August 12, 2022

How Long is Rehab?: An Addiction Treatment Timeline

Addiction treatment programs can range from weeks to months in length. Most rehabs use an individualized approach and vary treatment lengths accordingly. Thus, the answer to how long is rehab going to take will depend on a person’s individual situation. Research shows that the longer a person remains in treatment, the better the recovery outcomes, and 90-day rehab is recommended most for efficacy.1
In this article:

Individualized Addiction Treatment Plans

Treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) is an individualized path based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan may include a myriad of treatment modalities, such as individual, group, and family therapy, support group meetings, detox, and beyond.

There is no set way you move through the process, as every person enters recovery at different places, and some people start and stop the process multiple times. However, those who progress through the addiction continuum of care may have better treatment outcomes.2

Treatment Timelines

The time it takes to progress through the continuum of care is different for every person. However, some similarities and averages can give you an idea of what to expect, including which individual treatment components may be needed.3

Early Intervention

Early intervention is the act of addressing substance misuse before it develops into SUD. The focus of intervention is to prevent someone’s use of drugs or alcohol from becoming a problem that interferes with their life. The goal is to get the person to engage in some form of treatment and reduce the damage from substance misuse.

Screening tools play a significant role in intervention services and can be done in schools, doctors’ offices, and community programs. Screenings assess the probability of someone developing or having SUD and then recommend treatment. Research suggests those who were screened and followed through with treatment had lower costs related to health concerns in one year versus those who did not.2

Other types of intervention include the following:3

  • Motivational strategies to encourage someone to follow through with treatment referrals
  • Outreach activities and education
  • Needle/syringe/drug exchange programs
  • Distribution of naloxone for opioid overdose

Detoxification and Stabilization

The first thing you must do before engaging in treatment is to stop using drugs, alcohol, or both. If unable to safely detox from substances without severe side effect, a medical team can help you detox with medication created explicitly for managing withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-assisted detox lasts three to seven days or, sometimes, longer. The length of stay in detox depends on the substance causing withdrawal symptoms, which usually peak within 48 hours. However, lingering withdrawal symptoms can remain for weeks but can sometimes be managed with medication.

Participating in detox prevents medical emergencies related to physical and psychological effects of withdrawal. It also reduces the number of early discharges from treatment that often lead to relapses. Studies show that 27% of people who do not engage in long-term recovery treatment are readmitted to detox within a year of their previous detox.2 Detox helps stabilize you physically and emotionally so you can focus on your treatment plan for recovery. Studies also show that those who entered long-term treatment within two weeks of detox have lower readmission rates.2

Assessment and Diagnosis

Upon completion of detox, you will usually be assessed to determine an accurate diagnosis and an  appropriate treatment plan. This will also help determine how long is rehab. Assessment and diagnosis must be made by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or substance misuse counselor.

Treatment professionals will use multiple tools to gain insight into your SUD. These may include:4

  • Addiction Severity Index (ASI)
  • Substance Abuse Model (SAM)
  • Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN)
  • Psychiatric Research Interview for Substance and Mental Disorders (PRISM)

Your treatment plan will consider the results of your assessment and many other personal factors. You will work with the treatment professional to create a plan that will keep you engaged and motivated for recovery.

When determining inpatient versus outpatient treatment, you should consider specific factors, such as:4

  • Treatments that have been successful or unsuccessful in the past
  • Transportation to and from treatment
  • Environment in which you are currently living
  • Co-occurring conditions
  • Willingness to follow through with treatment
  • Nutritional concerns
  • Pregnancies
  • Dependent children
  • Employment
  • Gender-specific needs
  • Family and social support
  • Trauma and violence
  • Cultural background
  • Language
  • Strengths and resources

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Addiction Treatment Programs

Depending on your circumstances, you may need 30-day rehab, 60-day rehab, or 90-day rehab to best address your needs. Treatment plans can change as you progress. Some may not need inpatient treatment and opt for intensive outpatient programs (IOP) in which you spend 10 or more hours each week in therapy. Those needing more services who don’t qualify for or afford inpatient rehab can enter a partial-hospitalization program (PHP) for at least 20 hours of therapy weekly.

Understanding the standard programs on the addiction treatment timeline and how long they typically last can help you to figure out how long is rehab likely to take for you.4

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient rehab is a 24/7 program with nursing care, medication management, and intensive individual and group counseling services. These rehabs most commonly follow 30-, 60-, or 90-day program lengths. Inpatient services include individual and group behavioral therapies, skills training, family services, and individualized treatment plans.

Studies show that the longer a person stays in inpatient rehab, the fewer relapse events they are lively to have.2

Residential Rehabilitation

Residential rehab is a 24/7 program that emphasizes therapeutic treatment and counselor and peer support rather than medical treatment.

Study results clarify that staying in a 90-day rehab or longer is best for long-term recovery. Those who remain six to 12 months or more in residential rehab have far better recovery results than people who receive three to six months of treatment and had significantly fewer substance misuse relapses than the people with shorter treatment lengths.2

Partial-Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Partial-hospitalization programs offer a structured therapy environment during the day, but at night, you return home. You are expected to attend daily, Monday through Friday, for four or more hours each day. You receive all the same treatments in inpatient rehab but without living at the facility.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs offer around 10 hours of counseling services each week. They can be run as a 30-90-day rehab programs, or  whatever length best fits the participant.

Much like PHPs, you live at home while attending IOPs. However, unlike PHPs,  many IOPs are offered during evening and weekend hours so you can continue to be employed and take care of personal responsibilities during the weekday.

Plenty of evidence shows that intensive outpatient programs are just as effective as inpatient rehab services. Participants also show a reduction in substance misuse from baseline to follow-up.6

Outpatient Individual Counseling

Outpatient counseling is considered traditional counseling and involves meeting with a therapist once or twice a week for behavioral therapies to help you maintain recovery.

When combined with counseling, medication treatment is highly effective in helping someone remain abstinent and maintain recovery.7

For adolescents, outpatient therapies that include family services provide the most significant benefits in helping participants stop misusing substances.8

Recovery Maintenance

Activities to help you maintain recovery include 12-Step facilitation groups, SMART Recovery groups, and community activities geared toward recovery. They help you build support from peers and learn new ways to have fun without misusing substances.

In one study, those who attended one or more 12-Step groups in aftercare for the first six months were the most successful in remaining abstinent; in fact, 73% were successful. Out of the group that did not attend 12-Step meetings in aftercare, only one-third remained abstinent. Another evaluation occurred at the 24-month mark, and three-fourths of 12-Step participants remained abstinent.2

Aftercare Planning

Aftercare planning ideally happens before your discharge from a treatment program. Aftercare support includes any activity that supports your recovery and may include:9

  • Vocational training or job searching
  • Finding local recovery groups and activities
  • Making appointments for mental or physical healthcare
  • Managing medication
  • Setting educational goals such as obtaining GED or going back to school
  • Finding prenatal care or daycare for children
  • Securing housing
  • Determining insurance coverage
  • Finding financial assistance

Aftercare planning aims to reduce access barriers to programs that can help someone maintain sobriety. Those with a high risk for relapse will benefit the most from aftercare planning. Staying engaged in your recovery is crucial; studies show indicators of a successful recovery of those participating in aftercare. These factors include:9

  • Family involvement
  • Access to information on self-help techniques
  • Combination of medication and behavioral therapies
  • Participant involvement in creating the aftercare plan
  • Continued aftercare services for at least three months

If you don’t have a supportive environment to return to post-treatment, you may consider transitional housing or a therapeutic community to help you settle back into daily life while still supporting your recovery.

Therapeutic Communities (TCs)

Therapeutic Communities are 24/7 residences available to those who have been sober for at least one month. You can stay up to two years in some programs, which rely heavily on peer support.

One of the largest long-term outcome studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that participants in TCs show improvement in substance use, criminal behavior, and mental health. Even at the five-year mark, participating for three months or longer produced the best results.5

Sober Living or Transitional Residential

Sober living homes (SLH) are transitional facilities with 24-hour supervision with strict rules for people post-treatment for SUD. Residents often work or attend therapies and appointments during the day and on the weekends and evenings participate in peer-supported recovery activities at the SLH. Residents can stay for 12 months or longer if necessary.

Transitional housing makes it easy to move to a higher level of care if a relapse occurs. Because you are still in a program with ties to substance use treatment professionals, you are simply transitioning back to a previous program rather than starting from the beginning.

Your Addiction Treatment Timeline

Your addiction treatment timeline may be completely different from another person’s timeline. You may participate in all the services listed or just a few. To figure out how long is rehab going to be for you, it’s helpful to meet with a substance use treatment professional for an assessment as a first step.

Getting an assessment does not mean you are committing to a program. Instead, you are getting an opinion about whether you need treatment, and if so, you are given recommendations That you can choose to follow.

To get an opinion on your substance use, reach out for help today. By calling our helpline at 800-661-1690 (Who Answers?), you can be connected directly to a treatment specialist who can help you get started. We are here 24/7.

Resources:

  1. National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2020). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?
  2. Proctor, S. L., & Herschman, P. L. (2014). The Continuing Care Model of Substance Use Treatment: What Works, and When is “Enough,” “Enough?” Psychiatry Journal, 692423.
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Chapter 4, Early Intervention, Treatment, and Management of Substance Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). Office of the Surgeon General (US). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet]. Washington (DC).
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Are Therapeutic Communities Effective?
  6. McCarty, D., Braude, L., Lyman, D. R., Dougherty, R. H., Daniels, A. S., Ghose, S. S., & Delphin-Rittmon, M. E. (2014). Substance Abuse Outpatient Programs: Assessing the Evidence. Psychiatric Services (Washington, DC), 65(6), 718-726.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2022). MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions.
  8. Tanner-Smith, E. E., Wilson, S. J., & Lipsey, M. W. (2013). The Comparative Effectiveness of Outpatient Treatment for Adolescent Substance Abuse: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44(2), 145-158.
  9. McKay J. R. (2021). Impact of Continuing Care on Recovery From Substance Use Disorder. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 41(1), 01.
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