Alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs: How long?

Rehab programs for alcoholism typically last for 1-3 months, although some people are recommended for longer term stays based on need. More here on the duration of both inpatient and outpatient rehab … with a section at the end for your questions.

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Are you considering alcohol rehab for yourself or a loved one?

First of all, good for you!

Programs for alcoholism typically last for 1-3 months, although some suggest longer terms of stay based on individual need. More here on the duration of both inpatient and outpatient rehab and the factors that go into making a decision on time… with a section at the end for your questions. In fact, we try to answer all sincere questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs: How long does it take?

Every person has different needs regarding rehabilitation programs. How long it takes is largely determined by a person’s individual needs and factors such as:

  1. How long you were drinking.
  2. How much you were drinking.
  3. The level of psychological and physical dependence you experience.
  4. Your general health.

Addiction specialists will often take into account someone’s wants, needs, and responsibilities into mind and attempt to create a tailor-made program for each individual. Typically, alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs last anywhere from a month to a few years. Inpatient rehabilitation programs generally require a longer and more intense time commitment, but they can be especially effective for dedicated people.

Rehabilitation programs duration

Recovering alcoholics might make a treatment choice based largely on the length of time or the cost of specific programs. So, keep in mind that the duration of the different types of programs available vary drastically. The main types of programs and their average durations are listed below.


Outpatient alcohol rehabilitation – The duration of these programs can vary drastically, depending on a number of factors. Some intensive outpatient rehab programs may only last several weeks, while ongoing outpatient treatment can last several years. Average treatment duration is usually ~10 weeks, while some programs are standardized as 12-16 weeks.

Inpatient rehabilitation programs – The typical inpatient alcohol abuse rehabilitation program duration is 28 days. Some inpatient residential alcohol rehab programs, though, may last up to a few months.


Long-term rehabilitation programs – Individuals struggling with more severe addiction to alcohol may find that long-term inpatient alcohol rehabilitation programs to be more effective. These programs require a much greater time commitment, ranging anywhere from three to twenty-four months. The basis of treatment is usually in the “therapeutic community”, a structured and mutually supportive environment.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs: Short term vs. long term

For many alcoholics in need of treatment, choosing a rehabilitation program is determined by a combination of cost, location, and duration.

As the name implies, short-term programs require less time and money to complete programming. Recovering alcoholics in these programs are able to complete treatment relatively quickly and get back to their daily lives much faster, usually within one to three months.

Long-term alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs, on the other hand take much longer to complete. They can last anywhere from three months to two years. They are also much more intensive and geared toward alcoholics with severe drinking problems.

Unfortunately, although short-term alcohol rehab is slightly more convenient, it is also slightly less effective. According to one study, only 9% of recovering alcoholics who were in treatment for at least 90 days went back to drinking, compared to 15% of recovering alcoholics who were in treatment for less than 90 days.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs average time

There are several different types of alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs. Average times for each of these programs varies and can be hard to pin down to a hard and fast number.

However, the most common type of inpatient alcohol rehab program lasts an average of 28 days. This type of program requires a month long stay in a residential treatment facility. During this time, you will undergo intensive individual, group, and family therapy and counseling sessions. You will also be required to participate in several education sessions throughout the course of your treatment.

Inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation?

Outpatient rehabs have many upsides. These include:

  • Less expense
  • Less time consuming
  • You can continue working during treatment
  • You can maintain home and social responsibilities during treatment

Keep in mind that outpatient alcohol abuse programs require a high level of motivation and commitment. Outpatient treatment isn’t for everyone. But it can work for those who are ready and dedicated to a new way of live.

On the other hand, enrolling in an inpatient alcohol rehab program gives you the chance to get away from the temptation of alcohol completely. This allows you to focus 100% on recovery, and provides you with the tools and resources you need. Residential treatment facilities also typically offer intensive psychological treatments and are best equipped to treat any co-occuring mental health disorders that may exacerbate alcoholism.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs timeline

Although there are several different types treatment, timelines for alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs remain basically the same. Recovering alcoholics can expect to experience most or all of the following treatment methods during treatment and recovery.

1.  Intake screening and assessment

Before entering an alcohol rehabilitation program, an alcoholic will undergo an initial intake screening and thorough assessment. This is used to determine the extent of an alcohol addiction and determine the best type of treatment.

2.  Medical detox

Withdrawal from alcohol is often very uncomfortable and can even be dangerous for some. A medical detox program can be used to help recovering alcoholics comfortably and safely withdraw from alcohol under the supervision of medical professionals and the use of medications, when necessary.

In fact, a few medications have been approved to treat alcohol addiction for some people, and they are usually introduced during medical detox. These medications have different effects, ranging from reducing alcohol cravings to creating an unpleasant feeling when a person drinks.

3.  Psychological treatments

Psychological treatments are often the cornerstone of successful alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs. Recovering alcoholics in treatment will typically be required to undergo individual therapy and group therapy. Family counseling is also usually recommended.

4.  Aftercare

Addiction aftercare is an important part of alcohol abuse rehabilitation. After completing an initial alcohol abuse rehab program, recovering addicts will usually continue attending outpatient therapy sessions for several months or even years.

Successful alcohol abuse rehabilitation requires a great deal of support. For this reason, facilities will offer recovering addicts supportive services throughout their recovery, both during and after completing a treatment program.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs time

While alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs require a great deal of time, they are often well worth it. Individuals who take the time to complete alcohol abuse rehabilitation programs typically encounter a more successful recovery experience than those who do not choose to utilize any or all aspects of treatment programs.

If you or a loved one is ready for alcohol abuse rehabilitation, time is of the essence. Please let us know if we can help answer your questions along the journey. We’ll do our best to respond to you directly, or to refer you to another organization who can help.

Reference Sources: NIDA: FAQs How long does drug addiction treatment last?
AboutHealth: How Long Does Drug Addiction Treatment Last?
MichaelsHouse: Facts about alcohol addiction treatment
Psych Central: Outpatient and inpatient program differences
NIDA: Therapeutic Community
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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