By: Brennan Tarvin MEd
When asking certain questions like this we all wish we could get one concrete answer. Okay, you have been using this substance for this long, good for you, you only need 8 days of treatment!
The sad answer is there is no simple answer.
Every single person that is dealing with this disease of addiction will have a different answer. Often people underestimate the amount of time it will take to be able to handle this issue.
How the person gets from addicted to clean can be different. Whether that is a detox center, outpatient counseling, or (wait for it) rehab.
Typically time in detox is going to vary based on the substance and treatment center. Generally, you are looking at 5-7 days. This gives the body enough time to get the substances out. However, it may not give the mind enough time to fully understand what it takes to stay sober once the “bubble” of the treatment center is gone.
When I talk about the “bubble” I mean that it is easy to stay sober when you have 24/7 monitoring mixed with medications and locked doors to keep you from using. Once that “bubble” is gone, reality comes back that you are not supposed to use the substance that made you forget about your problems ever again.
If someone goes through detox they have a much better chance of sobriety if they get right into therapy, 90 meetings in 90 days, or something that will remind them that the work is not done.
I mentioned rehab. Somewhere along the way rehab became a dirty word.
Somehow it became, “What my problem is so bad that I have to put life on hold for at least 30 days?....I’m not that bad….I don’t need that”
When in actuality yes the problem has become that bad and 30 days at minimum is nothing if it means you get to live the rest of your life sober.
Most rehabs or residential facilities that treat alcohol and drug addiction function at a 30, 45, 60, 90 length of stay. Here people will continue to receive counseling, medication, and often a mix of 12 step or faith-based treatment in a controlled environment.
After this time in treatment people often go to sober living or halfway houses. These are less controlled environments that rely more on accountability but still gives the person more time before trying to tackle the world, now sober.
If you notice there is a step-down process to this. Each step the person takes towards long-term recovery becomes less restrictive. Inpatient detox, residential facility, halfway house, intensive outpatient programs, individual counseling and whatever else the person needs at this point.
With intensive outpatient programs the person continues to go to group therapy for about 6 to 9 hours a week but all outpatient based. After everyday therapy of residential, this should be a piece of cake!
To be clear, everyone has their way of getting and staying sober. Some prefer rehab, some prefer outpatient counseling, and some prefer individual counseling. By any means necessary the person with an addiction has to find what works for them.
So, there have been some numbers thrown out there but to answer the question, how long does someone need to be in addiction treatment?
The best answer is, as long as they need.
Many people choose to stay in treatment, knowing that sobriety is a lifelong journey using outpatient counseling and community support systems to help them maintain.
Medically a person can be stabilized in about a week or so, but rewiring the brain for new habits and coping skills will take many months.
From a personal perspective, there are many factors that change the length.
How willing is the person to make the change?
How supportive/functional are the family and friends around the person?
How knowledgeable/empathetic are the counselors the person is working with?
There are way more things to consider but those are a few. Length of time makes a difference but so does quality time.
The harder the person (and family works), the faster they see results.