Many people assume that long-term residential treatment facilities are the only way someone can quit using drugs and alcohol. Nowadays, there are many options for people based on financial, employment, and personal needs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that although there are some general recommendations for how long a person should remain in treatment, everyone is different. Some people might respond to shorter treatment lengths. Customizing a person’s program is crucial to their success.

Residential Vs. Outpatient

Long-term and short-term models are different in structure, and their costs vary greatly. 

Most treatment plans fall into two major categories: residential treatment and outpatient treatment.

Residential treatment:

In this scenario, you live in the facility 24/7. This treatment is usually best for people who can afford to take a leave from work and other responsibilities, as well as those with severe or long-term addictions. There are short-term or long-term options.

Outpatient treatment:

You stay at home and continue any regular work or academic responsibilities. This type of therapy is still intense and requires several hours of commitment per week.

Regardless of where you live during treatment, every facility requires an assessment with a counselor that suggests how long you should remain in treatment. Their suggestion might be to stay in treatment for 28 to 90 days. 

What All Treatment Should Do

NIDA Mentions That Treatment Of Any Length Should Do The Following For Every Individual:

  •  Take care of the client’s needs as a whole person, not just their addiction.
  •  Take the nature of addiction as a chronic disease into account.
  •  Last as long as the individual needs. Data shows that most people need to be in treatment for up to 90 days to stop using substances successfully. Many people will require treatment throughout various phases of life to prevent relapse.
  •  Use behavioral therapies in conjunction with other strategies. This can include individual or group therapy that teaches a person the skills they need to manage their misuse, repair relationships that were damaged because of substance or alcohol misuse, and dig deep into the reasons why they began using in the first place.

A Long-Term Approach Regardless of Treatment Duration

A Medical News Today article relays how treatment approaches will change periodically depending on the person’s needs. 

People who have only dealt with addiction for a short time might get adequate treatment in a short-term program. This doesn’t mean treatment ends altogether after a short-term plan. Instead, a person could live in a residential facility for a short duration of treatment and then transition to ongoing outpatient treatment.

therapy session

People who have struggled with severe addictions, such as those to heroin or meth, or who have experienced several relapses will likely better benefit from a long-term residential program. This ensures they will have time to immerse themselves fully in the recovery process. 

Most people will typically need six to 12 months of treatment in order to heal from past drug use habits. 

Strategies for recovery only work well if they are implemented in the long term. Short-term treatment might be cost-effective, but it might not be suitable for people who: 

Face post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)

Most people will find that withdrawal symptoms go away between one and two weeks after stopping use. In rare circumstances, people could face withdrawal symptoms for weeks, months, and even years after becoming sober. The presence of PAWS increases the likelihood of relapse, and long-term residential treatment can help to mitigate that risk.

Deal with concurrent mental health issues

Many people who use drugs deal with other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. In some cases, substance misuse triggers these problems in people. Co-occurring disorders complicates treatment, so long-term care is often recommended.

Have relapsed before

Relapse is not a sign of failure, but it’s a sign that more comprehensive treatment is needed. Long-term residential treatment is often recommended for cases of repeated relapse.

When is Short-Term Treatment Better?

NIDA says that a minimum of 90 days of rehab is necessary for a person to make significant changes that contribute to a successful sober life. But there are cases when a person chooses a short-term treatment plan or when it might be the best approach for them. 

Some people might only need inpatient detox followed by outpatient treatment. Detox can take between three days and two weeks. In this instance, a person could be in short-term residential treatment for a couple of weeks and then proceed to outpatient care.

If cost is a concern, short-term residential treatment should be preferred. Obviously, a longer duration of treatment in a residential facility comes with a higher price tag. The decision between short and long-term treatment might rely heavily on how much insurance will cover.

Short-Term Residential Treatment Might Also Be Appropriate If:

  •  A person is unable to attend long-term treatment. This could be due to financial constraints, work requirements, or family obligations.
  •  Their drug of abuse is less severe in its addictive potential.
  •  They used drugs for a short time.

The most important thing is that a person gets treatment, whether it is short-term or long-term residential treatment. Aftercare should be ongoing after therapy to ensure the best chances of sustained recovery.

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