How Long Does Rehab Last for Alcohol and Drug Addiction?

Last Updated: April 12, 2024

Nena Messina Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.
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Addiction treatment centers offer rehab programs that cater to individuals with various levels of physical and mental issues caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Addiction therapy includes a wide variety of treatment procedures that largely depend on the case and individual in question. How long is rehab for alcohol? Those considering enrolling in a rehab center often want to know the alcohol recovery timeline. What determines how long to break an addiction, and in extreme cases, and how long is drug detox?

Rehab time often has a specific structure depending on the patient’s needs. The rehab time for an alcohol addict will undoubtedly differ from the rehab time of a drug user or those with underlying issues leading to substance abuse.

So, how long does it take to get over an addiction? This guide looks at the drug and alcohol recovery timeline and how long it takes to break an addiction.

How Long Does it Take to Get Over an Addiction?

While discussing drug and alcohol recovery timeline, some of the questions that come to mind are how long does it take to get over an addiction, how long does rehab last, and what factors may affect rehab time?

The simple answer is that every addiction, though caused by substance abuse, is unique and is affected by many factors. For example, some people may ask how long rehab lasts due to the difference in the recovery rate of patients.

Average Duration of Rehab Programs.

There Are Three Primary Therapy Program Lengths to Choose From, Depending on the Severity of Addiction:

  • 30-day recovery program
  • 60-day recovery program
  • 90-day recovery program
  • Extended aftercare therapy such as halfway housing or sober living homes

30-day Treatment

While asking “how long is rehab for alcohol,” it is pertinent to consider the three structured programs and extensions, depending on the substance use history of the person. Many individuals dependent on drugs and alcohol start with a 30-day rehab time. This period may be considerable time for recovery. In some cases, the individual gains insight into the need to continue the program further or round off the 30-day therapy and proceed to aftercare going forward. During the 30-day rehab time, the therapy consisting of physical and mental care is strategically aligned to help the individual heal. Generally, addiction treatment should not be rushed as recovery is a long-term process.

The cost for this program is usually the lowest, and insurance may or even may not be needed.

60-day Treatment

Patients who ask “how long is a drug detox” will undoubtedly benefit from a 60-day intensive health care rehabilitation. There are tailored sessions that include family and loved ones. The family of the patient gets to contribute meaningfully to their healing. A 60-day treatment at any center provides adequate time for full detox from drugs and alcohol.

Insurance companies will likely not cover complete treatment, but some rehabs have a robust payment plan to enable patients to spread payment over a while.

90-day Treatment

The 90-day drug and alcohol recovery timeline may seem exceptionally long and tedious. However, the longer the time spent receiving physical and mental health care, the higher the chances of maintaining sobriety during the recovery process. A patient will undergo detox, individual and group therapy, evaluation, and aftercare plan during this period. A 90-day treatment is usually recommended for long-term and severe addictions. An insurance plan is valuable for this program as it can be very costly. With a great insurance plan and a flexible payment plan, one can achieve good health and long-term sobriety through this program.

Extended Therapy

After the 30-90 days program, it is pertinent to solidify one’s resolve to maintain sobriety by entering an additional structured program called extended care. The sober living program provides peer-to-peer support and an environment to share and learn through the experiences of others.

The Average Duration of Various Rehab Programs Is as Follows: 

Median Length of Rehab Time

Detox 4 days Alcohol 3-14 days
Methadone 10-20 days
Benzodiazepines 2-8 weeks or longer
Heroine 4-10 days
Outpatient treatment 130 days
Outpatient medication-assisted opioid therapy 207 days
Short-term residential treatment 27 days
Intensive outpatient treatment 88 days
Hospital residential treatment 16 days
Long-term residential treatment 90 days

How Long is a Drug Detox?

When people talk about detoxing, they usually refer to the period it takes a person to detox medically, i.e., to remove the substance from one’s body altogether. Determining a timeline for withdrawals is not an exact science. So, how long does rehab last for detox?

