How long does alcohol rehab last?

Alcohol rehab can be a long and intensive process. Inpatient alcohol rehab averages about 28 days consecutive treatment, while outpatient rehabs last for about 3 months. The length of time an individual spends in alcohol rehab, however, will vary, depending on their needs. Read on to find out more about alcohol rehab and how long it lasts.

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Alcohol rehab: How long does it take?

The amount of time it takes to complete an alcohol rehab program typically depends on the individual person going through it. Some individuals will need longer and more intensive treatment, while others will respond well to treatment quickly. Different types of alcohol rehab will also last for different lengths of time. Following are the most common types of alcohol rehab and their duration.

Inpatient alcohol rehab – Traditionally, inpatient alcohol rehab programs take 28 days to complete. The aftercare, however, will usually take several months or even years to complete.

Long-term inpatient alcohol rehab – Individuals with severe alcohol problems will have more success with long-term inpatient alcohol rehab. On average, this type of alcohol rehab requires a stay in a residential facility for three months to a year.

Outpatient alcohol rehab – Outpatient alcohol rehab can be completed as an individual form of treatment or can be use as “aftercare”, to support inpatient alcohol rehab. These services are usually necessary for several months to several years. Recovering alcoholics who are participate in outpatient rehab services visit the clinic as often as once per day or as little as once per week.

Alcohol rehab duration and average time

  • Alcohol rehab (residential) = 28 days to 3 months to 6 months+
  • Alcohol rehab (outpatient)  = 10 weeks to 52 weeks

As mentioned above, traditional inpatient rehab will usually last between one month and one year. During this time, a recovering alcoholic will reside in the facility and go through daily individual and group therapy sessions.

On the other hand, the average duration of an outpatient program is around ten (10) weeks, with about 4-6 hours per week attendance. Intensive outpatient rehab requires 9 hours+ attendance per week. Generally, outpatient rehab is both less expensive AND effective, especially if your willingness and commitment to change are high.

Alcohol rehab: A timeline of what happens

Alcohol rehab is generally separated into a few main stages. Here is what alcohol rehab is like and what usually occurs during a stint at an alcohol rehab center.

Week 1: Detox

The detox stage generally happens before an alcoholic enters any psychological treatment. This is a period of time which can last in acute cases for about a week, during which a person’s body rids itself of the last traces of alcohol. A person can go through detox in a medical clinic on their own before entering a facility or go through detox at the rehab facility. Detox may be assisted with the prescription of medications to address serious symptoms such as seizures or hallucinations. Additionally, a psychiatrist may issue drugs to help treat cravings or underlying psycho-emotional issues such as depression or anxiety.

Weeks 1-12+: Psycho-social and medication assisted treatments

Psychological treatment is often the cornerstone of any alcohol rehab program. Recovering alcoholics will usually go through several sessions of individual counseling and group therapy. Both individual counseling and group therapy can help teach recovering alcoholics how to live without alcohol. Individual therapy may also be used to treat underlying psychological problems, and group therapy gives recovering alcoholics a place to speak freely without being judged.

Additionally, medications can help in the treatment of addiction. Certain prescription medications when used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies is most successful for long term sobriety. Medication assisted treatment is usually clinically driven with a focus on individualized patient care.

Last week(s) of alcohol rehab: Step down

Transitioning from rehab to the outside world can be challenging. Many recovering alcoholics find that the temptation of alcohol is all around them and fall back into their old ways. In order to prevent this, many alcohol rehab programs offer step down or transition phases of recovery. During this phase, a person who has completed rehab is referred to intensive outpatient rehab and may even stay in a transitional living facility. This period of time is used to gradually reintroduce a recovering alcoholic back into society, and can take several weeks or months.

Can alcohol rehab be forced?

At times, a person might have such a severe alcohol problem that they become a danger to themselves or others. In these cases, it may be possible to legally force someone into alcohol rehab.

To do this, you will need to contact your state’s Attorney General’s office or your local district court. If your state allows involuntary alcohol rehabilitation commitment, you will usually need to file a petition with the court and have the person evaluated by medical professionals. If the court finds that the person is a danger, he or she may be forced into alcohol rehab.

Before using this drastic method to force treatment, an intervention is first recommended. The best time to plan an alcohol intervention is just after an alcohol-related problem has occurred. During an intervention, an alcoholic’s loved ones will gather together and confront him or her about their alcohol problem and the harm that it has caused. Those staging the intervention should provide specific examples of these problems and be ready with information about alcohol rehab.

Alcohol rehab time

While it may seem that alcohol rehab takes too much time, it’s often time well spent. If you are considering alcohol treatment for yourself or a loved one but still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. We look forward to helping you take the first steps toward sobriety.

Reference Sources: NIDA: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
SAMHSA: Medication assisted treatment
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services: Treatment Services
New York State Department of Health: What is Addiction Treatment?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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