When people contemplate the idea of getting sober, the question at the top of their minds is often, “How long will addiction recovery take?” It is difficult to answer this question simply. A wide variety of factors influence the severity of a person’s addiction, and these factors also determine the nature of a person’s subsequent addiction treatment. While some people can begin to lead a normal life relatively quickly, others require more time.
Ultimately, however, few people claim to ever “recover” from addiction. Most people who successfully stay sober, even people with decades of sobriety behind them, identify as being “in recovery.” Addictions are chronic health conditions that have no recognized cure. They can, however, be put into remission if they are continually treated.
Recovery is therefore a lifelong process. However, this does not mean that the agonizing symptoms of addiction will never disappear. Every step of recovery is a chance for growth. For people who engage in addiction treatment earnestly, the cravings and obsessive thoughts can disappear in the early days of recovery. But further personal development is always possible. Since addiction treatment usually involves multiple steps, this article will break it down and explain how long each phase of addiction treatment generally takes.
How Long Does It Take to Detox?
When an individual decides to begin addiction treatment, they generally do so while they are both mentally and physically dependent on drugs or alcohol. Before they can make progress tackling the root causes of their addiction and developing new skills, it is important that they become physically sober. Without physical sobriety, it is unlikely that a person will be clear headed enough to make much progress in recovery.
Unfortunately, for people who are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, withdrawal symptoms can present a major impediment. Withdrawal symptoms can be excruciatingly painful and they also lead to intense cravings. On their own, few people manage to withdraw from drugs or alcohol without relapsing — and many end up relapsing even after successfully withdrawing. With certain drugs, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms can even be life-threatening.
For these reasons, medically supervised detoxes are generally recommended. Detox programs are offered by partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), which are a type of outpatient program. These programs offer safe and supportive environments where people can face their withdrawal symptoms without fear of relapse. PHPs also employ medical professionals to ensure that the detoxing process is safe. They may sometimes also prescribe medications as part of a medication-assisted treatment plan, especially for opioid addiction and alcohol addiction. These medications can help reduce cravings and mitigate withdrawal symptoms.
How long does detox last? The length of a person’s detox depends upon a range of factors, including which drugs they were addicted to, how much they took, and how long they took them. A client’s physical and mental health can also affect how long they experience withdrawal symptoms. Individuals who are taking medications like methadone or Suboxone as part of a medication-assisted treatment program often take longer to withdraw completely from opioids, though their gradual withdrawal process, known as tapering, is generally more gentle.
On average, the most acute withdrawal symptoms tend to subside after four days. For this reason, medically supervised detoxes rarely last longer than a week. Some drugs take longer for acute withdrawal symptoms to disappear. Acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, for instance, can last for 10 days or more. Short-acting drugs like methamphetamine, however, often have withdrawal symptoms that resolve in three days or less. The length of a medical detox varies, but most people are clear headed enough after a week to begin the next phase of their addiction treatment.
Acute Addiction Treatment
After detoxing from drugs and alcohol, an individual can begin the crucial work of tackling their substance use disorder head on. At this point, most people go on to attend either an inpatient rehab or an acute outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab programs, sometimes known as residential treatment, are programs that require clients to live on-site. There, they receive 24-hour care and intensive therapies to help them recover from their substance use disorder. Due to their cost and intense structure, inpatient addiction programs rarely last longer than 90 days. In fact, most people attend inpatient rehab for 30 or 60 days.
Acute outpatient treatment programs provide the same intensity of care as inpatient treatment programs, but at a lower cost and with a higher degree of flexibility. Acute outpatient treatment programs not only serve as effective alternatives to residential treatment programs, they are also often utilized by graduates of residential programs who want to continue their recovery. Acute outpatient treatment programs offer highly personalized and intensive care for a longer period of time than residential treatment programs. Given their additional flexibility, outpatient programs are ideal for people who are looking to develop their sobriety and rebuild their lives in the process.
Whether an individual is attending an outpatient rehab as a first line treatment for addiction or using it as a transitional program after graduating from inpatient rehab, outpatient programs offer highly effective evidence-based treatment modalities for addiction recovery. The length of an outpatient treatment program depends on the severity of a person’s addiction and their current living situation. People with reliable social support systems, emotional and financial stability, and strong motivation to get sober might attend for shorter periods of time. People whose lives are in disarray, and those with comorbid mental health disorders, often require longer periods of outpatient treatment.
Outpatient treatment lasts 90 days on average, but it can last much longer in many cases. Unlike medical detox centers and inpatient treatment centers, outpatient programs measure their treatment lengths in months and years instead of days and weeks. While 90 days may be the average, it is common for people to engage in outpatient treatment for multiple years. The nature of a person’s treatment, however, is likely to change considerably as they progress through their outpatient program.
