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How Long Does it Take for Rehab to Work?

Facing a stay in rehab can be intimidating, especially if you are entering a program for the first time. Stepping away from your life, comforts, and responsibilities can be a challenge, but if you need addiction treatment, it may be your best opportunity to get out of active addiction and achieve long-lasting recovery.

Addiction is a complex disease that needs a complex solution to address. There is no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment plan, and there is no express option. If you’ve developed an addiction to a psychoactive drug, it may take time to address underlying issues, and retrain your brain not to cope with stress and triggers by using drugs.

Treatment that works for you may not work for someone else. Your recovery plan will be personalized and adapted to fit your needs. It should also address multiple needs that go beyond the substance use disorder. To get to the root of addiction and achieve long-lasting sobriety and recovery, you will need to be given the time and resources to address multiple issues.

But how much time does it usually take? You may feel inclined to look for a program that gets you in and out of rehab as quickly as possible. Your insurance company might want you to go through quickly as well. However, a quick stint in a treatment program might not be an effective way to reach lasting sobriety.

Learn more about addiction treatment and what treatment duration is the most effective for long-lasting recovery. 

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Individualized Treatment

When you are looking for an addiction treatment program, one of the first things you should look for is individualized treatment programs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), tailoring treatment to a person’s individual needs is key to their ultimate success. It writes, “It is important for the treatment approach to be broad in scope, taking into account a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture. The severity of addiction and previous efforts to stop using drugs can also influence a treatment approach.”

The best treatment options provide a combination of therapy options centered around a person’s background and needs. These therapies may go beyond specifically treating a substance use problem. You may also need medical treatment, family therapy, trauma therapy, parenting support, job training, social services, and legal help. Addressing all of these issues is a deep process that can take a significant amount of time, especially if there are co-occurring mental disorders involved.

Treatment for co-occurring mental health issues is called dual diagnosis, and it’s an essential part of treatment for many people. There is a significant amount of overlap between substance use disorders and issues like anxiety and depression. In many cases, mental health problems need to be addressed for you to make any significant progress in addiction treatment.

NIDA also recommends finding a treatment program that can adapt to your shifting needs throughout treatment. Treatment should be individualized, but it also needs to adapt to new developing needs and concerns throughout the treatment process. Your treatment plan should be assessed every week, and changes should be made as needed.

Altogether, the in-depth, individualized nature of treatment means it will take longer than a week to do it correctly. It’s a process designed to make a lasting change, and change is hard to make permanent.

Medical Detoxification

Addiction treatment often starts with a detoxification process. Medical detox is a represents the highest, most intensive level of addiction treatment. It’s designed to meet immediate medical needs with 24-hour care from medical professionals. Detox lasts for about a week depending on a person’s specific needs.

If you have the potential for dangerous or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, then detoxification will help to stabilize you so that you avoid medical complications and alleviate symptoms. Medical detox can also address issues like injuries and medical issues that need immediate intervention. Once you’re stabilized, you will complete detox and move on to the next phase of treatment.

A patient talking with a therapist about relapse prevention

In some cases, people stop going to treatment after they complete detox; however, addiction is a disease that affects the learning and reward centers of your brain. Detox can help correct chemical imbalances caused by active substance abuse, but it doesn’t address deeper issues that cause addiction. Even after the drug has left your system and your brain has adjusted to operating without it, you may still have strong cravings and the urge to relapse.

Optimal Treatment Duration

Addiction treatment is highly individualized, and people progress at different rates, but there is evidence to suggest that longer treatment is more effective. According to NIDA, research has shown that favorable treatment outcomes are closely dependent on spending enough time in treatment. Studies show treatment that lasts for at least 90 days is the optimal duration for treatment. Maintaining sobriety and ensuring long-lasting positive outcomes requires long-term treatment services and therapies.

However, this doesn’t mean that you will spend three months in an inpatient or residential program. Your treatment plan will respond to your progress and emerging needs. There are four major levels of care, and throughout your 90 days, you may progress through them before completing treatment. Levels of care include:

Medically managed services

This includes medical detox. Medically managed services will have doctors and other medical professionals on staff.

Inpatient services

This involves medical or clinical monitoring and 24 hours of services every day. This level is ideal for people with stable but significant medical needs.

Intensive outpatient services

At this level, you will live independently, but you will have access to intensive services throughout the week. To be considered an intensive outpatient level of care, the program will have to involve more than nine hours of clinical services every week.

Outpatient services

At this level, you will attend less than nine hours of clinical services, but you will continue to attend therapies and complete other objectives in your treatment plan. This level serves as an important stepping stone between more intensive treatment and independent life after treatment.

While you may not be in a 24-hour treatment program for the entirety of your 90 days, but each level of care is an important part of your recovery.

Therapy Types

Therapist talking to a patient about effective treatment

Your addiction treatment plan may come with a variety of therapies that you go through in the pursuit of sobriety and recovery. Most treatment plans will involve individual sessions with a therapist that can help you get to the root of your addiction. However, group therapy sessions are also an important aspect of treatment for many. Group therapy can help you build your social skills, share your struggles with peers that have gone through similar challenges, and help other people.

Effective addiction therapies should be evidence-based, which means their effectiveness is backed up by research and they can be reproduced in a variety of treatment settings. Behavioral therapies are frequently used in addiction treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most highly recommended therapy options in addiction treatment. CBT involves examining how thoughts lead to actions, developing positive coping responses to triggers and stress, and creating relapse prevention strategies.


ASAM. (n.d.). American Society of Addiction Medicine from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, June). Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient? from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, June). 3. Does the program adapt treatment as the patient's needs change? from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? from

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