Addiction is characterised by compulsive substance use even when you know there will be negative consequences and long-term substance misuse can essentially rewire your brain, changing the way you deal with things like pleasure, reward, and impulse control.1
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All of this helps to explain why it is so difficult to break free from addiction using willpower alone, or without the right treatments and strategies in place. Drug and alcohol rehab programmes are designed to address every aspect of your addiction and substance misuse.
This includes dealing with your physical dependency through a managed detox but also involves addressing the root causes of your addiction and your behaviours and ways of thinking related to drugs and alcohol. You will also develop the tools and strategies required to avoid relapse and adopt a healthier lifestyle overall.
All this takes time to accomplish, and you will have to take time out from your everyday life to focus on your recovery. If you are considering rehab for your own addiction treatment, it is perfectly normal to wonder how long alcohol and drug rehab lasts.
How Long Is Drug and Alcohol Rehab Treatment?
The short answer is that there is no set duration for a programme of drug and alcohol treatments at a residential rehab. Programmes are tailored to the individual and may also depend on factors such as the severity of the addiction and substance misuse problems.
Different rehabs will offer different programmes but there are some common elements you can expect to find, including certain durations that are more common than others.
The most common lengths of drug and alcohol rehab programmes are:
7-10 days (detox only)
Detoxification, or drug and alcohol detox, refers to the period during which you process the drugs or alcohol already in your system and deal with the aftermath in terms of cravings and potential withdrawal symptoms.
Some people do attend rehab to go through alcohol and drug detox only but doing so is not generally the best option. This is because you are more likely to relapse if you don’t also undergo the therapies and other treatments involved in a longer and more complete rehab programme. This type of treatment will typically take between 7-10 days.
1 month (28 or 30 days)
A month-long programme is the most common length for a ‘full’ rehab addiction treatment programme. This is generally considered to be the shortest time in which to cover both detox and a holistic programme of treatments to cover the psychological aspects of a full-blown addiction. This type of addiction treatment programme may last for 28 or 30 days, depending on the rehab.
Another option could be a stay that lasts for around 3 months, usually rounded to 90 days. This could be a good choice for someone who is struggling with a very severe addiction or is having difficulties overcoming it.
Other options do exist, including 2-month (60-day) programmes and ones that are longer than 90 days. If someone feels they are still struggling at the end of a 28 or 30-day programme, it may also be possible to extend their stay until they feel more confident in their recovery.
Aftercare programmes can also provide additional support beyond the actual stay in rehab.
Benefits of a 28-day Treatment Programme
A month-long programme is often considered to be a good length of time for rehab as it allows time for both drug and alcohol detox and a full programme of therapies and other treatments.
In general, the first week to 10 days would be dedicated largely to the alcohol and drug detox. After that, guided therapies and other treatments will help you to explore the psychological elements of addiction and other aspects of your recovery.
At the same time, there may be other factors to consider, including cost and the length you can realistically spend in rehab if you have work, family, or other commitments. A 28-day or similar length treatment programme can be a good ‘middle ground’ between shorter but less effective detox-only plans and a lengthier stay in rehab.
What Happens During Rehab?
Different rehab programmes can vary quite widely but will usually start with that period of detox. Long-term substance misuse can lead to chemical dependency and when you suddenly stop or dramatically reduce your drinking or drug use, you can experience a range of withdrawal symptoms.
These can also vary depending on the substance involved and the length and heaviness of use, but they are always unpleasant and can be potentially dangerous. Therefore, it’s always best to undergo detox in a supervised setting, where you can access medical assistance and prescription medications where appropriate.
A longer stay in rehab will be followed by a series of therapies and other treatments. These could include evidence-based psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and 1:1 counselling, as well as group therapy sessions with other residents or family therapy sessions.
Well-being therapies and workshops can help you to improve your overall health and well-being and relapse prevention sessions can help you to develop strategies to avoid relapse once you leave.
One Year of Free Aftercare
A full rehab programme is designed to equip you with everything you need to continue your recovery once you leave. You will address the root causes of your substance misuse and develop strategies and coping mechanisms when it comes to cravings and dealing with stress and other triggers.
There are still likely to be challenging periods though and relapse – starting to drink or take drugs again – can be a constant danger. Therefore, most good rehabs will provide a period of structured aftercare to provide vital support when you need it most.
This could include regular sessions with therapists you worked with during your stay, supportive group catch-ups with fellow former residents, drop-in facilities and support via the phone or live chat when you are at a low ebb. Aftercare typically lasts for 12 months, covering the most dangerous period after rehab. Beyond that, you can access many free resources, charities, and mutual support groups.
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