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How Long Does Rehab Take?

Substance abuse treatment can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, but recovery lasts a lifetime. Abstinence rates tend to increase the longer a person is in recovery. Aftercare may include medication, self-help programs, sober housing or support group meetings.

The length of an addiction treatment program can vary from 30 days to 90 days and rehabilitation can take months or years. Recovering from substance abuse requires multiple steps including detox, treatment and aftercare. But no matter the length, the bottom line is that rehab can save your life.

If you’re considering substance abuse rehab for you or someone you love, it’s a valid question.

The length of rehab varies from person to person. Each of the 2 million Americans undergoing treatment at any given time receives a personalized treatment plan. The worst drug or alcohol dependencies often demand greater attention and extended rehab.

While there are no guarantees of success, it’s a fact that some treatment is better than no treatment. An astounding 90 percent of substance abusers never receive help of any kind.

Determining the Length

Once you decide to seek help, the specialists at your rehab facility will diagnose your substance problem. Depending on the severity of the issue – both physically and psychologically – and the substance (or substances) at hand, they will establish a blueprint for your rehab program.

The staffs at these facilities are looking out for your best interests, and will do all they can to ensure you are comfortable every step of the way. You may decide to go the route of residential treatment, or elect outpatient treatment instead.

Patient and Physician talking

Certain rehab centers specialize in “express” rehabilitation, offering 28- or 30-day substance abuse recovery programs. Based on research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), though, programs shorter than 90 days show limited effectiveness in curing addiction.

In one study of cocaine users, only 17 percent of patients used drugs in the year following a 90-day-or-longer stay in rehab, compared with 35 percent of patients whose rehab was shorter than 90 days.

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The Longer, the Better

As rehab extends past the 90-day mark, rehab graduates show increased abstinence rates.

The more you have a treatment that can help you become continuously abstinent, the better you do. You have to figure out how to be abstinent. You still have cravings. You still have friends offering you drugs. You still have to figure out ways not to use. The longer you are able to do that, the more you are developing skills to help you stay abstinent.

Lisa Onken, chief of the behavioral and integrative treatment branch of NIDA.

Many rehab patients drop out of their program midway through, only to wind up back in after returning to their harmful habit. The most successful recoveries come after prolonged and continual stays in rehab, without any breaks along the way.

Steps of Rehab

Recovering from a substance abuse disorder typically requires multiple steps. Whether your rehab lasts 90 days or 9 months, it will be spread out across these different steps. More often than not, your doctors will recommend some form of treatment beyond rehab; for countless addicts, staying vigilant in their sobriety must be a lifelong commitment.


Before an addict can learn to get and stay clean, they need to flush the drugs or alcohol from their system. This can be a frightening and painful experience, as many substances cause withdrawal. It’s important to undergo detoxification under the supervision of a medical staff; this helps patients manage their withdrawal symptoms, and ensures they don’t use while detoxing.

An average stay in detox takes a week to 10 days. The most deep-seated dependencies might demand a longer period of time.


Following detox, the central phase of rehabilitation can begin. The treatment phase implements therapy and counseling, in group and individual settings, designed to target the patient’s troublesome behaviors and create new ones in their place. Medication may be involved at some point as well. After the doctors at your facility determine your treatment has been successful, you will “graduate” from the program.

Patient and Physician talking

Thorough treatment for substance addiction can last from 30 days to a year. Certain drugs, and difficult patients, require even longer programs.


The fight to stay clean does not end after treatment. Cravings for drugs or alcohol can pop up at any time, and temptation may lie around every corner. To prevent a relapse, doctors typically recommend aftercare. This can involve medication, self-help programs, a stay in a sober house, or regular meetings at a community support group.

Getting sober, and staying sober, is easier for some than others. Certain individuals move on from their addiction with little or no aftercare. Others may need to be proactive for months, years, or the rest of their lives.

Finding Help in Your Area

Curing a substance abuse problem can be a daunting task. It’s a commitment of time and energy that many addicts refuse to make. Don’t allow yourself, or the addict in your life, to go down the same path. Rehab might take longer than you expected, but it can literally save your life.

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