Is 30 Days Enough Time for Rehab?

Making the decision to get help for addiction and attend a rehab program is a big step. Usually, people have to work through a process of denial and acceptance before they finally take that step. It’s natural that once someone decides to enter rehab, they want the best possible care to set themselves up for a lifetime of sobriety. To that end, many people find themselves wondering whether 30 days is actually enough time for a full recovery. The short answer to this is no, a 30-day rehab program on its own isn’t enough, but the real answer is a bit more complicated than that. Addiction is a complex disease, and one that affects addicts to varying degrees depending on a number of factors including the substance(s) they’re dependent on, how long they’ve used, their life situation, the degree to which addiction has impacted their lives, etc. As a result, treatment of addiction must be just as varied and complex as the disease itself. What works best for one person may not be the most effective treatment for another. Best practice shows that a personalized combination of treatment methods is needed to effectively treat addiction. To really answer the question of whether a 30-day inpatient rehab program is enough, let’s take a look at what the purpose of rehab is, and the difference between a treatment and a cure


Addiction is a chronic illness, meaning that it’s lifelong and can’t be cured, but it can be treated. While the specifics may vary, all addiction treatments attempt to replace destructive, addictive behaviors, with healthy, sober ones and to maintain that sobriety over an extended period of time. The goal of rehab is to give clients a safe space to detox and begin their recovery to build a solid foundation for sobriety, and to equip them with the tools they need to build upon that foundation. After a rehab stay, clients are directed into long-term, outpatient treatments where they can continue to build upon that foundation. This is known as “aftercare,” and it’s a vital part of recovery. 


Many studies show that people are at the highest risk of relapsing in the period immediately following the completion of a rehab inpatient program. Rehab offers a safe space to begin to recover, and it keeps people away from substances during the period where their cravings are most intense. Once they’re released from rehab, there’s really nothing between them and alcohol and drugs other than the choice not to buy and consume them. Common aftercare programs include traditional 12-step groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, and non-12-step groups and programs such as SMART recovery. The purpose of aftercare programs is to continue to learn and practice coping mechanisms to deal with cravings and stress in a healthy and productive way, as well as provide a source of mutual social support. Aftercare is less definite than inpatient rehab programs; while it’s generally recommended that people stay in aftercare programs for at least a year, many find it a comforting and helpful part of their lives and continue to attend them for years. 


While 30-day inpatient rehab treatment programs are the standard length of stay, they’re not necessarily the best. The National Institute on Drug Abuse actually recommends at least 90-day treatment programs, stating that “participation for less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness.” A study published by NIDA also found that relapse rates a year after treatment for people who attended rehab for a minimum of 90 days were 17%, while those who were in a treatment program for less than 90 days had a relapse rate of 35%. If studies show that treatment programs that last for less than 90 days are less effective, then why is the standard length of inpatient rehab programs only 30 days? It certainly wasn’t based on the best medical evidence at the time, but rather to meet purely bureaucratic demands. 


30-day rehab programs were first developed by the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s. It was important to the military for service members undergoing addiction treatment to not be out of service for too long, and 30 days was the maximum length of time soldiers could be out of duty before needing to be reassigned. This default length of stay was translated into the civilian sector when insurance companies were happy to latch on to 30 days as a maximum length of stay they would be responsible for covering. The best rehab programs will have doctors work directly with clients and their insurance to make the best case for why a longer rehab stay is medically necessary, and develop payment plans that work for their clients.

None of this is to say that 30-day inpatient rehab programs are useless. They certainly offer far better outcomes than no inpatient rehab treatment at all. Longer stays can help to build a more sturdy foundation, and they give people more time with doctors and therapists to dig into and address the root causes of addiction and to identify and treat any co-occurring disorders a client may be experiencing such as PTSD. 30-day programs may not be the ideal length of stay, but they can still be a good first step. 


No matter the length of stay, Sunshine Behavioral Health will work hard to provide our clients with the best possible care to give them the greatest chance of long-term success. We work with our clients to develop a comprehensive aftercare plan so that even once they leave inpatient treatment, they continue to get treatment and better themselves and their lives. Sunshine Behavioral Health offers 30, 60, and 90-day inpatient treatment programs, and we work with each individual client to find a mix of treatment methods that work best for them. With five locations in California, Texas, Colorado, and Illinois, we have world-class staff, doctors, and addiction counselors ready to help you or your loved one today. Visit us at to learn more. 



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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