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Addiction rehab varies from person-to-person. There is no predetermined length of treatment, but research shows “adequate treatment length” is essential to success. Further, participation in treatment programs for fewer than 90 days offers “limited effectiveness.”
Some addiction experts believe longer courses of treatment provide more positive outcomes. In the case of opioid use disorders, a year or more of methadone maintenance has been beneficial.
Despite the benefits of extended treatment, dropout rates continue to be a challenge. Engaging programs tend to have better outcomes. It also helps to view addiction as a chronic disease requiring ongoing care and monitoring.
Varying recommendations exist regarding how long treatment should last based on the type of rehab program a person utilizes. Many believe that a minimum of 12 months is needed to support a full recovery.
It helps to understand the benefits of different addiction rehab programs when choosing treatment. For instance:
Thirty-day programs are an opportunity to determine if a longer treatment program is needed. People entering rehab for the first time might not know what they need. Thirty-day programs offer time for detox and support for coping with physical withdrawal symptoms. You can also begin to establish an after-care plan for relapse. Some people choose a 30-day inpatient program and then move to outpatient treatment. Thirty-day programs are easier to commit to and tend to be less expensive than longer programs.
Sixty-day programs offer added time and support. There is time to detox from a substance and engage in therapy sessions. These programs help people work through family, behavioral, or situational circumstances that contribute to their addiction.
In a 60-day program, you’ll get everything offered in the 30-day program. You’ll also begin to actively practice healthy habits to help maintain sobriety. However, sixty-day plans tend to be more expensive than 30-day plans and insurance might not cover the full cost.
90-day programs include everything offered by 30- and 60-day programs, but for an extended time. These programs include detox, therapy, self-help groups, and support in designing an aftercare plan. Participants practice sobriety for three full months before returning to their regular lives, so they have a significant jumpstart on sober living. During 90-day rehab, people strengthen their ability to resist temptation and have plenty of time to identify and learn to cope with their additional triggers.
The idea of committing 90 days to addiction rehab is intimidating, but many believe longer programs are more successful for maintaining sobriety. Ninety-day programs are recommended when an addition is severe and/or long-term.
Even after a month or more in treatment, some people don’t feel ready to return to their normal lives. Extended care offers a structured sober living home environment. Extended care provides an affordable drug and alcohol-free environment bridged between rehab and the rest of the world. In extended care, residents live with or near peers also working through their plans.
Outpatient addiction rehab programs often continue for months or more after someone completes a residential program.
On average, a stay in detox lasts seven to 10 days. Severe substance use disorders require longer stays. Medications used for easing withdrawal symptoms might reduce detox time.
Successful sobriety begins with detoxification. Detoxing from alcohol or drugs can be painful and frightening because of withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification is safest when done with medical support. This can reduce withdrawal symptoms and ensure the person doesn’t use drugs or alcohol during detox.
Committing to rehab is difficult for many people. Even if their addiction interferes with their lives, they feel they have commitments and don’t believe they can be away from those commitments for weeks at a time. Other people are just reluctant to commit to doing the work required of them in rehab. And in some cases, mental illness plays a role in a person’s willingness to commit.
Regardless of the reason for not wanting to commit to rehab, staying in treatment for the appropriate length of time improves the odds of success. But doing so requires having the motivation to change and support from friends and family.
The medical community views relapse as a likelihood of addiction. As a chronic illness, addiction requires continual evaluation and treatment modification. It is manageable but not curable.
There is also increasing evidence that long-term pharmaceutical approaches, known as Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT), improve treatment outcomes. This treatment combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. This “whole patient” approach most commonly utilizes methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine to reduce or prevent symptoms of withdrawal and cravings.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Long Does Drug Addiction Treatment Usually Last?” Drugabuse.Gov, 2019, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Helps People Stay in Treatment?” Www.Drugabuse.Gov, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-helps-people-stay-in-treatment.
Buchberger, Glen. “Opioid Addiction: Long-Term Treatment for a Chronic Condition.” Harvard Health Blog, 5 May 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/opioid-addiction-long-term-treatment-for-a-chronic-condition-2017050511379.
“Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) | SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.Gov, 21 July 2015, www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment.
“Treatment Episode Data Set | CBHSQ Data.” Www.Samhsa.Gov, www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/teds-treatment-episode-data-set.