How Long Does Rehab Take?

How long does rehab take? The length of a  substance or alcohol abuse rehabilitation program varies from person to person. For some people, just a quick detox with a pinch of therapy is enough to get them back on their feet and be productive members of society. For others, it takes a lot more time and effort to go back to living a drug-free life.

In today’s day and age, people want everything to be done quickly and simply. Next-day shipping, online shopping, and internet access on smartphones are just a few examples of how quick and simple society wants life to be. That is just not how it works for the vast majority of people who are going trying to recover from drug addiction. Research has proven time and time again that longer stays at a rehab clinic or in a recovery program lead to reduced rates of relapse resulting in prolonged abstinence.

Steps of Rehab

Recovering from a debilitating drug addiction typically involves multiple steps. The steps to recovery in a rehab clinic include detox, treatment, and aftercare. Even after these steps are completed, overcoming drug addiction and adapting to a lifestyle of abstinence involves a lifelong commitment.


The first step in the rehab process is going through detox to expel the drugs from the body. In a rehab clinic, a medical detox helps people get rid of the drugs in their bodies in the comfort of a medical setting such as a rehabilitation clinic or hospital. Trained medical professionals are with the detoxing person constantly checking their vitals and ensuring their safety. The detox process typically takes anywhere from 3 to 14 days depending on each person and the type of drug used. However, the more serious the drug addiction was the longer the detox process might take. Withdrawal medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are used to ease the painful symptoms associated with withdrawal, which can shorten the length of time it takes to detox.


Continuing with aftercare once treatment at a rehab clinic is over is key to lifelong abstinence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 to 60 percent of people who have a substance use disorder relapse. Relapse is not a failure, it is a part of addiction recovery.

Just like no two people are alike, everyone’s recovery experience will be different. Some people are able to overcome their addiction with little to no aftercare. Others need aftercare for extended periods of time or even the rest of their life to keep them on track and prevent relapse. Aftercare provides the best results when treatment intensity varies to each person’s changing needs.

Aftercare can help reduce a person’s chances of experiencing a relapse. Follow-up care can include community or family-based recovery support systems. Examples of aftercare programs are 12-step programs and sober living houses.

A sober living house is an alcohol and drug-free living environment for people undergoing recovery from addiction. These houses are based around the notions of mutual sobriety support, self-efficacy, and residential participation. Sober living houses have been found to be beneficial and effective in preventing relapse of substance use.

Another form of aftercare is 12-step programs. Examples of 12-step programs are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA). Following treatment, 12-step programs have been found to be effective in preventing alcohol and drug use.

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Determining the Length of Drug or Alcohol Treatment

Once a person arrives at their rehabilitation clinic they will speak with a specialist who will diagnose their substance use disorder and determine the best treatment plan to fit their needs. The length of drug or alcohol treatment will be based upon how well a person is doing in treatment. For some people, it will be shorter than others.

How long are rehab programs? Depending on the type of rehabilitation a person attends and their specific needs the length of time a alcohol rehab program lasts can vary. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people who are addicted to drugs need at least 3 months in treatment to greatly reduce or stop their drug use. However, the best results happen with longer durations of treatment. The longer a person is exposed to treatment, either at a rehabilitation clinic or in the form of aftercare the better their chances will be to prevent relapse.

Another article mentioned that people typically spend 7 to 11 days at an inpatient hospital-based treatment, 30 to 90 days at a residential rehabilitation clinic, and 6 months to 9 years at therapeutic communities (outpatient clinics). The article also mentioned that people typically attended aftercare or continued care for 2 years or longer.

The Benefits of Long-Term Treatment

A few benefits of long-term treatment are a reduction in substance use, reduced crime, reduced risk of infectious diseases, and increased personal health, and improved social functions. Another great benefit is that the longer a person stays in treatment the less chance they will experience relapse which can result in lifelong abstinence.

A final benefit of attending a high-quality long-term rehabilitation clinic is that they provide continuous care and support for people working to overcome a substance addiction. Rehab clinics remove barriers to recovery such as peer pressure, access to drugs or alcohol, triggers that cause them to use drugs or drink, and dangerous conditions. Long-term treatment at a rehabilitation clinic keeps your loved one from being exposed to drugs and alcohol and stressful situations that can cause them to use which allows them to focus on their recovery. If you find yourself asking more questions about addiction rehab when it comes to visitation rules, cost of rehab, can you smoke cigarettes in rehab, can you bring your cellphone to rehab or some of the most frequently asked questions about rehab we’re here to help!


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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