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Residential treatment is an excellent resource for those who are ready to fully immerse themselves in medical detox and therapeutic treatment with the goal of putting drug and alcohol use firmly in the past. The ability to step away from the pressures of life associated with living in the midst of addiction is an incredible gift, one that can help clients to turn their full attention to the work of healing and growth through addiction treatment.
But how long should one stay in residence at an inpatient drug treatment center?What are the standards for length of treatment, and what considerations should go into determining how long one should continue focusing solely on treatment before attempting to transition into independent living in recovery?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that “adequate treatment length” is an imperative to positive outcomes in treatment. In other words, leaving too early can mean that treatment is ineffective at helping someone to maintain abstinence for the long-term. Though everyone is different, the general recommendation is a minimum of 90 days and that spending any less than that amount of time in treatment will have a limited efficacy.They also recommend staying for significantly longer than 90 days in order to improve treatment outcomes.
NIDA also notes that when it comes to medication-assisted treatment for opiate detox, 12 months has been determined to be the minimum length of treatment time and that many individuals thrive only when they continue taking the treatment drug for years.
Addiction is a chronic disease, one that is often defined by periods of remission and relapse. The goal is to create longer periods of remission with few to no relapse events, providing a client with the coping tools they need to avoid feeling that drugs and alcohol are the only answers to a problem. The longer one spends in residential treatment, actively supported in these beliefs and focused on learning how to implement these tools when necessary, the more likely it is that they will be able to avoid relapse when living independently. Long-term residential treatment offers:
It is important to note that even as NIDA suggests that a minimum of a 90-day stay is recommended for optimal treatment, they also point out that there is no set standard length of time that all people can or should remain in treatment. Addiction treatment must be tailored to fit the needs and experience of the individual. While 90 days may work for some, it may be far too short for others – and even potentially unnecessarily long for those who have been living with a low-dose addiction or abusing drugs and alcohol for a very short time with no co-occurring mental health issues.
The length of time spent in treatment should be based on the rate of progress experienced by the individual.That is, if 90 days, 120 days, or 365 days passes and the person does not feel confident in their ability to stay clean and sober, then it is not time for treatment to end. Treatment should last as long as it takes for the individual client to feel strong and comfortable with the idea of sustained sobriety outside of treatment.
When determining how long treatment should last, there are a number of factors to consider.
Sober living homes provide a “step down” solution for clients who have spent significant time in residential treatment and do not feel ready to live independently in recovery. With varying levels of support, clients can find a program that provides them with the encouragement to stay sober in a drug-free environment surrounded by peers who are also working to establish themselves in sobriety.
Sober living homes are all different, and it is important to vet them carefully and make sure they are fully licensed and provide all of the support mechanisms claimed. For those who are seeking a relatively high level of support from a sober living program because they are not yet ready to live independently in recovery, their sober home may offer: