You have decided to seek help for your substance abuse problem. Admitting you need help and reaching out are the first steps on your path to recovery.
For those seeking treatment for their addiction for the first time there will be many questions. What is it like? How do I go about getting the right help? What treatment facility is right for me? One question that comes up frequently is, “How long do I need to be in rehab?”. For many years the answer would have been “30 days” as the industry standard was 28-30 days stay at a drug rehabilitation facility. Today we know that the “30 day rehab” fix is a myth. In fact, today we know that when it comes to substance abuse there is no set time-table. Each person should have an individual treatment plan that is centered around their specific needs.
Research today shows that the more time a person is in a drug treatment program for that the more successful they will be in maintaining their sobriety. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has shown that stays in addiction rehab facilities under 90 days increase the chance of relapse. The same study from NIDA showed that out of 549 patients in a rehab program those who dropped out before the 90 day mark had the same relapse rate as those who only stayed in treatment for a day or two.
That is not to say that a person needs to live in a treatment program for over three months but that they should attend a structured treatment program for at least 90 days. This can be done on an outpatient basis after a residential stay. Many facilities offer Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and Outpatient Programs (OP). Both PHP’s and IOP’s are highly structured programs that include regular drug screening, individual and group therapy sessions, educational groups as well as regularly meeting with a therapist each week. A Partial Hospitalization Program is usually several hours each day for five days per week. An Intensive Outpatient Program is a step down from PHP and is three hours per day for three days each week on average. Outpatient Programs traditionally consist of drug screenings and meeting with your therapist once a week for a session.
On average a person could attend a detox for a week, join a PHP for 30 days, have several weeks or more on an outpatient basis doing IOP and then drop to OP for regular check-ins with their clinician. When a treatment program is structured in this way it allows for a person suffering from a substance abuse disorder to slowly reintegrate back to their families and places of employment while simultaneously gaining the tools and coping skills necessary to help them maintain their sobriety. Longer duration in treatment does not necessarily mean a hospital or residential stay. Many treatment centers offer a transition to a sober-living environment while receiving counseling during either PHP or IOP. Living in a community that promotes sobriety such as a sober home offers support and advice from those who have gone through a similar process while remaining drug and alcohol free in recovery.
Because research shows that the longer an addict stays in a rehab setting for substance abuse treatment, we see Intensive Outpatient Programs becoming more and more common. These outpatient programs allow for you to receiving alcohol and drug counseling and live in a sober living environment while still being able to go out into the community.
It is important to note that the number of days away from a substance is not the end all solution. If it were as simple as to have a set time away from drugs and alcohol, then drug rehabilitation would not even be needed. It is not the length of abstinence but the length of treatment that one experiences. What helps increase your chances to maintain sobriety is an effective treatment program in a structured environment. It is not enough to try and be abstinent, but to learn how to live while practicing abstinence. You need to figure out how not to use. You will still have cravings. With the proper long term addiction treatment plan you will be able to deal with your cravings and learn that they are just thoughts that will pass and have no power over you unless you let them. The additional time in treatment helps you to learn to deal with stress, recognize triggers, build coping skills and develop relationships to help maintain your recovery.
The first month in treatment is crucial to the recovery process. But it is also just the beginning. While a stay in a detox facility helps with the majority of physical withdrawal symptoms, your body is still fighting off the effects of the substance abuse. In many cases a person will feel withdrawal symptoms for the first month of their recovery process if they have experience prolong use of drugs or alcohol. Those first thirty days of treatment are largely spent dealing with the physical and mental aspects of withdrawal and establishing a relationship with your therapist. This period builds the foundation of your recovery. In this time a therapist will work with you to formulate a treatment plan for your addiction. Short-term, concrete, achievable goals will help you in early recovery.
Often there is resistance to the idea of giving up your time and spending three months or more being devoted to nothing but the recovery process. Some people say they cannot sacrifice the time or lost wages from work. However, it should be considered an investment. A few months of hard work and dedication will provide you with far more in return than what you gave up in the short term.