The time it will take for someone to cleanse their body of a substance depends on many factors.

Withdrawal Timelines Can Be Influenced by Such Factors As:

  • Age
  • Amount of substance used
  • Length of time substance was used
  • Overall health

These timelines are meant as rough guides to determine when symptoms will present themselves and subside. Of course, another factor that affects when a person will start having withdrawals is the form of the kind of drug they are using — whether that form is fast-acting or extended-release. But one also needs to keep in mind that drug recovery doesn’t end with the end of withdrawal symptoms. There’s a lot more to be done to recover from addiction successfully.

Can One Do a Rapid Detox to Avoid Going Through Withdrawals?

Many people looking to break an addiction have heard of something called a “rapid detox.” During this procedure, a person is put under anesthesia and injected with a medication that will help the body purge itself of whatever drug the person may be detoxing from. Sounds a little too good to be true? That’s because it is.

Unfortunately, there is no quick, painless way to become “un-addicted” to a substance. People who do undergo “rapid detox” treatments may experience:

  • painful muscle and joint aches
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • other typical withdrawal symptoms after coming out from under anesthesia.

Patients are often prescribed multiple medications to help manage these symptoms.

A study published in the Journal of American Medicine that researchers at Columbia University Medical Center performed Produced Some Other Interesting Findings:

  • Patients who underwent rapid detox experienced withdrawals that were just as severe as those of a patient who did not.
  • Almost 10 percent of patients suffered life-threatening events during or after the rapid detox procedure despite being closely monitored, and taking multiple preventative safety measures can be fatal.
  • Eighty percent of rapid detox patients dropped out of follow-up treatment.

Rapid detox may shorten rehab time but is exceptionally unpredictable even under controlled conditions and extremely dangerous. Therefore, it is advised to discuss extensively with a medical professional some possible alternatives with lesser physical and mental health risks.

Five- and Seven-day Detox Programs

These programs place someone in a safe environment where they can detox with the help of medications and constant monitoring of medical professionals. Trained professionals know the physical and emotional effects of withdrawals and can provide relief and support during the worst phases of withdrawal. These programs should never be considered as “treatment.” Instead, they are meant as an alternative to those who may not afford inpatient care or those who cannot leave their home lives for the amount of time that inpatient care requires, often because of their children or occupation.

doctor explains drug withdrawal to an elderly man.

Drugs and Alcohol Recovery Timelines

How long is drug rehab? And how long would it take to break withdrawal symptoms to drugs and alcohol? Unfortunately, these questions differ between individuals due to physiological differences.

Factors Affecting Recovery Timeline

Factors That May Affect the Recovery Timeline Include:

  • Metabolism of the person
  • Age: younger individuals have a faster metabolism
  • Weight: heavier people exert drugs longer
  • History of drug use
  • Type of substance used

Relative Recovery Timelines of Common Drugs of Abuse

Here Are Some Drugs and Their Relative Recovery Timelines:

Drug Name Recovery Timeline
Cocaine The substance stays for about 5 days in the system. Rehab may take about a week to a month, depending on the frequency of use.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin in 6 hours and are worst at 72 hours. Recovery can take up to a week or longer for heavier long-term drinkers.
Heroin After the initial two weeks of flu symptoms during detox, the substance may take months to recover from. Weaning is usually the technique used to get the patient off heroin and onto a less addictive substance.
Ketamine Withdrawal symptoms may last for up to 2 weeks before it begins to subside, after which recovery may take another one week. The timeline for ketamine is more or less 28 days.
Marijuana Recovery from cannabis addiction may take a week for less severe cases, heavy users may require up to a month of detox to recover.
GHB Withdrawal begins 24 hours after cessation and detox may take five days or more. In total 28 days of rehabilitation is recommended for maximum recovery.
Crystal Meth Basic withdrawals may last up to 4 days before the most intense phases of withdrawal which may last up to 14 days. Recovery may continue for up to 3 months or more, depending on the individual.

