How Long Drug and Alcohol Rehab Lasts

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 | By Michelle Rosenker

patients in drug rehab smiling

More than 20 million adults struggle with substance use disorder in the United States. The vast majority of those adults (roughly 15%) are addicted to alcohol, while the rest are addicted to drugs like heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and meth. Unfortunately, less than 10% of those addicted to drugs and alcohol seek professional addiction treatment. 

There are several reasons why those in need shy away from getting treatment. They may be scared to go into withdrawal, are afraid of what others might think of them, or simply just do not want to stop using. Others grapple with the idea of having to put their lives on pause while they get treatment. The potential length of time that someone may need to devote to treatment can be intimidating in itself, acting as another deterrent for an addict or alcoholic who needs help. However, none of these reasons are reason enough to avoid getting professional addiction treatment. Studies have proven that the best and most effective way to treat addiction is through a combination of medication and therapy, all of which is offered through rehab. And, studies also show that the longer a person remains in rehab, the more likely they are to avoid relapse and stay sober. 

how long rehab lasts timeline

How Long Will I Be in Rehab?

If you have accepted treatment, one of the first things you will have questions about is how long you will be staying in rehab. Unfortunately, at the time of admissions, it is nearly impossible to determine the exact length of your stay. This is because your time spent in rehab is based on factors such as your continued progress in the program and the professional opinion of your therapist and other specialists. Most all incoming patients, however, prepare to remain involved in treatment for at least 30 days, regardless of what level of care they are set to receive. The amount of time that you will continue in your program will be decided upon as you go, as your care remains fluid to accommodate your needs. 

Prior to getting you started in a treatment program, you will need to speak with the admissions team at the treatment center where you are seeking care. These professionals work to gather as much information about you and your relationship with drugs and/or alcohol in an effort to develop a personalized care plan. 

During your admissions interview, you will be asked several questions. It is imperative to be as honest with your answers as possible, as the type of care you receive will be based on what information you provide. Some of the most basic questions that are asked when entering into a treatment program include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What substances have you abused?
  • What substance are currently you abusing?
  • How long have you been abusing this substance for?
  • How much of this substance are you using at a time?
  • Are you using more than one substance at a time? If so, which substances and how much?
  • Do you have any diagnosed mental health conditions?
  • Do you have any medical conditions?
  • Do you have a family history of substance abuse? If so, with who?
  • Do you have a family history of mental illness? If so, with who?
  • Do you have family members with co-occurring conditions?
  • What is your current living environment like?
  • Are you employed? If so, what is your work schedule? 
  • Do you have insurance?
  • Do you have a support system at home?

Your answers will help admissions specialists better understand things such as the severity of your substance abuse, your family history with this and other diseases, and what your current home environment is like. This information is vital, as all of it is utilized to make the best, most effective recommendations for your care. 

As you begin your treatment, you will be working closely with several mental health professionals who are going to help guide you in your recovery. In many ways, the amount of time you spend in rehab is dependent on you. The more freely you share information, the easier it is for therapists to help treat you. Remaining dedicated to and focused on your therapy can also speed up the process. However, keep in mind that sometimes, regardless of what you do on your end, remaining in treatment for a designated amount of time may be what is best for your unique situation. 

So, how long do people tend to stay in treatment? Most treatment programs offer options for 30, 60, or 90 days long stays. Depending on what level of treatment you begin with, you may then step down to other levels of care to gradually transition out of treatment. The length of time that you remain in other levels of care usually ranges from 6-12 weeks per program. As a result, you may spend anywhere from 30 days to more than a year in treatment, but again, that window of time is carefully determined and you have the option of continuing to participate or not (however not following medical/psychiatric advice is usually recommended against). 

levels of treatment

Programming Options

While some programs last longer than others, all of them have their own specific structure designed to accommodate a wide array of patients and their needs. Rehab programs include the following:


Detoxification, or “detox,” is an absolute necessity for those individuals who are dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. This is the first step for many who begin treatment for addiction, as getting mind-altering substances out of the body is critical. During detox, patients will be supervised around-the-clock while they await drugs and/or alcohol to clear their systems. This supervision is necessary, as detoxing causes several withdrawal symptoms to develop that can require medical attention. People can stay in detox anywhere from a few days to about two weeks or so until they move on to a therapeutic program. Typically, the more serious the addiction, the more time a person spends in detox. Once detox has been completed, the patient can then decide what their next steps are in regards to further treatment. 

Residential treatment

Residential treatment programs are an excellent option if you are dealing with a severe substance use disorder, have a history of frequent relapse, or require more intensive therapy. If you enroll in this type of rehab, you will live at the facility for the duration of your therapy, which can last anywhere from 30-90 days depending on your needs. 

Partial hospitalization program

A partial hospitalization program, or PHP, is ideal if you do not need to live at a treatment facility but still require daily therapy and medical assistance. You remain at home and go to the facility each day to participate in therapy, receive daily medications, and obtain medical care if necessary. Partial hospitalization programs are short-term treatment programs, meaning that patients usually only spend a few weeks there. In some cases, however, patients can remain in a partial hospitalization program for a few months at a time. 

Intensive outpatient program

Intensive outpatient programs, or IOP’s, often last anywhere from a few weeks to up to six months. During those weeks, you will continue to live at home but go to the facility multiple times per week. You will spend several hours a day in therapy while at the facility, meaning that it will be unlikely for you to maintain a full-time job or major commitment elsewhere if you are in this program. You may begin your treatment in an IOP or you may transition into an IOP from residential treatment or detox, meaning that your overall stay in rehab can be anywhere from a few months to more than a year. When participating in an IOP only, however, six months is usually max.

