Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction at a rehabilitation facility is a brave act, but it takes time.

While no two people dealing with addiction are the same, there are general timelines that can provide an idea of how long rehab will last. Leading rehabilitation centers create programs around these timelines based on the brain chemistry of addiction recovery.

Most programs offer an initial 30-day detox program, followed by a long-term recovery program lasting anywhere from 60-90 days.

Why Does Rehab Last for so Long?

Some addictions change the internal chemistry of the brain, which makes an addicted person think, act, and move differently. These changes are involuntary and become a part of their brain function.

Reversing these in-built changes takes a while, usually around 90 days. Because of the broad-reaching consequences of altered brain chemistry, shorter stints in drug rehabilitation are often associated with lower chances of recovery and higher chances of relapse.

According to Richard Smith, the director of Melbourne’s top rehab clinics who was addicted to heroin and alcohol for years, the rehab length is all about the brain. In fact, “the 28-day programs give people a bit of foundation.” However, at this point, the brain chemistry of these people hasn’t changed back yet.

Hence, rehabilitation is broken up into two stages:

  • Stage 1: 28 days
  • Stage 2: 60-90 days

Great rehabilitation facilities also offer mental health treatment in conjunction with addiction recovery treatment. For patients suffering from depression or anxiety, receiving comprehensive treatment for both their addiction and mental health issues offers an increased chance of long term recovery.

How Long Does the 1st Stage of Rehab Last?

Stage one of substance addiction rehabilitation usually lasts around 28 days. The goal of stage one is to wean patients off drugs and alcohol quickly yet effectively and permanently. This first stage involves participation in a compulsory schedule, including:

  • Daily group ‘check-ins’
  • Psychosocial educational groups and classes
  • Weekly one-on-one counseling sessions
  • Regular peer support groups and classes
  • Recreational activities and sporting activities

In this early stage, studies show a significant improvement in the quality of life of the patients, so they enjoy their day-to-day life more. This is believed to be due to the recovery of self-esteem and the re-establishment of a locus of control over their lives.

How Long Until Patients Can Enter the 2nd Stage of Rehab?

The first stage of 28 days helps patients deal with the short term challenge of addiction recovery. Hence, it needs to be partnered with stage two to create lasting sobriety from a crippling addiction.

Entry into stage two requires the patient to be:

  • Completely sober; and
  • From any detox medication used in the initial rehab process in stage one

How Long Does the 2nd Stage of Rehab Last?

Stage two is all about re-establishing normality in a patient’s life. It helps them become capable and confident in their ability to re-enter the real world free from addiction.

In this phase, there’s an emphasis on recovering independence as well as re-establishing responsibility that can take beyond 60 days.

Stage two has less of a rigid schedule since the patients can choose what makes their recovery most effective.

For continuity, most programs offer the same activities in stage one’s program. However, due to the efficacy of calming, holistic therapies, great facilities also offer holistic activities such as:

  • Yoga
  • Fitness programs and fitness training
  • Massage
  • Art therapy
  • Meditation

Why Does Stage 2 of Rehab Take Longer Than Stage 1?

Stage two takes more time than stage one due to the changes in brain chemistry that are necessary for addiction recovery. Besides, it’s the last stepping stone of the rehab journey.

Within stage two, comprehensive rehabilitation centers will also offer ongoing mental health treatment to assist those with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Mental health treatments can increase a patient’s total time in rehab.

At the end of stage two, the goal is to ensure that the patients are ready to lead a normal and healthy life. They should be proven to be completely addiction-free.

Bridging the Gap Between Addiction and Normal Life

One way to bridge the gap between addiction recovery and re-entry into normal life is through transitional housing. The best rehabilitation facilities offer the option of receiving part of stage two treatment while living in facility-owned and operated transitional houses.

Not only does this offer patients a more ‘normal’ venue for receiving treatment, but research documents also helps get used to taking responsibility for their daily lives. In this way, it’s a truly effective stepping stone for people to start a new chapter in life.

Each and every drug and alcohol addiction program is designed with the science of addiction in mind, including brain chemistry changes and the time it takes to reverse them.

The carefully calculated stages are created to enhance a patient’s chances of recovery. Other than that, it aims to decrease the probabilities of relapse while also helping them regain independence and personal responsibility.

It’s these intricate details that make rehabilitation useful and allows those who are battling their addiction to lead a normal life once again.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "How Long Does Rehab Last?," in Medicalopedia, April 30, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8773/how-long-does-rehab-last/].