When it comes to addiction rehabilitation, researching your options can feel overwhelming. It’s a significant investment, and the statistics of success may be sobering. You want to make sure that you get it right the first time, so that you can get your life back on track as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there’s not a standard of care that works across the board. Each person will find that they have different needs and preferences in order to make rehab work for them. You’ll want to look at treatment philosophy, rehab form (residential, outpatient, etc.) and treatment length in order to determine which works for you. For now, we’re going to take a good look at treatment length.
How Long Do the Phases of Recovery Take?
Many patients do not finish the duration of a proper treatment program. Why? They believe that they’ve done all the work they need to after a couple months. They’re healed. They’re clean. There’s nothing else they have to learn. However, true recovery is a much longer process than a couple months. It’s important to understand that different phases of treatment. Different programs will sketch them out differently, but here’s an example:
- Detox and withdrawal: This can last anywhere from 2 weeks to a month. It’s simply the period of time necessary to clear the substance from your body and help your body adjust to life without it. Take note that the physical detox will be up to a month. Re-routing the neural pathways so that the brain no longer depends on the substance for coping with stress, dopamine stimulation, or anything else is a whole different story.
- Early recovery: Early recovery is characterized by optimism and enthusiasm about recovery. At this point, the patient is excited about how things are going. They’re seeing the possibilities of the future without substance abuse. This phase can last anywhere from one month to a year. However, the average length of time is two to three months. The biggest danger here is that patients can be overconfident, causing them to relapse. This is also the stage in which some patients leave rehab programs, believing that they have a handle on the problem. It’s important to control your expectations about rehab, acknowledging that it’s not a magic switch that will make everything better. Rather, rehab should equip you with the tools you need to put in the hard work necessary for ongoing sobriety and recovery.
- The wall: The wall is well-known as the true test of addiction recovery. Of course, it’s different for every patient. Some experience it within a month; some never do. “The wall” is when the patient falls out of the optimism of early recovery and into the feeling that it’s just not worth it. Often, addiction recovery programs like to factor in the timeline of “the wall” so that addiction recovery support is still available during this period, and afterwards. This is why most programs last at least three months.
- Adjustment and continued recovery: The disease model of addiction usually states that addiction is a chronic disease. It may be something that you struggle with for the rest of your life, although it does get much easier. That’s why recovering patients need to be aware that recovery lasts after the residential program ends. Most addiction recovery programs advise lifelong participation in support groups, recovery circles, personal therapy, etc.
Knowing Your Specific Case
As stated above numerous times, these phases look different for everyone. Your case may be more difficult due to underlying mental illness, which is present in almost half of all addicted people. Challenging family patterns and dynamics can also prolong treatment. Length of addiction, age of the patient, and ongoing support availability will all need to be factored in when determining treatment length.
Three Months Is the Standard
Most studies regarding addiction recovery conclude that at least three months are necessary in order to yield lasting results. Programs that last over three months allow for the fact that addiction, like other diseases, is prone to relapse, at which phase patients must be able to adjust treatment plans and renew their dedication to healing.
However, it’s also important to factor in the different options available for treatment methods and aftercare. One month of residential treatment can be just as effective as three months if it’s paired with a couple months of outpatient treatment. In fact, continuing treatment through the adjustment period of returning home can be just as important to recovery success as residential treatment length. It’s important for patients to remember that once the initial rehab program is over, that doesn’t mean that recovery is over as well. Recovery is an ongoing process that requires care and maintenance over months and even years.