Alcohol abuse rehabilitation: How long?

Alcohol rehabilitation can last from 28 days to 3 months, or longer. More on the duration of alcohol rehab here, what to expect, and a section for your questions at the end.

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Alcohol rehab: How long does it take?

Overcoming alcohol addiction is no easy task, but it can be done – with a little help. Alcoholics who seek help from a rehabilitation center are often more successful at putting an end to their drinking. However, the same question pops into the minds of anyone considering alcohol abuse rehabilitation:

“How long does it take?”

There is no one answer to this question, unfortunately. Your individual situation as well as the specific type of rehabilitation program that you choose will be deciding factors in how long it will take to complete alcohol rehab. Some programs take much longer to complete than others, just as some alcoholics will need to spend a much longer period of time in recovery.

The truth is, though, it’s not a quick process. Alcohol rehabilitation is a long-term project that requires a great deal of time. Overall, you could be looking at anywhere from a month to a year or more of intense treatment as you being a new life of recovery.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation duration

There are several different types of alcohol rehab programs available to anyone who wishes to address drinking problems. The type of program that is best for you really depends on your individual situation. The length of time you spend in rehab will also be determined largely on what type of program you choose.

1. Inpatient rehabilitation – The typical inpatient rehab program lasts 28-30 days. Some programs, however, may last as long as a few months.

2. Long-term inpatient rehab – Specialized programs offer long term inpatient care for six (6) months to one (1) year. Long-term alcohol rehab programs are more intensive and require a much greater commitment. The programs are best suited for individuals with severe alcohol dependencies or for those who can benefit from a long-term change of environment.

3. Outpatient alcohol abuse rehab – Many outpatient programs generally run for a few months. You will probably be asked to attend outpatient rehab for several hours per week, for a duration of ten (10) to twelve (12) weeks. However, outpatient alcohol rehab programs can last for several months or even several years, especially if they are used as part of an addiction treatment aftercare program.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation: Short term vs. long term

When it comes to alcohol abuse rehabilitation, short-term vs. long-term can be a difficult decision to make. Ultimately, choosing a short-term vs. long-term alcohol rehab program will depend on your individual situation.

Short-term alcohol rehabilitation programs, such as those lasting less than a couple months, are slightly more convenient, as they require less time. This enables recovering alcoholics to complete treatment relatively quickly and get back to their lives and responsibilities. Short-term treatment though, may not be the best type of treatment for those with severe alcohol addictions.

Long-term alcohol rehabilitation programs usually require a three to twelve month commitment. While this is quite a long period of time to dedicate to a treatment program, some recovering alcoholics may need the extra dedication to recovery. This is especially true for individuals with severe addictions whose lives are in shambles due to their drinking. This includes alcoholics with alcohol-related health problems, serious legal issues, or those whose home environments can de-stabilize recovery.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation timeline

No matter how long a treatment program takes to complete, it will most likely follow a basic timeline. Each step in the rehabilitation process is outlined below.

1.    Screening and assessment

Alcoholics are first screened and assessed by addiction specialists before entering an alcohol rehabilitation program. The results of the initial evaluation are based on a series of interviews, medical exams, and drug testing screens. The assessment will be used to determine the severity of the addiction, diagnose any co-occuring mental health disorders, and create an individualized addiction treatment plan.

2.    Detox

To minimize uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms, recovering alcoholics may be encouraged to undergo medical detox. During this stage of treatment, they are placed under the supervision of medical professionals, who can monitor and manage their symptoms.

3.    Psychological treatment

A combination of individual behavior therapy and group therapy is a major part of alcohol abuse rehabilitation. Family counseling is also usually recommended, as is attendance at alcohol self-help group meetings. The 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is often the most popular and recognized alcohol recovery self-help groups, although options like SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, Women for Sobriety, or Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) are becoming more popularized.

4.    Pharmacotherapy

A handful of medications have been approved to help treat alcohol addiction, but these are best suited for individuals who have serious alcohol addictions. Taking these medications can help reduce cravings, make withdrawal symptoms less severe, or make a person ill when they drink alcohol, which acts as a deterrent. Speak with your family doctor or rehab doctors/psychiatrists about this possibility to complement psychological treatments.

5.    Aftercare

After completing an alcohol abuse rehabilitation program, a recovering alcoholic still has a long road ahead of her. Addiction aftercare generally consists of ongoing outpatient treatment and care, sometimes lasting for years after the initial treatment. Aftercare usually includes some form of talk pscyhotherapy, support group attendance, sober living, or community support services.

6.    Ongoing support

Nearly all alcohol abuse rehabilitation facilities offer alcoholics a great deal of support along every stage of their recovery. Ongoing supportive services can range from help finding suitable housing to general counseling services or legal help.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation average time

As mentioned above, it can be hard to pin down alcohol abuse rehabilitation average time for everyone, since the time spent in rehab will depend on your individual needs and situation. However, the traditional model of inpatient alcohol rehab lasts 28 days on average. This gives many recovering alcoholics enough time to learn about their addiction and learn how address life differently.

While in rehab, they will learn coping strategies for stress and methods to overcome cravings and urges to drink through educational sessions and therapy. Recovering alcoholics are also required to reside in a treatment facility for the duration of an alcohol abuse rehabilitation program. While this is much less convenient than outpatient programs for many people, inpatient programs can help you get a good start in recovery by teaching you about support networks and the need for psychotherapy/behavioral therapy.

The treatment received in an inpatient alcohol rehab program is generally much more intensive than that received in an outpatient alcohol rehab program. In order to complete a treatment program, recovering alcoholics must attend several therapy, counseling, and education sessions each day. One of the biggest reasons why inpatient rehab programs are successful, though, boils down to one aspect – environment. By removing themselves from an environment where temptations to drink are prominent and easy access to alcohol, recovering alcoholics can focus on their inner lives. Moving from this type of environment to a safe and stable environment allows them to focus primarily on recovery.

Alcohol abuse rehabilitation time

When it comes to any substance abuse rehabilitation process, time is of the essence. The sooner you start a treatment program, the sooner you can be on your way to recovery.

If you or a loved one is ready for alcohol abuse rehabilitation, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re dedicated to helping each of our readers learn more about and gain access to the resources they need to overcome their addictions. Questions about rehab are welcomed and encouraged in the comments section below. We strive to address each of your concerns and help point you in the right direction.

Reference Sources: NIDA: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment
SAMHSA: Residential Treatment: Short Term? Long Term? What Works Best
NIAAA: Exploring Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorders
Recovery.ORg: Understanding addiction treatment program lengths
About Health:What Can I Expect at a Drug and Alcohol Rehab Program?
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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