Drug treatment programs come in many forms and offers multiple modalities, and levels of care, with the goal of providing treatment, support, and care to help addicts maintain a sober and healthy life, after the program.
The most commonly known form of addiction treatment is a 30-45 day, residential rehab program, but these are not actually considered to be the most effective lengths of treatment. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), most addicted individuals need at least 90 days of treatment to really reduce and stop drug abuse. The Institute asserts that longer treatment times result in better outcomes. Better outcomes are generally defined as the length of time during which a recovering addict remains sober, after completing treatment. NIDA, along with virtually every other drug abuse and addiction authority agrees that addiction is a chronic disease, and therefore, relapse is not only possible, but likely.
Although relapse does not mean that treatment has failed, this fact does support the effectiveness of longer term drug treatment programs in the effort to reduce relapse occurrences among addicted individuals.
How Long is Long-Term Rehab?
The “long-term” in long-term treatment generally picks up where residential inpatient treatment ends. Long-term treatment typically starts at 90 days and can last over one year. The actual length of time depends on the individual, and the circumstance of the addiction being treated.
There are several reasons why long-term treatment is recommended as the most effective length of care for people addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Long-Term Treatment Enforces Positive Coping Skills
In many cases of addiction, relapses occur due to an inability to recognize and properly address substance abuse triggers. The majority of people who are addicted, abuse drugs to cope with life’s challenges. Rehab aims to reverse that behavior and replace it with healthy and productive options for coping.
It is not easy for anyone to completely change the way in which they respond to life events, especially situations which may be particularly stressful or traumatic. In cases of addiction, drug use becomes the one and only method of coping, because it is the easiest way to escape and disassociate from the pain or difficulty of the moment. Not only is drug abuse dangerous, the euphoric effects of addictive drugs, only reinforce the behavior, making it exponentially more difficult to change.
In order for addicts to find a place where they can practice, and be comfortable with healthy coping mechanisms and behaviors, two things must take place:
- Drug use, which stimulates the reward system in the brain and reinforces repeated use, must cease
- Healthy and productive patterns of thought and behavior must be implemented, and carried out, on a consistent basis, through good times and bad
The ladder of these two requirements can be a struggle for anyone, addicted or not, but the former is a unique challenge for addicts.
Although all forms of drug rehab have the same goal, it is not enough to simply detox an addict of addictive drugs, and expect that everything will return to normal from a short-term sobriety period. As with learning any new skill, recovering addicts must learn how to cope with their issues, without the use of drugs to escape from them. Additionally, they must do this, despite what could be massive changes to their brains, resulting from drug abuse.
Long term drug treatment is the best way to not only teach the facts of healthy survival and coping skills, but also give addicts in recovery time to implement and practice these skills, while making a gradual return to normal life outside the confines of an addiction treatment facility.
By having the time to utilize what they learn about healthy coping, recovering addicts keep a safety net in place with long-term treatment, always having resources to make any adjustments in coping strategies, which can help them to prevent relapse.
Long-Term Treatment Is Customizable
Some may think of long-term treatment as needing to stay in a controlled treatment facility for 6-12 months. Although this is an option, it is not a requirement, nor is it the established structure of most long-term treatment programs. Every drug rehab, whether short or long term, aims to get individuals to live on their own, and use the new, healthy skills they’ve learned, to remain sober, and live a productive life. This involves a gradual decline in the level of care and supervision needed in order to achieve the goal of sober independence. An effective term of addiction treatment will assess each individual, as to when it is appropriate to step down to a lesser level of care, as everyone has a unique pace of recovery from addiction.
Long-term treatment starts the same way as a short-term rehab program; with detox. There is a universal understanding that addicts will be far less responsive to treatment, if they are still under the influence of addictive drugs, highlighting the importance of detoxing the system before beginning intensive therapy.
However, in many cases, 30-45 days is either not sufficient time, or just enough time for an addicted individual to “dry out”, and be detoxed.