Levels of Care in Outpatient Programs
Outpatient rehabs are suitable for long term and indefinite treatment because they allow clients to alter their treatment programs as they recover. Outpatient programs are divided into three distinct levels of care: partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), and outpatient programs (OPs). Clients who finish one of these programs have the opportunity to transition to a lower level of care, which gives them increased flexibility. This allows clients to expand their lives in the outside world while continuing to receive support and guidance from their treatment program.
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). Partial hospitalization programs offer the highest level of care among outpatient programs. PHPs can last for a few weeks to a few months. They generally meet for a few hours most days of the week. These programs, which are often recommended to people experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms or addiction-related health problems, can help people return to functionality. They can be enormously beneficial as transitional programs for recent inpatient rehab graduates.
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Intensive outpatient programs, like PHPs, offer acute addiction treatment. They often last for several months. IOPs meet several days a week for a few hours a day. IOPs are ideal for people who have recently graduated from a PHP or inpatient program. For people with severe addictions, IOPs help people develop new skills, coping tools, and they address underlying issues that may be behind a person’s substance abuse.
- Outpatient programs (OPs). Outpatient programs, which offer a standard level of care, can last from a few months to a few years. These programs, which meet once or twice a week, can help people feel supported as they rebuild their lives in the outside world. Outpatient programs focus on individual therapy and group therapy. Evidence-based therapies help clients develop new coping skills and face challenges in the outside world. Outpatient programs also provide opportunities for clients to build their sober social support networks.
Does Addiction Treatment End After Rehab?
It is important to recognize that substance use disorders are never “cured.” In fact, one of the foremost goals of most rehabs is to help clients understand that they have a chronic condition. Like diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions, substance use disorders can be managed and put into remission, however. This means that graduates of rehab programs must continue to implement the skills and tools they learned at their formal treatment center in the years and decades after they graduate. Those who do so are likely to remain sober in the long term.
Outpatient rehabs work with clients who are graduating to develop long term aftercare plans. Aftercare refers to a broad range of services and resources that people use to maintain their sobriety outside of a formal treatment setting. The elements of an individual’s aftercare plan can vary significantly, depending on their unique situation and needs.
Common elements of aftercare plans include:
- Individual or group therapy. Even after finishing rehab, therapy can be an essential tool for facing life’s challenges. Trained clinicians provide support during early sobriety, which can be an emotionally tumultuous time.
- 12-step programs. 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer a toolkit for long term recovery. 12-step meetings also provide opportunities to develop one’s sober social support network.
- Support groups. A wide variety of support groups exist that are not affiliated with 12-step programs. One popular support group is SMART Recovery, which meets mostly online and is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Alumni programs. Many rehabs offer alumni support programs. These programs not only give alumni a chance to stay connected and accountable, they also often provide opportunities for alumni to get involved helping current clients on their recovery journeys. Studies have shown that those who help others get sober have the highest rates of sobriety themselves.
Research shows that people who engage in treatment longer, and particularly those who engage in aftercare services over the course of their lives, have the lowest rates of relapse. While it may be disheartening at first to hear that recovery is a lifelong process, few people engaged in aftercare perceive it as a chore. In fact, for many outpatient rehab graduates, aftercare is exciting. It represents a chance to engage in continual growth and self-development, building on the foundations of rehab.
By pursuing aftercare, for years and decades after treatment, people can often develop skills to face life’s challenges, strong social support systems, peace of mind, and meaningful and fulfilling lives.
Finding an Outpatient Center Near Me
NuView Treatment Center is an outpatient rehab located in West Los Angeles. Our goal is to provide addiction treatment for people suffering at all levels of severity. Whether you are attending an outpatient treatment program after graduating from a residential treatment program or enrolling in outpatient rehab as a first line treatment for addiction, NuView Treatment Center is prepared to meet your needs. We offer a wide range of outpatient treatment programs, including partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), outpatient programs (OPs), and aftercare planning.
We encourage clients to engage in addiction treatment for as long as they need. Many of our clients make use of our multiple levels of care by transitioning to less acute and more flexible programs as they progress in their recovery journeys. Our goal is to help clients not only get sober, but stay sober. This means we work with them to develop new tools and coping skills, addressing underlying mental health conditions, and rebuild their lives in the outside world.
Utilizing the latest evidence-based treatment methods, our highly trained staff prioritize compassion above all else. No matter where you’ve been or how hopeless you feel, we believe that recovery is possible for you. At NuView Treatment Center, we believe that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction recovery, and we treat every client as a unique individual. Our individualized treatment plans are holistic, addressing every aspect of a client’s life.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process, but freedom from the obsession, shame, and misery of active addiction is available early on in this process. If you are ready for a new way of life, reach out to NuView Treatment Center today.