As with many questions related to drug and alcohol rehab, the answer is an unsatisfying “it depends”. Options for inpatient drug rehab in Dallas tend to be 30, 60, 90, or 180 days, with some special programs being as short as a couple of weeks. Other programs can last for as long as the attending clinicians deem it necessary. As for how long rehab “should” take, that all just depends on a patient’s circumstances.
In general addiction treatment practice, the rule of thumb of inpatient rehab length tends to be “the longer the better” when it comes to achieving a full, long-term recovery. The National Institutes of Health makes a recommendation that treatment should at least be 90 days minimum to give the patient sufficient time to heal. Note that this is just the recommended program length. It may take many more months or even years for a full recovery to be achieved.
This is largely due to the brain requiring significant time to recover from substance use disorder (SUD; a term that covers both addiction and substance abuse). Because SUDs and behavioral addictions like gambling and social media addiction are associated with maladaptive brain pathways, individuals with these conditions need to be given sufficient time so that their brains can form connections that bypass these.
This is the reason why the rehab part of treatment often takes much longer than the medical detox portion, which may only be as short as a couple of weeks for drugs that do not require substitution therapy like opioids.
Regardless of the specific therapeutic approaches taken, the goal is to usually buy time so that the patient is not as prone to immediate relapse. At the same time, psychotherapy could also be used to give the patient a means of better handle emotional triggers and other challenges associated with recovering from an SUD.
In any case, it’s important for the recovering individual, their psychiatrist, as well as loved ones to work together to find a solution that works for them. Below are some of the reasons to choose a longer rehab program when possible.
Reasons to try a longer inpatient program
Some good reasons to choose a lengthier rehab program may include the following:
1.) The patient has the resources to allow it
Generally speaking, longer programs in excess of 90 days tend to work best for most SUD cases. However, the reality is that these programs can be expensive due to the costs associated with the upkeep and operation of such programs.
Additionally, in inpatient rehabs, there are few, if any, chances of a patient being able to actively earn an income while they are undergoing treatment. These programs almost always necessitate quitting one’s job or going on an extended leave of absence, which will disrupt most people’s incomes. This makes these programs prohibitively expensive, especially without the right insurance.
However, if the patient has the support network or the personal means to go with them, these longer programs would usually be the better choice, improving their chance of better long-term outcomes.
2.) The patient has a co-occurring mental health condition
Mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder tend to occur frequently in people with SUD. If these conditions were the root cause of the SUD, chances are that the patient will need additional therapy and intervention to manage this so that their relapse risk could be minimized.
While a longer program might not always be necessary, it may help give attending clinicians more time to try out different strategies that could help the patient’s long-term recovery.
However, just because longer inpatient programs are recommended more often, it does not means that shorter inpatient programs or outpatient programs do not have their place. Here are some circumstances where these options may be better.
Reasons to choose a shorter program or an outpatient program
Some reasons to go for an outpatient program or a shorter inpatient program include the following:
1.) The patient has limited resources
Some treatment for SUD is lightyears better than no treatment at all. While not as ideal as long-term inpatient programs, millions of patients with drug and alcohol problems have made successful recoveries after completing outpatient programs, short-term residential programs, or combinations of these. It is absolutely important to not let SUD or co-occurring mental illnesses be left untreated, as they can be even more expensive and difficult to treat later on.
2.) The SUD is relatively mild or is caught early
For patients assessed with mild SUDs or SUDs related to “less harmful” substances like tobacco or cannabis, going to an inpatient program may be excessive, depending on context. If the SUD is not yet disruptive enough to cause obvious problems at work and at home, then less intense treatment may be sufficient.
While it’s generally acknowledged that longer inpatient treatments are ideal, that is not a reason to discount shorter programs or outpatient alternatives. In most cases, the best treatment is whatever is available and sustainable for a patient. If the patient is only able to comfortably pay for a shorter program, this may even be a better way to achieve a long-term recovery than going all-out on a residential program that may put their long-term finances — and later mental health — at risk.