When you’re considering drug and alcohol rehab, you likely have many questions. Some of these questions, like what type of treatment is best, the difference between inpatient and outpatient programs, and the kind of services a treatment program offers are socially accepted and asked often.

Others, like how many people actually recover from substance use challenges, the likelihood of relapse, and whether recovery can actually last a lifetime are just as important but asked less frequently.

Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we believe that the best solutions for drug and alcohol recovery are thorough and holistic. In order to deliver those kinds of solutions, we believe that all questions deserve answers. To that end, we’ve put together an informative guide detailing everything you need to know about how long drug and alcohol rehab actually lasts.

By definition, rehabilitation is the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after a period of addiction or illness. In our case, drug and alcohol rehab is the process of restoring individuals with substance use issues back to a healthier state. The best rehabilitation programs work to restore an individual’s entire well-being, including their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and mental health. But most people are unaware of the step-by-step process that’s involved in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, especially the length of time needed in order for each step to be effective.

What to Expect: The Steps Involved in Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Successfully recovering from any form of substance use requires multiple steps. Regardless of the type of treatment received, alcohol and drug rehabilitation occur in the following phases:

  • Detox
  • Treatment
  • Aftercare

Based on the severity of the addiction and the type of treatment needed, each phase lasts for a certain length of time.

Detox: Clearing the Body of Drugs & Alcohol

Although it is often the shortest aspect of rehab detox, for many, is the hardest part of addiction treatment and should only be conducted under careful clinical and medical care. While the average amount of time for detox is seven to ten days, the amount of time it takes for someone to fully detox depends on the substance used. As expected, severe substance use disorders require a longer time to detox.

The average time needed for detox, according to the substance used, include:

  • Alcohol requires approximately 3 to 14 days
  • Heroin requires approximately 4 to 10 days
  • Methadone and other narcotics require approximately 10 to 20 days
  • Benzodiazepines and other psychoactive drugs require approximately 2 to 8 weeks or longer

These days and weeks are critical for successful rehab because sobriety cannot be achieved without ensuring all drugs and alcohol are removed from the body. As noted above, everyone’s addiction experience is different, and their detoxification process may take less or more time than the standard.

Treatment: Healing the Damage Caused by Addiction

Treating substance use challenges can take anywhere from 30 days to a year or more based on the severity of the addiction and the type of treatment. Treatment typically includes individual and group therapy, counseling, family mediation, and other activities intended to replace harmful behaviors with positive, healthier alternatives. Some of the most common rehabilitation programs include:

  • Short-term residential
  • Long-term residential
  • Partial hospitalization program (outpatient)
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Outpatient

Short-Term Residential Treatment

  • Short-term residential treatment provides an intensive treatment program that usually lasts 27 to 30 days. Clients enrolled in this program live onsite at the treatment facility and participate in scheduled recovery-focused activities. Individual and group therapy, as well as life skills training and family therapy, are also key components of this program.

Long-Term Residential Programs

  • Similarly, clients in long-term residential programs also live onsite while receiving treatment. But unlike those in short-term residential treatment, long-term residency programs last 90 days on average, with some lasting 6 months or longer. Both short-term and long-term programs provide clients the resources they needed to successfully transition back home.

PHP & IOP Treatment

  • The median length of time clients spend in partial hospitalization programs (PHP) or intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) can range from 80 to 90 days. Unlike residential programs, clients enrolled in this specific type of program do not live onsite while receiving treatment. Instead, they often live at home or with a friend or family member. Often, the IOP level of care takes place after someone has completed an inpatient residential program in order to help them ease back into their family, community, and everyday life.

Outpatient Treatment

  • Standard outpatient treatment is very similar to intensive outpatient treatment, but because it’s a little less intense, it lasts longer, with the average length of time in treatment ranging from 90 to 130 days.

All in all, no one treatment is the same. In addition to being structured differently, different treatment programs require different lengths of time to be effective. At a minimum, individuals in inpatient programs should expect to be in treatment for 25 days, where clients in outpatient programs should expect to be in treatment for 75 days. Research has shown, however, that treatment is more effective the longer a client enrolls in a rehabilitation program.

Aftercare: Supporting & Maintaining a Sober Lifestyle

Despite what many might think, rehabilitation does not end after treatment. An essential part of recovery is ensuring individuals are able to maintain sobriety long after they finish treatment. Regardless of the length of treatment, appropriate aftercare is critical. Like detox and treatment, the length of aftercare is also extremely important.

With the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting a 40 to 60% relapse rate for people completing addiction treatment, participating in aftercare can be crucial for decreasing the risk of relapse. Aftercare, depending on the severity of the addiction, typically ranges from 1 to 4 years. Some individuals will need recovery services for their entire lifetime. Aftercare activities can include:

  • Participation in self-help meetings such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous
  • Internet-based interventions
  • Self-monitoring through telephone-based systems
  • Residing in a sober-living home

More specific forms of aftercare include:

  • Creating a daily routine and schedule
  • Establishing a support system
  • Maintaining a recovery journal, including triggers and how they were overcome
  • Repairing broken or damaged relationships
  • Developing 5 to 10-year plans for personal, professional and financial goals
  • Celebrating important recovery milestones

Factors that Affect How Long Rehab Lasts

Although the type of substance used and the severity of the addiction can greatly affect the length of the rehabilitation process, there are other factors that affect how long individuals remain in rehab. These include:

  • Depth of the initial assessment
  • Expertise and experience of the treatment program’s staff
  • Whether or not the client has been in treatment before
  • Whether or not the client has relapsed before
  • The severity of the detox process (i.e. withdrawal)
  • Family history and genetics
  • The amount of substance used prior to treatment
  • Co-occurring health conditions
  • Length of the addiction

Benefits of Programs that are 90 Days or Longer


Experts agree that addiction treatment programs that last for 90 days or longer are most effective.

In fact, a study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that out of 1600 people being treated for weekly cocaine use, 35% of clients who stayed in rehab 90 days or less relapsed within a year of treatment. Out of those who remained in rehabilitation for 90 days or more, only 17% of them used again within a year.

Some key benefits of longer rehabilitation include:

  • More time to work with trained professionals
  • More time to develop skills needed for sober living
  • More time to uncover the root causes of the addiction

When Relapse Happens, Does Treatment Begin Again?

Despite popular assumptions, relapse does not mean that treatment has failed. In fact, most people who have successfully completed addiction treatment relapse at one point in their lives. When relapse happens, it’s an indication that additional treatment is needed, not that the treatment the person has already received has failed.

While treatment providers will adjust detox, treatment and aftercare plans after a relapse, this additional round of treatment is a continuation of the recovery journey, not a restart. Don’t lose hope. The myth that relapse means treatment has not worked and will never work is completely false. No one becomes addicted in a day, and no one recovers from addiction in a day. It takes an incredible amount of time, patience, and treatment to sustain a lasting recovery.

We Believe in Quality

Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we know from experience that successful recoveries are a result of quality treatment, but there are also a result of an appropriate amount of time. Recovering from addiction is not a process that can be rushed. Our comprehensive rehabilitation programs have helped thousands of people recover. Call our offices today at 833.999.1941.

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