Cocaine Recovery Duration

During the first 72 hours after the last use, cocaine users will feel a “crash,” experiencing depression, remorse, and extreme fatigue. If the person sleeps during this time, they often wake up feeling unrested and unwell in general. The worst physical symptoms start to fade around three to seven days after last use.

After the first three days, feelings of depression, anxiety, and dysphoria may be present, along with irritability, paranoia, and unpleasant dreams. Some may also experience an increase in appetite. After the first week, extreme cravings are reduced significantly.

After two weeks of withdrawals, cravings may return, presenting challenges.

About a month after the last use, mood swings, depression, and problems with sleep are typical. Symptoms of withdrawal may linger anywhere from six months to years after last use.

Methamphetamines Recovery Duration

In heavy users, withdrawals from methamphetamines (crystal meth, specifically) can begin within the first 24 hours after the last use. In the first one to three days after discontinuation, the person will experience extreme fatigue, depression, and intense cravings.

Because meth can stay in the body for up to three days, withdrawal symptoms usually reach their peak between days two and five.

Toward the end of the first week, continuing into the beginning of the second week, symptoms include more cravings, mood swings, and an inability to experience pleasure, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms like restlessness, body aches, and an increased appetite. Psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations (rare) are also possible. Acute withdrawal symptoms typically subside within the first one to two weeks after the person’s last use.

Throughout the first month or so, cravings will gradually decrease after the acute withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Between months two and four of sobriety, people typically “hit a wall” where depression overcomes the individual, often causing cravings to return. Between four and six months is when things start to get easier.

Opiates Recovery Duration

With short-acting opiates, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 to 12 hours after last use.

During the first 24 to 48 hours, the patient will start to experience agitation. Next, a person will experience severe muscle aches and body pains because their numbing agent is no longer present. Then, profuse sweating, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, and cold symptoms like a runny nose will occur. The patient will most likely also have feelings of anxiety and difficulty sleeping. For long-acting forms of the drug, symptoms can be delayed as long as 72 hours until the drug is completely out of one’s system.

Between days three and five, the most severe symptoms have usually subsided. Though diarrhea typically stops around this time, the patient will still experience chills, goosebumps, and vomiting, as well as abdominal cramping. As one can see, the combination of symptoms experienced during opiate withdrawals tends to present much like those of the flu.

Asian female doctor helps patient during drug detox.

Benzodiazepines Recovery Duration

Benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms may begin in as little as six to eight hours after the last dose for short-acting benzos such as Xanax, Ativan, and Halcion. For longer-acting benzos, the onset of withdrawal symptoms may be delayed for up to two days.

For the first few days after the drug has left a person’s symptom, he or she will most likely experience anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness to the point of akathisia (the feeling of being compelled to remain constantly in motion, i.e., fidgeting, rocking, etc.).

For the first two weeks, a person may experience derealization, dysphoria, ringing in the ears, headaches, migraines, and tactile hallucinations, in addition to early withdrawal symptoms. Many people find that these symptoms build until they peak around the two-week mark.

After the first two weeks, acute withdrawal symptoms set in and can stay with the person for two or three months. Some of these symptoms (in addition to those mentioned above) include dizziness, muscle cramps, tremors, blurred or double vision, changes in appetite, depression, confusion, irritability, hostility, intense dreams or nightmares, and irrational fears such as agoraphobia.

After two or three months, many of the symptoms seem to ease up, and the person starts to feel better.

About four or five months in, many psychological symptoms may return or worsen. People experience more dizziness, confusion, anxiety, depression, suffer from memory loss problems and experience a severe disconnect from reality.

Between six and twelve months after last use, many people feel some symptoms start to fade. Although, many post-acute withdrawal symptoms can stay with people for years after stopping using.

Alcohol Recovery Duration

Alcohol withdrawals tend to have more distinct phases than the withdrawal processes of other drugs.

In the first 6 to 12 hours after the last consumption, a person starts to experience nausea, abdominal pain, tremors, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety, mood swings, and insomnia.

