The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment.” (https://www.drugabuse.gov)
For most people going into substance abuse treatment a big question is “how long do you stay in rehab?” The easy answer is “As long as you need to, to learn how to stay clean and sober.” It is not always that simple, though. Here are some considerations that will impact how long someone should stay in a rehab program:
Have you been in Treatment before?
If so, when were you last in Treatment?
How long were you in Treatment for? Was it residential inpatient or outpatient?
What substances have you been using? For how long and how much?
Have you been involved in AA or other peer support groups?
How old are you?
Do you suffer from any co-occurring mental health issues?
Do you have any chronic pain issues?
Do you suffer from any unresolved trauma?
As you can see, there are many questions and considerations that have a bearing on how long do people stay in rehab for inpatient treatment. That being said, for many people, insurance often plays a big role in the how long they stay in treatment. Ninety days of treatment may have to be a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment.
Another limitation may be work. If someone has a good job to return to after going to treatment, there may be a limit on how much time they can take off. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) states that eligible employees of covered employers can take unpaid, job-protected leave with continuation of group health insurance coverage for up to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition. An application for FMLA can be filed by the treatment facility and is a relatively easy process. Sometimes people also have Short Term Disability Insurance (STDI) that will help cover some of their lost wages.
If there are other mental health issues that you struggle with, longer treatment may be necessary to address those issues. Many times the substance use needs to be addressed initially before having a definitive diagnosis and determining treatment for mental health disorder. Some medications take a considerable period of time before becoming effective and several may need to be tried before finding the appropriate medication and dose. All of these factors need to be taken into account when thinking about how long treatment needs to be.
The aftercare plan also is critical and may determine the length of stay in inpatient treatment. If someone is returning home a longer inpatient stay may be beneficial, but if one is staying in the area and attending outpatient and supportive sober living, a lesser amount of actual inpatient treatment may be feasible.
What Is The Recommended Length of Stay in Rehab?
Based on statistics, the longer a person remains in treatment, the better the outcome. Programs vary in their length from 28 days to 90 days or longer. Thirty days in treatment is really just a beginning to give a person a fighting chance at beating their addiction. Often the first week or two spent in treatment is just about getting acclimated and going through the withdrawal process. The real work doesn’t begin until the person is feeling better enough to address some of the deeper emotional issues and clear headed enough to take in all the information. Consider extending treatment if possible beyond thirty days.
Often people will go to a separate detox facility before coming to residential treatment. This is not considered part of the residential treatment program, which can confuse people about their length of stay. If you are told by a treatment center “We offer a thirty day program.” don’t assume that detox is part of that thirty days. Plan on an extra week to ten days of detox before starting in-patient treatment.
The most important thing to remember is that taking the time you need to get a solid foundation for your recovery is critical. If you leave treatment prematurely you risk relapse and having to start all over again, or worse. It is far better to take a little extra time to insure that you will stay clean and sober. So don’t skimp on your process, give yourself the time you need to heal and succeed in your recovery.
Content Written By Elizabeth Ossip, LCSW, CAP, ICADC