How Long is Rehab?
what determines the length of stay

When someone asks how long they should stay in rehab, the answer will typically be something like “a minimum of 30 days,” For those who are just starting to look into rehab programme, this type of response might seem vague or even daunting. Thankfully, we can provide you with some more guidance on how long you can plan to stay in a rehab facility.

How long does it take to break an addiction?

Usually, if someone is at the point of looking into addiction centre, they have acknowledged that their addiction has become unmanageable and requires significant support and intervention. Recovery from addiction involves a serious ongoing commitment on the part of the individual, combined with a period of prolonged sobriety, consistent cognitive and holistic therapy, peer support, family involvement, and more.

According to psychologists, while it may take approximately 21 days of conscious and consistent effort to create a new habit, it takes far longer to break an existing habit. Research published by Yale University has suggested that following a period of active addiction, it takes approximately 90 days for the prefrontal cortex region of the brain to come back ‘online.’¹ This is the region of the brain responsible for higher-level thought, reasoning, and decision making- all of which are imperative to one’s ability to remain in recovery.

Considering rehab options

When it comes to choosing a treatment centre, there are two main options: outpatient or inpatient treatment facility, with the latter providing round-the-clock observation and a far more comprehensive suite of services – albeit at a higher price. Each of these options typically revolves around evidence-based treatment approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which enables you to understand your negative thoughts and transform them into a more positive outlook. For most individuals suffering from moderate to severe addiction, inpatient rehab would be their best choice to start with.

Option 1: Inpatient rehab

An inpatient rehab is a full-time residential programme that includes individual counseling and group therapy as well as providing full-time medical support to assist with any detoxification or withdrawal symptoms. An individual in inpatient rehab has access to 24/7 support and will be able to address not only their addiction, but also any co-occurring disorders, trauma, or other issues. Inpatient rehab provides a safe, stable, and most importantly, a 100% sober environment for recovery to occur.

Inpatient rehab centres also provide a unique, non-judgmental, and supportive environment to open up about one’s addiction in front of other peers as well as professionals in recovery. Those who enroll in inpatient rehab are often surprised and relieved to find a community of peers (from all over the world sometimes!) that they are able to relate to, learning from, and recover alongside.
When the time comes to re-enter society after your treatment is complete, aftercare programmes and services are typically available to help you navigate the day-to-day challenges and stay sober for the long haul.
Top view of feet of people standing in a circle. Runners standing in a huddle with their feet together.

How long is inpatient rehab?

Most inpatient rehabs require a minimum stay of 30 days, however, more and more rehabs are starting to suggest longer lengths of stay. In fact, a NIDA-funded study called Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Studies tracked 549 rehab clients and found that those who stayed in residential treatment beyond 90 days, had significantly lower rates of relapse. In contrast, those who left rehab before 90 days had relapse rates comparable to clients who have been in treatment for only 1-2 days.²

Most addicted individuals need at least three months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Tweet

How long do people stay in rehab?

Generally speaking, 30-90 days in inpatient rehab is a more realistic time frame for most people. This time frame provides more amaple opportunity for the brain and body to establish routine and balance once again and for the individual to get the most out of their treatment episode. Just as the patterns and behaviors relating to one’s addiction took time to develop, we need time to undo these patterns and replace them with new and healthy patterns. Without the time to actually practice implementing new behaviors, relapse is very likely to occur.

How detox affects length of rehab

When one is considering length of stay in rehab, they must also consider the physical and mental state they might be in upon entering treatment. More often than not, some degree of detox is required. This means that for the first several days or even weeks will serve as an adjustment period during which time, the body and brain are readjusting to being sober again and definitely not functioning at their fullest potential. If someone is only in treatment for 30 days and they are detoxing for a good percentage of that time, it must be understood that they will not be able to get the full benefit of an intensive treatment programme.

Mental health and counseling concept - psychologist listening to depressed female patient and writing down notes

Option 2: Outpatient rehab

It is true that many addicts attempt to start with outpatient treatment prior to coming to inpatient rehab, particularly those who have family or work obligations. In rare cases, it may be determined that your addiction is manageable in an outpatient setting if there is a very strong level of personal commitment, a preexistent network of family or peer support, and your individual therapist is addiction trained and able to provide addiction-related education in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy or other addiction specific therapy.
Outpatient rehabs are really best however for individuals who have already completed inpatient rehab and perhaps have even spent some time in a sober living facility. These individuals are then able to apply the knowledge that they have learned through intensive individual and group therapy in order to continue actively working a programme of recovery.

How long is outpatient rehab?

It is understandable that many people have family, work, and financial commitments that may initially deter than from going to inpatient rehab and for these reasons they may opt to start with outpatient rehab. The length of outpatient rehab is completely dependent on the individual’s ability to maintain abstinence outside of an inpatient residential setting. If someone has the knowledge, motivation, support, and commitment required to stay sober in outpatient care, then they should continue with this type of support.
It is often the case however that someone might begin with outpatient treatment as a first step, but it becomes apparent that their addiction is not manageable within this level of care in which case they would be referred to inpatient rehab. For those who go from inpatient rehab into an outpatient setting, the length of outpatient rehab also varies depending on the individual, but a minimum of four months would be recommended by most.
Outpatient rehab provides the continued support and accountability needed for those in early recovery. Inevitably, when one leaves the safety of the inpatient treatment environment and returns to their daily lives, there will be triggers and challenges that arise. It may take some time for these issues to come up, and remaining in an outpatient programmes means that when they do, you will be presented with the guidance and tools needed to continue to navigate your life as a sober adult.

Why long-term treatment is more effective

While you may want to get through rehab as quickly as possible, research shows that longer stays in rehab leads to lower relapse rates. Period.
Nowadays, it is commonly understood that addiction treatment should occur on a 3-5 year continuum of care. This doesn’t mean that you will be in one setting for this whole time! It means that you should move down incrementally in levels of care in order to ensure the best shot at long-term recovery, starting from inpatient and moving down through outpatient when appropriate.

Being in rehab for a longer period keeps addicts away from negative influences or triggers for longer. This is necessary in order to regain perspective and learn about addiction and related behaviors without being tempted towards relapse prematurely. Long-term rehab provides continuous care and support and the TIME required to develop the tools needed to sustain recovery.

factors to consider regarding length of stay in rehab

Still have questions about length of stay, or are you ready to start on your journey towards recovery? Call us now and let us help you find the best treatment plan for your specific needs.

Author
Alexandra Perkinson
Therapist
    1. Elements Behavioral Health. (2014, October 8). The 100-Day Hangover. Drug Addiction Treatment. https://www.drugaddictiontreatment.com/types-of-addiction/alcohol-addiction/the-100-day-hangover/.
    2. NIDA. 2020, May 29. Principles of Effective Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

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