The answer is: it depends.
Most drug rehabilitation programs last from 28 to 90 days, although some may be shorter and others might be longer, depending on a number of factors. Some programs are more intensive, for example, so they take less time. This is especially true with inpatient rehab programs in which the individuals stay in the facility for the duration of the program. Outpatient programs, in comparison, are longer because they involve just a few hours of therapy each week.
The duration of a drug treatment program also depends on the services provided. Some drug rehab programs include detoxification, counseling services, and outpatient care, which all add up to longer program times. Others, such as Milestones Wellness Centers, offer medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone that stops withdrawal symptoms without detoxification. This makes for shorter inpatient programs but may include longer outpatient programs that last as long as the individual is on methadone.
The type of drug involved and the severity of the drug problem also affect the program length. Someone who has had a severe addiction to heroin for many years may require a longer program than does someone who has been smoking marijuana for a few weeks, for example.
Other factors may play a role. If someone has a dual diagnosis, for example, they will need more extensive treatment. Also known as co-occurring illness, a dual diagnosis is when someone is addicted to drugs and also has a co-existing mental health issue, such as depression. Mental health issues and addiction often occur together, as each condition can lead to the other.
What the Experts Say about the Length of Drug Rehabilitation
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that participating in an inpatient or outpatient program for less than 90 days has limited effectiveness. NIDA recommends significantly longer treatment for maintaining positive outcomes. NIDA also recommends that people remain on methadone treatment for at least 12 months. They also say that some people can continue to benefit from methadone treatment that lasts for years.
Why does drug rehab take so long?
Rehab takes a long time because of the significant effects drug addiction has on a person’s brain, body, and behaviors. Drug addiction is a brain disorder – it changes the way the brain functions. Specifically, it affects the areas of the brain related to motivation and reward, memory and learning, and behavioral control. It takes months, if not years, to correct these changes to the brain.
Drug addiction is also associated with physical dependence on drugs. Over the course of months or years of drug abuse, the body makes chemical adjustments that allow it to tolerate the drugs. In time, the body begins to depend on having a certain level of the drug to feel “normal.” When someone stops using suddenly, their body struggles to regain that feeling of being normal. This struggle manifests itself as withdrawal symptoms, which can be so severe that the person begins using drugs again.
Drug addiction also causes behavioral issues, such as drug-seeking. Certain events, such as stressful situations, can trigger drug abuse behaviors. Treatment helps the individual identify behaviors and triggers associated with drug abuse, and provides them with tools to avoid drug abuse and drug-seeking when they encounter triggers.
What’s more, drug addiction is a chronic condition. Like other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, addiction can last for years. People with drug addiction can also have relapses, just as with other chronic disorders. This means those with addiction need long-term treatment to help them avoid relapses that can lead them back to drug abuse.
Drug rehab is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, unfortunately, and everyone’s experience may be different. For more information on how long you might expect to be on the journey of opioid drug rehab, consult with the professionals at Milestones Wellness Centers. We have a number of programs to fit your needs.