Learn / How Long Is Rehab for Drug and Alcohol Addiction?
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The short answer is: it depends on your recovery goals. If you’re going through withdrawal, for instance, you may need short-term medical care. And after detox, most people go on to attend a 30-day rehab program. But many patients need more time in treatment—and that’s okay. As you compare different rehab programs, it’s important to think about how long your program will last.
Several factors affect how long you’ll spend in rehab. Your care team will evaluate your needs based on a number of criteria.
Everyone’s experience of addiction is a little different. That includes the frequency and intensity of your drug use and your timeline for starting recovery. You could enter rehab with serious health issues due to years of untreated alcohol addiction. Or you might start treatment for meth addiction after taking it only a few times, already aware that you need help. Patients with more severe physical and mental health symptoms typically need more time in residential rehab.
If you’re healing from co-occurring disorders, you may benefit from a longer stay. This gives your brain chemistry time to adjust—first to life without drug use, and then to any medications your care team prescribes. You may also need extra time to find the right types of treatment.
Addiction and trauma often go hand in hand. Either one of these experiences can lead to the other. If you’re healing from both, your recovery journey might not be a linear experience. Some clients take a long time to unearth traumatic memories, and need expert care throughout that process. You could also find that after a short stay in rehab, returning home is the best way to continue your recovery.
There are many different ways to heal from drug addiction. In more traditional rehabs, you might start with detox and then go on to residential care. But some providers take a different approach. For example, ibogaine therapy is an alternative treatment that lasts just a few days. After you complete this type of therapy, you can return home, join an outpatient program, or go to residential rehab.
Other centers don’t adhere to a set timeline at all. In a luxury rehab with individualized care, a team of experts will design a treatment plan just for you. Sometimes this means the length of the program itself can change to meet your needs.
When you’re just starting recovery, you can only plan so far in advance. Your needs will almost certainly change over time. Along the way, you and your care team might decide you need more or less time in rehab than you originally planned. It’s important to remain flexible throughout your recovery journey. By taking adequate time to heal, you can set yourself up for long-term success.
Although you can’t predict every aspect of your recovery, it’s still a good idea to think ahead. Talk to your doctor, therapist, or a rehab’s admissions team before you choose an addiction treatment program. They can recommend an initial length of stay, even if that changes in the future.
Medical detox can keep you safe during withdrawal. Depending on your health history, you may or may not need inpatient care at this stage. However, medical treatment is essential for people detoxing from alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids. Quitting these substances has serious physical side effects. In some cases, withdrawal can even be fatal.1
Most detox programs last 1-2 weeks. During that time, your care team will keep you as comfortable as possible. You might see a doctor, nurses, psychiatrist, talk therapist, or other specialists. Some luxury programs also offer complementary treatments like massage therapy.
Inpatient detox is just one step in your healing journey. Many programs require patients to plan for longer-term care before they start withdrawal. Then when you finish detox, you’ll go directly to rehab.
For most patients, this is an average rehab stay. A 30-day program gives you plenty of time to get used to your new environment and focus on the hard work of recovery. But because it’s only a month, you won’t need to make long-term arrangements before you leave home.
This time frame works well for people who need brief but specialized care so they can plug back into their lives. It’s an especially good fit for clients with a strong support network. You can turn inward while you start treatment, and reconnect with loved ones in the next stage of recovery.
A 30-day program can also help you keep your recovery private. High-profile clients might have a hard time explaining a long time out of the spotlight.
If you have a more complex diagnosis, you might benefit from a longer stay in rehab. These programs can work well for people with multiple addictions. They can also help you recommit to recovery after relapse.
Patients with co-occurring disorders may also need more time in treatment. It takes up to 6 weeks for most psychiatric medications to take full effect.2 If you start new meds when you arrive in rehab, it’s a good idea to stay until you know they’re working well. Otherwise, you might need to adjust your dosage as soon as you get home. Of course, this timeline depends on finding the right prescription shortly after arriving at rehab. Treatment sometimes takes more trial and error than that.
These programs are a good fit for people who need highly specialized care. You’ll have time to find the right medications, try several different types of therapy, and get to know yourself again. In some rehabs, you can also spend this time building community with your peers.
If you want to start treatment by attending a 90-day program, you’ll probably need to make certain arrangements in advance. For example, you might need to take time off work or hire a house sitter. And if you’re hoping to pay for treatment with insurance, check to see if it will cover this type of care.
An extended stay in rehab does more than kick-start your recovery. It offers you a whole new foundation. You’ll have time to reinvent yourself in a completely different context, without the pressure of the life you’re used to.
When you attend a long-term program, you can expect things back home to change while you’re away. You may lose touch with certain people, or return to find they’ve changed as much as you have. That can be overwhelming—but it can also aid in your recovery. If you want to reenvision your life from a brand new perspective, this type of rehab can help you get started.
Sober living centers serve a different purpose than short-term treatment facilities. While these programs offer some structure, they rarely include clinical care. You may or may not attend therapy, or even have access to on-site staff. But you’ll still need to follow certain rules.
Most sober living environments require residents to pass regular drug tests. You’ll probably also join in mandatory activities, like support group meetings or shared meals. Residents can usually leave the house alone, but you might have to adhere to a curfew.
With these structures in place, sober living centers encourage you to take control of your own life. You’ll probably get a job or go to school outside the house. You may need to pay rent or maintain a certain GPA to stay in the program. Some of these environments will limit the time you can live there, but others allow you to stay on indefinitely.
Healing is unpredictable. You might be able to choose how long you spend in rehab—but you can’t decide how long it will take to heal. Some clients need to extend their stay, and some return to treatment more than once. By staying present with yourself and your changing needs, you can make the best possible choices about your recovery.
Search our list of luxury rehabs to find detox programs, sober living environments, and everything in between.
Rehab programs vary in length based on individual needs. Short-term medical detox typically lasts 1-2 weeks, while 30-day residential programs are common for those who need brief but intensive care. Complex diagnoses or co-occurring disorders may require longer stays of 60-90 days. Extended rehab programs of 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years offer a more comprehensive foundation for recovery. Sober living environments provide structure to support your transition back to daily life.
Yes, People Can Die from Opiate Withdrawal | NDARC - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/yes-people-can-die-opiate-withdrawal. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.
“Mental Health Medications.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.
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