When considering treatment for drug addiction, several treatment options are available with time frames ranging from short term medical detox, to safely stop using a drug, all the way to treatment lasting several months. Sometimes briefer treatment options are the preferred option for a patient, but from a holistic perspective, it is often highly recommended that patients consider long term drug rehabilitation. There are several benefits to long term drug rehab, and this intensive treatment approach can help people overcome addiction in the long term while rebuilding a life damaged by drug use. People with addiction are most successful in battling addiction when they have access to appropriate, supportive, and evidence-based services from a long term treatment center.
Why Consider Long-Term Rehab for Drug Addiction?
When treating addiction there are numerous treatment options available to patients, many of which I’ve covered in prior writings. But here I want to focus on the specific long term drug rehabilitation. Although shorter options can be very effective and may be preferable in some situations, truly the most effective way to overcome addiction is with a long term treatment approach. In these treatment approaches the length of treatment can vary from 90 days to as long as 6 months. With treatment of this duration and intensity, the patient has the best shot at overcoming withdrawal symptoms, changing addictive behavioral patterns, and rebuilding supportive networks that can help rebuild a life damaged by drugs. Furthermore, many medications used to treat mental illness (e.g., antidepressants) can take several weeks before patients notice positive mood changes, and sometimes adjusting medications slowly over time is necessary. Finally, with long term treatment, there is also a higher likelihood of treatment lasting for the long term and decreases the chance of relapse (de Andrade et al., 2019).
Recovery from Drug Use Takes Time
When considering long term versus short term rehabilitation from drugs, potential patients and family or friends need to understand that the most difficult part of treatment is in the early stages, which may involve medical detox in some situations. Regardless of whether medical detox precedes long term rehab, in all cases patients are still struggling with either physiological or psychological withdrawal symptoms, sometimes both. It can take time for these symptoms to completely resolve, and it takes even longer for symptoms like cravings to dissipate. Giving a patient as much time for this healing process to occur is essential to effective long term abstinence from drugs.
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In 90 day treatment centers or 6 month rehab programs patients also have time to make substantial progress in building long-term coping skills for addressing drug cravings and other mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma). Some treatments of co-occurring psychological disorders can take several weeks to complete, especially when done in conjunction with addiction recovery treatment. Therefore, a longer treatment time frame is ideal! By spending the necessary time addressing underlying issues that contribute to addictive behavior, changing behavioral patterns, and strengthening coping skills, patients completing long-term rehab are more likely to overcome drug temptations in the real world.
Another beneficial component is long term rehab is that treatment lasts long enough to create new patterns, behaviors, and structured lifestyles that will promote a healthy lifestyle when treatment is over (Eastwood et al., 2018). When people develop an addiction to drugs they build up a variety of unhealthy patterns, routines, relationships, and habits. With long term rehab, not only is there sufficient time to break down these previously unhealthy patterns but patients also have time to build in new, healthy routines that replace the prior addiction activities. This includes base sleep and wake cycles; regular, routine, and nutritious meals; establishing a physical activity or exercise regimen; and building in time for self-reflection and spirituality.
The final major benefit of long term drug rehabilitation I want to discuss, although there are further benefits beyond those mentioned in this article, is that 90 day treatment centers or 6 month rehab programs give patients the best ability to rebuild their lives after all the damage addiction has done. Such work includes terminating prior harmful drug relationships, reconnecting with family and supportive friends, and rebuilding a new social network. There is also time for patients to contemplate and explore the bigger picture of their lives, to re-establish core life values, and understand how addiction interferes with life values. Patients can also consider how to make positive meaning out of their lives after addiction. The more a patient can strengthen these core social connections and personal values, the more protection they will have from addiction temptations, which can appear even years after addiction treatment.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, there are numerous treatments with varying timelines available for treatment! If you’ve been considering treatment for drug addiction, or are looking on behalf of a loved one, then there are many good reasons to explore and enroll in a long-term drug rehab program, such as the long term programs offered at BeWell Treatment Centers. These types of long term rehabilitation program are effective with helping patients establish lifelong sobriety (de Andrade et al., 2019) and they give patients the time they need to overcome the biological and psychological grasp of addiction and learn core coping skills for keeping addiction under control long term. In 90 day treatment centers or 6 month rehab programs, patients also have the opportunity to address other factors involved in their addictive behavior, including co-occurring mental health conditions and broken social networks. It takes time to rebuild a life damaged by addiction, but if patients take that time and commit to recovery, they can overcome drug addiction, rebuild a healthy daily routine, and reestablish a new life direction consistent with the values most important to them.
de Andrade, D., Elphinston, R. A., Quinn, C., Allan, J., & Hides, L. (2019). The effectiveness of residential treatment services for individuals with substance use disorders: A systematic review. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 201, 227-235.
Eastwood, B., Peacock, A., Millar, T., Jones, A., Knight, J., Horgan, P., … & Marsden, J. (2018). Effectiveness of inpatient withdrawal and residential rehabilitation interventions for alcohol use disorder: A national observational, cohort study in England. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 88, 1-8.
Kosten, T. R., & Baxter, L. E. (2019). Effective management of opioid withdrawal symptoms: a gateway to opioid dependence treatment. The American Journal on Addictions, 28(2), 55-62.
Dr. Edward Selby is a licensed psychologist and an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Rutgers University Department of Psychology. Dr. Selby specializes in the research and treatment of suicidal and self-injurious behavior, personality disorders, and eating disorders, with a particular focus on emotion regulation and harmful behaviors like binge eating, substance use, and self-injury. Dr. Selby has published extensively in these areas, with over 100 publications appearing in premier outlets such as Clinical Psychological Science, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology Review, Behaviour Research and Therapy, and Psychological Review. Dr. Selby’s research has been funded by organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and Janssen Pharmaceutica, and private philanthropists.
His work has been recognized with multiple awards including an International Academy of Suicide Research Young Investigator Award for 2013, NARSAD early investigator award, the Neil S. Jacobson Award for Outstanding and Innovative Clinical Research, and in 2015 Dr. Selby was name a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science. In addition, his ongoing program of research, Dr. Selby serves as the Director of Clinical Training for the Rutgers Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program and regularly teaches graduate level adult psychopathology and applied latent variable modeling and hierarchical linear modeling. Dr. Selby is a Data Analyst and Researcher at the BeWell Network, where he is responsible for clinical service effectiveness evaluation and research dissemination.