Rehabilitation is used to describe the process of treatment and support of people with a substance problem and their own personal effort that aims to ‘restore’ them to health or a ‘normal’ life that they previously enjoyed.

There are issues with this term. Firstly, in addressing problem substance use people are not necessarily restored to good health – people may have physical and mental health issues some of which may be drivers for their substance use or consequences of their substance use (see self medicating).

Secondly, people may well not have had a ‘normal’ or a ‘happy’ life before they developed a substance use problem. They may not want to be restored to that life or that may be impossible.

The term rehabilitation seems to be rooted in a model of people’s life trajectory – a more or less ‘normal life’ suddenly dominated and nearly overwhelmed by a period of problem substance use before a treatment and/or other intervention restores ‘normality’. This is not the experience of many people who have a substance problem whose life, substance use and treatment and recovery experiences are far more complex.