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length of addiction treatment

Why is 30 Days the Average Length of Addiction Treatment?

At some point in the 1970s the length of addiction treatment programs was set at 30 days.  Initially the template was created as a human resources tool by the U.S. Air Force, stipulating that it’s men and women would not be reassigned as long as they were absent from duty only 30 days.  Over time, this 30-day treatment period became the industry norm, with health insurance providers then cemented this time frame for benefits into the policies.

Research in recent years has shown that it is erroneous to presume that addicts can recover in a 30-day program.   Multiple studies at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have shown a wide variance of relapse rates comparing addiction treatment programs based on the length of addiction treatment, including 30-days versus a 90-days.  Without exception, relapse rates for those who completed a 90-day program were on average half the rate of those who only completed a 30-day program.

With so many unique factors involved in the addiction—the drug being abused, how entrenched the addiction is, whether there are accompanying mental health conditions—the addiction and recovery industry is recently broadening its program options to include longer stays.  Because cost may become an issue in the longer programs, many treatment providers are offering special financing options.

Why the Length of Addiction Treatment Matters

For too long drug and alcohol rehab programs have held to a cookie cutter template, based on faulty assumptions.  A 30-day stay at an inpatient treatment program is fine for someone who is fairly new in his or her addiction, as that time frame will allow for detoxification and counseling, along with a structured program such as a 12-step or non 12-step.  For these addicts, 30 days may provide enough of a break in the substance use to get them on a corrected life course.

However, for those who are deeply addicted—chemically dependent—a longer treatment duration will increase the odds of successful long-term recovery.  This is due to many factors including:

  • Brain pathways have been altered.  Drug or alcohol dependency develops as tolerance increases and the user needs higher doses more often.  The brain releases chemicals in response to the substance, and eventually the neural pathways become altered so the body craves the drug.  The cycle of craving and using becomes an entrenched habit, which is not undone in a 30-day period.
  • Treating root causes of addiction.  Becoming a drug addict doesn’t just happen in a vacuum.  Indeed there are genetic components and even personality traits that may make someone predisposed to addiction.  However, at the root of addiction may lay a deep trauma or psychological wound that may have jump-started the need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.  These unresolved issues take time to discover and treat with psychotherapy.
  • Learning how to live daily life without substances.  Unlearning bad habits and replacing them with healthy new habits and choices takes time.  Living a lifestyle of sobriety isn’t something many can just quickly adapt to.  The luxury of time in a residential program, with at least a 90-day average length of addiction treatment, allows the newly sober individual time to genuinely adapt to these new lifestyle changes.
  • Treating a dual diagnosis.  It is very common to find that someone with a substance use disorder is also suffering from a mental health condition, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety.  A longer period in a residential treatment program will allow time to treat the co-occurring condition, increasing the odds of a successful recovery.

Addiction Helplines Can Help Determine Length of Treatment

The team at Addiction Helplines believes that each individual has a unique story, and the length of addiction treatment should be determined on those specific conditions and needs.   Addiction Helplines is a leading treatment network provider for detox, addiction, and dual diagnosis.  Our specialists will assist you with a free confidential assessment, insurance verification, and placement assistance, making sure you are matched with the right treatment program length, be it 30, 60, or 90+ days.  For more information, please call us today at (877) 228-3270.