Between two and three days after the last use, the patient will be dealing with increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, inconsistent heartbeat, and confusion.

Around 72 hours after the last drink, more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as fever, hallucinations, and seizure, start to set ins. In addition, agitation, more moodiness, and severe confusion also occur.

Between five and seven days is when symptoms tend to decrease in intensity.

How Long Does Rehab Last for Different Rehab Programs?

The possibility of a patient recovering from addiction has a whole lot to do with the programs offered at the rehabilitation facility. As every case is different depending on the nature and type of addiction, the programs are tailored to the individual’s needs. How long is rehab for alcohol, and how long is drug rehab for inpatient and outpatient programs?

How Long Does Inpatient Rehab Take?

Inpatient programs include detoxing services and are typically available in 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day programs. Some facilities will allow extensions on these programs if individuals feel they would benefit from more time spent in treatment.

During these programs, one gets over the physical effects of addiction through detoxification. After detox and inpatient care, the relapse prevention program is introduced to enable the individual to properly integrate into society. An inpatient rehab time varies for the 30,60, and 90-day programs depending on the individual’s stressors, response to treatment, physical and mental factors, health status, symptoms, and family influence.

However, those that opt for the 60 and 90-day program get ample time for intensive detox and treatment to ensure a full recovery. The 90-day program has shown the highest success rate due to the time spent treating severe addictions.

How Long Do Patients Stay in Outpatient Rehab?

How long is drug rehab as an outpatient? Outpatient recovery programs can last anywhere from a few months up to a year, or sometimes longer. These programs may require anywhere from six to 20 or more hours of someone’s time per week.

The goal of these programs is to help patients recognize and alter their cognitive behavior and lead to long-term sobriety. Outpatient programs take longer to complete because they allow patients the flexibility to come from their own homes. While an inpatient rehab is measured in days to months, outpatient rehab is measured in months to years. Ninety days is the average outpatient duration, but this could extend further or even indefinitely.

Outpatient treatment time may be shorter if it is part of complete continuum care.

How Long Do Patients Stay in Halfway Houses and Sober Living Homes?

Extended care facilities, often called sober living homes or halfway houses, can be a good transition between inpatient rehab and going out completely on one’s own. Patients typically stay in halfway houses for one to six months and up to a year. Sober living homes allow people to stay longer for a more gradual adjustment.

Schedules and daily activities are monitored, but these environments allow the patient to work, attend school, and participate in other activities (such as outpatient recovery services) that will contribute to a productive and sober life.

Why Do People Prefer Longer Drug Rehab Programs?

People are often concerned about how long rehab lasts. This is because those interested in getting help are always worried about the amount of time they’d have to dedicate to getting help. Even though shorter addiction treatment periods are more convenient, long-term drug rehabs are best for those who have experienced numerous relapses after short-term programs.

Other Reasons Why People Go for Long-Term Treatment Include: 

  • Enough time to engage in learning essential life skills
  • Fully immerse in other exceptional treatments after detox
  • Allows adequate brain time to adjust to positive changes
  • Gives the patient more time to interact with counselors and peers
  • Helps rebuild relationships with family, friends, and contacts
  • Helps patients adjust to their recommended nutritional program for better health

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Lifestyle Adjustments After Drug and Alcohol Addiction

How important is it to find the right aftercare program for your loved one? The right aftercare program will enable your loved one in these ways:

  • Improve relationships while in recovery
  • Device coping mechanisms against relapse
  • Achieve a sense of purpose and fulfillment

Up to 70-80% of patients drop out of aftercare contact and relapse. This reinforces the need for a longer rehab time as therapeutic communities’ 30% success rates are primarily those that finish the extended programs.

Aftercare provides mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical wellness. Recovery will be a lifelong journey. Many people can “rewire” their brains to never desire a substance again simply because of all the pain it has caused them. Others may struggle for longer.

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Published on: November 1st, 2016

Updated on: April 12th, 2024

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