The length of rehab varies on a case-by-case basis. Brief treatment involving detox, therapy and supportive care may be effective for some people, but treating substance use disorders is a complex process that could last years. While it may seem desirable to get through rehab as quickly as possible, research shows that longer stays in rehab lead to lower relapse rates.
Rehab is unique to each person, and length of stay depends on factors such as the severity of addiction and the rate at which progress is being made. For people with severe drug or alcohol dependencies, such as those that co-occur with mental illness, extended treatment may be needed. A quality treatment center will offer clients a personalized plan that caters to their needs.
Success is not guaranteed, but some treatment is always better than none. However, a majority of people with a substance use disorder do not get help. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.7 million people aged 12 or older needed addiction treatment in 2015, yet just 2.3 million went to rehab.
Overcoming a substance use disorder typically requires multiple phases, including detox, treatment and aftercare. For those in recovery, staying vigilant in their sobriety must be a lifelong commitment. And doctors often recommend some form of care after rehab.
Phase Length: An average stay in medical detox takes seven to 10 days. More serious substance use disorders might require a longer stay. Withdrawal treatment medications, such as buprenorphine, can shorten the length of detox.
Average time in detox for various drugs:
Before achieving sobriety, it is crucial to flush the drugs or alcohol from the body. This can be a frightening and painful experience for people because many substances cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to undergo detoxification under the supervision of a medical staff. Support from trained professionals helps clients manage withdrawal symptoms and ensures they don’t use while detoxing.
Phase Length: Substance abuse treatment can last from 30 days to a year based on the severity of addiction. Clients addicted to certain drugs require longer stays. Following detox, the central phase of rehabilitation can begin. The treatment phase implements therapy and counseling with the aim of replacing troublesome behaviors with more positive ones. These meetings take place in group and individual settings. Medication may be involved at some point as well. After showing the necessary improvements, you will graduate from the program.
Median Length of Stay Among Clients Who Completed Rehab, 2013:
People with severe addiction problems may need long-term treatment. For example, someone who has battled cocaine addiction and suffers from schizophrenia likely would need to stay in rehab longer than someone dependent on marijuana with no co-occurring mental health disorder.
The fight to stay sober does not end after treatment. Cravings for drugs or alcohol can occur at any time, and temptation is common. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that the relapse rate for drug addiction is between 40 and 60 percent.
To prevent a relapse, doctors typically recommend aftercare. This phase can involve medication, self-help programs such as Narcotics Anonymous, a stay in a sober house or regular support group meetings.
“It is important for a patient to be in treatment for at least a year to a year and a half. Not necessarily inpatient treatment for that long, but to be in some form of aftercare. That allows the brain to heal.”
The length of aftercare depends on the severity of the addiction. In some cases, people may need recovery services for a lifetime. The average length of stay at Oxford House, a nationwide network of sober living homes, is one year. But many residents stay at an Oxford House for four years or more.
Research indicates that active participation in self-help meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, during and after rehab encourages longer recovery periods. Support can also come from internet-based interventions and self-monitoring through telephone-based systems.
Achieving and maintaining sobriety is easier for some than it is for others. Some people can overcome their addiction with little or no aftercare. Others may need to be proactive for months, years or the rest of their lives to prevent relapse.
Once you decide to seek help, the specialists at your rehab facility will diagnose your substance abuse problem. Depending on the specific addiction, treatment professionals will establish a blueprint for your rehab program.
The staffs at these facilities are looking out for your best interests, and they will try 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.
Certain rehab centers offer shorter rehabilitation, offering 28- or 30-day substance abuse recovery programs.
A NIDA-funded study tracked nearly 550 rehab clients who struggled with drug use and a number of other problems. For those who stayed in residential treatment beyond 90 days, relapse rates steadily declined. However, those who left rehab before reaching 90 days had relapse rates comparable to clients in treatment for one to two days.
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Many rehab clients drop out of treatment only to return after relapsing. While predetermined treatment lengths exist, the most successful recoveries come after prolonged stays. As treatment extends past 90 days, rehab graduates show increased abstinence rates.
Long-term rehab provides continuous care and support to clients. This increases their chances of developing the tools needed to sustain sobriety during recovery. It also keeps them away from negative influences for longer periods of time.
A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry examined weekly cocaine use among more than 1,600 people 12 months after treatment. The report found that 17 percent of clients used drugs in the year following a rehab stay of 90 days or longer. Conversely, 35 percent of people who stayed in rehab 90 days or fewer relapsed in the year after their stay.
Lisa Onken, chief of NIDA’s behavioral and integrative treatment branch, told the Los Angeles Times that longer treatment helps clients become continuously abstinent.
“You still have cravings. You still have friends offering you drugs. You still have to figure out ways not to use,” said Onken. “The longer you are able to do that, the more you are developing skills to help you stay abstinent.”