How Long Should Drug and Alcohol Treatment Take

American culture and society are built on principles of being effective and getting things done quickly and efficiently, but a negative consequence of this mindset is that we tend to try to rush things through. Drug rehab is no exception to this. Everyone wants to find the fastest and easiest solution possible for a problem, and as a result of this many people try to take shortcuts in the effort to get sober after being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

This is why so many people will try to quit drinking or using drugs by simply checking into a 12-step program which does not require that they take any time off from work or spend time away from home. In cases where the person recognizes that it is necessary to take more drastic measures, many will be willing to do no more than a 28-day rehab. Four weeks is a long time to take a leave from work, family and the rest of life in the outside world, right? Maybe, but in many cases it’s not long enough.

How long did it take you to get addicted to drugs or alcohol? How long have you been using? Have you been an addict for a matter of months, or has it been years? In the course of that time, how much damage has been done to your relationships, to your confidence and to your self-esteem? Looking at the full scope of the impact that addiction has had on your life, do you really think you can undo it all in 28 days? Chances are, the answer to this question is “No.”

It will most likely take longer. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to spend as much time recovering from addiction as you did being an addict. At Narconon, most people are able to complete the program in a matter of three to five months, so for some people it’s faster and others take longer. The point is that rehab and real recovery should take as long as necessary to really make the progress necessary to put the person on a stable footing to step back into the outside world and begin living a life of lasting sobriety.

Problems with 28-Day Rehab

A 28-day rehab is essentially a cookie-cutter approach to addiction treatment. It may work for some people, but not everyone will fit into the model and be able to progress on the schedule to fully recover by the end of the fourth week. This approach actually violates the Principles of Effective Treatment as outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which includes a stipulation that effective treatment should attend to multiple needs of the patient, not just his or her drug abuse.

A shorter rehab may give superficial attention to various aspects of recovery, but is it really possible in 28 days to teach a person new life skills that will help him or her enjoy a stable, productive and happy existence while avoiding further substance abuse? Will the person be able to fully detoxify so that there are no drug residues left behind which leave the person liable to unexpected cravings in the future? People who complete a 28-day rehab often come out feeling happy and ready to live sober, but they do so as “recovering addicts,” unsure of their ability to stay sober and essentially walking on thin ice while trying to hold everything together. That’s not real recovery, and the high rate of relapse associated with that approach gives rehab a bad name.

In fact, a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that people who receive brief intervention treatment continue using drugs and alcohol at essentially the same rates as those who get no treatment at all. Rehab is something that is important enough to get right, and getting it right depends on taking enough time to get real results.


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