It is only after this, that the actual rehabilitative process can begin, and that is where long-term treatment begins to prove its value. Depending on how long it takes for an individual to be rid of addictive substances, intensive therapeutic treatments may begin several weeks, or even months into the program. It is not detox, but the therapy, and supplemental program approaches which make up the foundation of recovery from addiction.
Clinicians and doctors make their best estimation on the time it will take to detox each individual as they enter treatment, but sometimes, detox does not go as according to plan, and can take much longer than expected. In these cases, in a short-term residential program, an addict may complete the program long before any real therapy and change can take place. Even with strong aftercare efforts, if the foundation for recovery has not been established, treatment has not been effective beyond detoxing the individual.
Long term treatment offers a minimum 90-day program which would provide at least enough time for most addicts to become fully detoxed, and have the time to get initial therapies in support of their recovery and coping plan. Most long-term drug rehabs have a customizable program, which can be tailored to the specific needs of each addict, determining when, and how much to decrease the intensity of care. The various levels of care offered in long-term treatment are:
- Intensive residential inpatient treatment
- Sober Living Environment (SLE)
- Outpatient aftercare services
- Continuation of individual therapy
Regardless of the type of treatment needed, the fundamentals of recovery must be established, to give any addict a chance at full and long-lasting recovery. These fundamentals are different for everyone, but discoverable in the therapeutic phase of treatment. They include things like:
- uncovering underlying trauma or issues which may have lead to substance abuse or self-medication. These can include things like abuse, brain trauma, mental health issues and chronic pain management
- exploring and discovering a healthy set of activities and routines, which best serve each individual in his or her recovery
- addressing home influences, such as family and friends, and how each individual can best manage their relationships and responses
- determining whether or not there exists a co-occurring mental health illness, to be addressed in conjunction with recovery
- determining a plan to find employment, return to school, or gain work training, without succumbing to potential relapse triggers in those environments
- establishing, or re-establishing healthy coping mechanisms, which can be proven effective for each individual in stressful and challenging times. This can be especially tricky, as no one can determine how they will react in a future situation, until it arises. This is also why decreased supervision while maintaining high levels of care can be so crucial.
Does Every Addict Need Long-Term Treatment?
The length of time in treatment depends on the individual, and the circumstances of the addiction. The beginning length of long-term treatment is 90 days, which is also the end of the longest period of short-term treatment. Although short-term rehab may be enough for some who struggle with drug addiction, it is typically not ideal for individuals who have:
- struggled with addiction for several years
- suffered from chronic mental health or severe trauma issues
- attended short-term treatment in the past, and relapsed within months of completing the program
- experienced multiple relapses in the past, whether after a full residential program, or just detox
- have been addicted to multiple types of drugs, such as opiates, and stimulants, or alcohol and benzodiazepines, or any other combination of different substances
NIDA is in agreement with every addiction treatment authority in the United States, that the longer a treatment period is, the more effective it is. This is not because long-term treatment is a better program.
It is because addiction does an enormous amount of damage to individuals, their brains, and functions of life. It takes time to heal these things and even more time to address destructive patterns. The work doesn’t stop there. More time is needed to replace destructive patterns with healthy ones, and all of this must be done in a manner which is effective and can be maintained by the individual, in independent recovery environments.
It is no wonder why at least 90 days in treatment is recommended.
If you, or someone you love is struggling with addiction, or have been struggling for too long, the time to end the madness is now. The problem may have been a rehab program which hasn’t afforded the time for real healing and recovery from this deadly disease. There are options throughout the United States, which provide whatever time is needed. Whether its 90 or 365 days, your life, the lives of your loved ones, and the peace of mind brought to your family is worth the time to save a life. Call us> now, and speak to one of our certified counselors about the benefits of long-term treatment, and the programs which may be the best fit for you and your family.
There are countless options available, and enough time has been wasted on efforts that haven’t made the difference. Your call is completely free and confidential, so don’t waste another moment. Call us now, we are here to help.