Outpatient treatment 

When you do not need intensive care for your addiction, or when you need further treatment after completing higher levels of care, outpatient treatment can be your best choice. The time you spend in outpatient treatment will be reflective of your needs. Usually, however, outpatient programs run from a couple of weeks to over a year. Each week you will go to the facility and participate in therapy, however, you will not stay at the facility for long periods of time each day, allowing for you to uphold a job, responsibilities at home, and maintain other obligations.


If you complete the addiction treatment you are obtaining through professional facilities, you may still need (and even want) to participate in other services that help you maintain your newfound recovery. Thankfully, when you return to your home, you can still receive this sort of support. 

Some of the most common options for aftercare once you have completed your program include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Individualized therapy sessions — Prior to leaving treatment, work with your current therapist or other mental health specialists to find a therapist in your community to continue your progress with. Most of the time, treatment facilities can provide several different referrals for a therapist, psychologist, and/or a psychiatrist in your area, eliminating the guesswork when you return home. Once you have a mental health professional lined up, make an appointment with them for as soon as you complete your program so that you can practice good continuity of care. This affords you the opportunity to further maintain your recovery. 
  • Local support groups — By the time you finish treatment, you will be well aware of just how important the support of others is in your recovery. You may be nervous about leaving your normal group of friends in recovery, but know that the amazing support you have garnered there can still be obtained. In most every community, there are several meeting options for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), amongst other support groups. Attending meetings regularly can keep you connected to others in recovery all while encouraging your continued sobriety. 
  • Alumni events — When supplemented with other forms of aftercare, attending alumni events at your treatment facility can aid in your recovery, too. Most treatment centers will hold large monthly meetings, host family weeks, or even set up dinner functions for alumni patients. Keeping in contact with the people who have helped you develop your recovery can keep you on the right track. 

A critical piece of anyone’s recovery is giving back to others, whether those others be friends and family or people in the community, is volunteering. Giving through volunteering promotes humbleness and sense of purpose, as well as the gratification of being able to help others. Consider including volunteering into your aftercare plan, as doing so offers these and several other benefits. Each one of these aftercare components has no expiration date, as many people see a therapist, go to AA/NA meetings, and volunteer for the rest of their lives. 

Importance of Rehab

It is completely understandable that you do not want to remain in rehab for a long time — no one does. It would be ideal to be able to be treated quickly and move on with your life, but unfortunately, that is not how this specific disease is addressed. In order to fully treat a substance use disorder, a comprehensive treatment plan needs to be developed that addresses your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. 

So, since there is no magic pill you can take to make your addiction go away, accepting that this is the road you need to travel is the best thing you can do for yourself. When you go to rehab, you are not just stopping your use, but instead focusing on several aspects of your life that need repair. Rather than focusing on a timeline, focus instead on why obtaining rehab is so important. Consider the following:

  • Rehab offers a safe, clean, and supervised space for you to detox in, where you can receive care from both mental health and medical professionals
  • You will identify the underlying issues that have contributed to your substance abuse and develop healthy ways to address them
  • If you have a co-occurring disorder (or are diagnosed with one while in treatment), you will benefit from having both conditions treated simultaneously 
  • Family involvement is encouraged, helping you address the issues you may have with one another and begin building a strong foundation together in recovery
  • You will have access to mental health professionals who are skilled in providing therapies proven to help treat symptoms of addiction
  • You will learn about addiction as a disease 
  • You will work to develop numerous relapse prevention strategies 

Each and every one of these benefits will help you shape a solidified recovery so that you can live without active addiction negatively impacting your life. Paying attention to these benefits, working hard to reap the rewards for them, and focusing little on how long you will be in treatment can make your entire experience easier (and in some cases, faster). 

Helping a Loved One Get Into Rehab

Making the decision to get help is never easy for someone who is struggling with an addiction. There are many factors that they consider when the time comes to say “yes” or “no” to treatment, including how long they will need to stay in treatment. It is common for addicts and alcoholics to get skittish about treatment because they are nervous about how long it will take. There is no doubt that thousands of people spend extended periods of time in treatment, however just as many obtain everything they need within a short period of time. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing this until the decision has already been made. 

If you have a loved one who is fearful of the time commitment they will need to give while in treatment, consider the following:

  • Talk with your loved one about how deeply their substance abuse is affecting you. Do so in a manner where you are not threatening them or being judgmental so that they can really understand what you are trying to say (rather than just getting mad at you)
  • Set boundaries so that you loved one does not prolong their substance abuse but instead begins coming around to the idea of treatment 
  • Locate resources for them in the community, such as treatment centers and support groups that can help them realize that the importance of treatment outweighs the time they may have to spend getting care. 
  • Offer to take some of the stress of their plate by setting up treatment for them, allowing them to feel less pressure by time constraints and what the future may hold for them

Above all else, reach out for help for yourself. You will be the best ally you can possibly be for your loved one if you are taking the time to educate and care for yourself. 

Addiction Treatment with JourneyPure Bowling Green

If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol and you need help, stop everything you are doing and call us right now. We understand how challenging it is to live with active addiction, which is why we are encouraging you to get in touch with us today. We can help you overcome any fears you may have about treatment, including concerns you have about how long you may need to remain in a program. 

Do not wait any longer. Reach out to us right now so we can get started on developing a personalized treatment plan just for you. 

Get the Help You Deserve.

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