Understanding Addiction Treatment Program Lengths

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Most rehab programs range from 28 days to 90 days, depending on your needs and what you want from your treatment program. However, programs vary greatly and you can find shorter and longer stays, as well as both outpatient and inpatient residential treatment programs.

Longer treatment stays are generally associated with higher success rates—regardless of the type of program.

How Long Are Alcohol and Drug Rehab Programs?

Rehab treatment program lengths include, but are not limited to, the following time spans:

  • 28-30 days.
  • 60 days.
  • 90 days.
  • Long-term recovery (90-120 days and beyond).

The actual amount of time you spend in treatment will depend on a number of things, including:

  • Severity of addiction.
  • Need for detox.
  • Insurance.
  • If no insurance, ability to self-pay.
  • Medical/mental health issues that need treatment.

Any Treatment Is a Positive Step

While participation in treatment programs for 90 days or longer typically means higher success rates, treatment of any length is a positive step.

Assessment by an addiction treatment professional should be your guidepost for treatment duration.

Lengthier programs are generally associated with higher rates of success. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), outcomes for residential or outpatient treatment programs are more successful when an individual participates for 90 days or more. NIDA recommends even longer-term treatment to maintain sobriety. 1

People who take methadone for opioid addiction may be on the medication for at least a year. Many continue to take it for many years.1

For many people, recovery is a long-term process. Relapse is common, and people may need to go through treatment several times before they achieve lasting sobriety.1

The lengthy recovery process may have to do with the fact that addiction has many effects and may actually change the way the brain works. For example, drug abuse affects parts of the brain that relate to:2

  • Feelings of reward and motivation.
  • Learning and memory.
  • Controlling behavior.

When you or your loved one first enters a program, they will meet with an admissions or intake counselor (see below). This person can evaluate you and determine how long you should be in treatment based on your problems and your financial situation.

What Will Treatment Include?

Regardless of the length of your addiction treatment program, the first steps are generally the same.

Program Intake

First, you’ll be admitted to the program and given an assessment. The staff at the treatment facility will:

  • Take down your medical history.
  • Evaluate the nature and severity of your addiction, as well as your mental state.
  • Recommend an appropriate treatment plan for you.

The treatment plan will include goals for your treatment and a discharge plan. It should be developed with your input, include clear expectations, and periodically reviewed to make sure the you are following it and that it’s working.

Detoxification

Detox may take between a few days to a few weeks and is widely variable based on the abused substance.

  • The length of time that it takes your body to detox can affect the length of time for addiction treatment that you need.
  • A period of medically supervised detox is strongly indicated in cases of alcohol, benzodiazepine, and barbiturate abuse, as dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations may occur when substances of these types are abruptly discontinued.3
  • Supervised detox is typically available through inpatient or standalone detox programs.

Structured Program

After detox, you will likely begin a formal rehabilitation program on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Depending on your program, treatment may include:

  • Regularly scheduled counseling or therapy sessions – both individual and group counseling.
  • Family counseling – wherein family members become active participants in your recovery.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that can lead to drug abuse.4
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves the use of medications, such as methadone, combined with counseling to treat opioid and alcohol addictions.4
  • Mental health services.
  • Medical care, when needed.
  • Participation in 12-step recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
  • Career development training.
  • Adult education classes.
  • Skills training, e.g., financial management.
  • Relapse prevention techniques training.
  • Treatment of co-occurring disorders, such as eating disorders and/or depression.
  • Discharge planning and aftercare planning.

Which Rehabs Are the Most Successful?

Often, one of the key factors in the success of the program is the staff

Some rehab programs study the outcomes of their patients and can provide this information to prospective patients. They may also publish this information online. You can also read reviews of programs to get a sense of whether they’re actually helping people.

Often, one of the key factors in the success of the program is the staff and whether they can connect with the patients. Other factors include the overall presentation of the facility and its amenities.

Beyond that, you can look at their treatment approaches. Evidence-based treatments are treatment approaches that have been studied and found to be effective in treating substance abuse. Rehabs that use these approaches may be more likely to help people overcome their addictions.

One study that reviewed the evidence behind certain treatments found that some of the more effective treatment approaches were:5

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Contingency management.
  • Motivational interviewing.
  • Medications such as methadone, naltrexone, acamprosate, and buprenorphine for alcohol and opioid addiction.

Integrating medication with therapy has also been found to lead to positive results for drug and alcohol users.5

Treatment programs of longer durations have more time to incorporate a variety of treatment approaches and tailor them to the individual. This, in turn, can lead to more successful outcomes.

Essential Components of Good Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends the following guidelines for effective drug addiction treatment:6

  • Treating recovery as a long-term process that involves a variety of approaches
  • Consideration of physical or mental health issues that may be occurring in conjunction with the addiction and treating these
  • Tailoring of drug treatment programs to individual patients and their needs
  • Ongoing reassessment of treatment procedures to ensure they are productive
  • Incorporating behavioral therapies and medications
  • Continuing treatment after detox
  • Monitoring drug use during treatment
  • Testing patients for diseases and other conditions from drug use, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis

You may want to evaluate a program you’re interested in based on how well they follow these guidelines.

Which Program Is Best for Me?

The severity of your substance use disorder—as well as any other needs you have in treatment—should help you determine the type of rehab and the length of the program. As mentioned earlier, insurance and the cost of the program are also factors.

Remember that the longer your program, the more likely to is to incorporate many of the features listed above, like adult education, skills training, and family counseling. The more comprehensive your care, the more likely you are to maintain your sobriety.

The reality is, drug use and addiction are complicated. Some people may claim that it is just about saying “no” or about having better self-control. However, most people need a drug addiction treatment program to help them stop using.

Knowing the type of help you want and need will help you pick the right program. For example, you might pick an inpatient program if you know you’ll be unable to stop using with the temptations of your current environment. Or if you know that you cannot afford inpatient or to take time away from your work, an outpatient program may be the most appropriate type of program.

What Happens Once I Finish Rehab?

The process of recovering from addiction can be lifelong.

Many people are never “done recovering.” For example, even after you leave a 90-day program, you will need ongoing support to maintain sobriety. You will return to an environment that may contain triggers or other temptations.

This support may come in the form of:

  • Continued participation in 12-step programs or another ongoing, structured support program.
  • A sponsor.
  • A transfer to a halfway house or other sober-living facility.
  • Additional treatment, when needed.
  • Regularly scheduled follow-up therapy.

Make sure you discuss aftercare with your treatment provider so that you understand how to continue your efforts and stay sober in the long-term.

Get Help Now

Research shows that when addicts devote an adequate length of time for addiction treatment, they can often successfully recover.

If you are ready to begin your process of recovery today, search the state treatment directory on the homepage for more information on programs in your area.

Sources

[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics.

[3]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[4]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders.

[5]. McGovern, M. (2003). Evidence-based practices for substance use disorders. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 26(4), 991-1010.

[6]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.

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