Why is Length of Treatment Important?
When looking to enroll in a treatment program, there are a number of factors one should consider. But one of the most important elements is determining the length of stay. While one’s initial sentiment may be to spend the minimum amount of funds in exchange for a shorter treatment period. However, with the complexity of addiction, as well as the importance of recovery, there are an abundance of reasons to engage in a longer treatment period.
According to The Principles of Effective Treatment from the Nation Institute on Drug Abuse, it is highly recommended that individuals enroll in treatment at a minimum length of 90 days. The following graph notes the cases of relapse prevention success in relation to length of treatment.
Data retrieved from NIDA (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved January 19, 2017, from
Cross-Examining Relapse Rates and Length of Stay
The data in the graph (left) is the cross examination of two studies from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. According to their findings, the average rate for relapse and recidivism between 40% and 60% (comparable to most chronic illnesses). Yet in another study, the institute found that the optimal treatment period for maximum results was 90 days. Thus, the optimized treatment period would likely yield the highest probability of remaining abstinent from psychoactive substance.
The correlation of length of stay and relapse rates would certainly note that a longer length of stay would decrease the propensity of relapsing. But upon further analysis into the nature of recovery, there are a number of specific time-consuming factors that play into building a strong foundation in recovery.
Each individual in different, and the unique elements and challenges each person faces are never more apparent than when pursuing recovery. With each individual, there are different psychological states, social relationships, and biological elements that play into the nature of staying in recovery. Thus, the more time allotted to treatment would allow for more specialized and personally tailored care to establish stronger barriers against the prospect of relapsing.
Letting the Brain Recover from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
When one is first admitted into treatment, he/she is likely to be first admitted into a detox program. In the detox process, the harmful toxins from psychoactive substances are allowed to run their course without any further re-administration. After the detox process, the treatment sessions can begin. While the treatment helps to identify and treat the elements that contribute to addiction, the individual’s chemical balance in the brain is still adjusting after the detox.
When an individual is using mind-altering substances for extended period of time, the brain’s biochemistry builds a pattern of expectation around repeated use. When that substance is taken out of the equation, the brain undergoes a degree of shock, which is manifested by symptoms of withdrawal. Thus, when someone undergoes detox, the brain struggles to achieve a relative level of balance once again.
One of the most common occurrences after a detox process is known as anhedonia. Anhedonia is known as the difficulty or inability to feel happiness or a sense of joy. As a result, people may have a difficulty concentrating. Thus, when an individual is in treatment, anhedonia may be a source of inhibition for not being receptive to the treatment process. Therefore, it would make sense to enroll in an extended treatment process. If one were to spend more time in treatment, there would be more time for his/her psychological and emotional balance, making treating substantially more effective.
Co-Occurring Disorders and Relapse Prevention.
The is a synergy between substance abuse (occurring disorders) and mental illness often complicates the treatment process. For many individuals with underlying mental illness, there is a common occurrence of people using substance in an effort to self-medicate in order to counteract the symptoms of a respective disorder. Yet on the other hand, many individuals can develop a mental illness caused by substance use, this is known as a substance induced disorder.
The complexity of treating co-occurring disorders takes time. One of the most important factors is addressing both elements simultaneously. If one were only to address the issue of substance abuse, the therapeutic process would be inhibited due to complications from mental illness. At the same time, treatment for mental illness would be ineffective if there was active addiction that was not addressed.
In order for a successful treatment that wards off the probability of relapse, a longer period of treatment would be necessary in order to address and treat both disparities. If you or someone you know may have a co-occurring disorder, it is highly recommended to enroll for a longer period of time.
Family Involvement in Preventing Relapse
Another crucial factor that decreases the odds of relapsing would be family and community involvement. With a longer treatment period, there is more time to involve other key individuals to assist in establishing a strong foundation of recovery.
With family and friends included into the treatment process, there is greater degree of social support after treatment is completed. However, with a shorter treatment period, there would likely only be enough time to address and treat the individual client. If more time is allotted in the treatment process, there is more opportunity to include loved ones in building a strong foundation in recovery.
Completing treatment may be a personal journey, but staying in recovery should be a group effort. The efficacy of support groups and meetings are undeniably effective, and are highly recommended for individuals looking to recuperate from drug and alcohol addiction. Yet at the same time, it is most logical that the ones closest could be a source of support and encouragement for recovery.
If you are or a loved one need help from addiction, you are not alone. Please call us at (866) 578-7471 so we can help you get started.