce is a father of four children ages 15 to 38 and happily married to his wife Victoria, who has also been in recovery since November 1995. Together, Bruce and Victoria run 800 Recovery Hub a company that specializes in placing people in need of treatment into the best treatment center they can. 


Bruce Berman is not a medical doctor, holds no degrees or licensees in addiction and has no formal education in treating addiction. He relies solely on his personal experience gained in attending and participating in over 10,000 hours in various 12 step meetings since 1989 as well as the experience he has working with addicts and their families since 1989. 




















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