Last updated: 04/12/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 4 minutes
One of the most asked questions when it comes to treatment is “how long is drug rehab”? The answer is that addiction treatment can take as long as needed for you or your loved one to experience a safe, full recovery from a substance use disorder. However, treatment programs that last 90 days or longer are shown to significantly reduce or stop drug use and are linked to the best recovery outcomes.
How Long Do Most Addiction Treatment Programs Last?
Addiction treatment can last anywhere from four weeks to several months depending on factors such as the severity of the addiction, the amount of time it takes to detox, and whether co-occurring disorders are present. Many times, your doctor will use these factors to recommend an ideal program length for you or your loved one at the time of intake and assessment.
Inpatient treatment programs are recommended for at least 90 days
Inpatient treatment programs that last between six and eight weeks are generally ideal for those with good cognitive abilities. But 90 days is optimal for those who must go through a long detox phase before beginning behavioral therapy, or for those who need help adapting to a healthier lifestyle and new routines. Programs that last 28 days are also available, though treatment programs of this length may be less effective at treating substance use disorders in full.
Outpatient treatment programs are recommended for at least 12 months
Outpatient treatments are generally slower and gentler and tend to last longer since you or your loved one live at home and visit the treatment center several hours each week to receive medication and behavioral therapies. For instance, outpatient methadone maintenance therapy for opioid addiction tends to last a minimum of 12 months.
Why Is Longer Treatment Recommended?
Addiction treatment programs that last a minimum of 90 days are generally recommended since shorter programs are shown to have limited effectiveness. More extended treatment programs offer countless benefits for those who want to restore their physical and mental health, and who want to develop new, healthy lifestyles that leave no room for drug and alcohol abuse.
More extended programs give you enough time in which to fully overcome physical dependence on drugs and alcohol and normalize brain chemistry affected by substance abuse. Long-term programs also focus on individual and group therapies that teach you skills for identifying and avoiding triggers that commonly lead to relapse. Marital and family therapy may be available to help you repair relationships that have been strained or broken on behalf of addiction. Other treatments available through long rehab programs include 12-step support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, and community reinforcement.
Why is Addiction Treatment Viewed as a Process?
Addiction treatment is a process and journey that can take many years. Relapse rates for drug use disorders are between 40% and 60%, which means many people may need long-term or repeated care to overcome addiction. Aftercare and extended care programs are offered at many addiction treatment centers to provide ongoing counseling, behavioral therapy, and support to those who need continued care.
Support group and 12-step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous are available in nearly every city to help you build a stronger support system after becoming sober. Mutual support programs connect you with peers who can motivate you and hold you accountable for your sobriety. Attending support group meetings is an ideal way to continue learning and applying new life skills that help you stay sober.
How Long Will My Treatment Take?
Treatment plans at rehab centers can be customized so you can recover at a pace that works best for you based on factors surrounding your addiction and recovery needs. Finding the right program length is key to a successful recovery, since short programs may not be long enough to allow you to make permanent, healthy changes. On the other hand, treatment programs that are too long may not benefit everyone recovering from addiction, since some may become accustomed to a controlled environment and fear integration back into society.
The length of your treatment program can be determined by both you and your treatment team at rehab. No matter which program length you choose, your treatment should never end abruptly, but should transition smoothly into programs that allow you to continue receiving ongoing support or therapy in some form. For instance, if your treatment begins with a 60-day inpatient program, talk to your treatment team about transitioning to an outpatient program that allows you to continue attending behavioral therapy and support group meetings one or more times per week.
If you’re not sure which program length is ideal for you or your loved one, an addiction treatment center can work with you on finding and choosing the best treatment program. Inpatient and outpatient programs are available to nearly everyone who needs help overcoming addiction regardless of factors like income and insurance eligibility.