Long-Term vs. Short-Term Drug Rehab: What's Recommended?

There are many different options when it comes to drug rehab. Treatment programs can vary in their approach, their setting, as well as their duration. If your loved one is battling drug addiction, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the options available. You may be wondering how to choose the best rehab program for your loved one’s needs. What is recommended for those battling drug addiction?

One of the first questions you must ask is whether your loved one needs a long-term or short-term rehab program. Long-term drug rehab usually involves at least 90 days in a residential treatment setting – at minimum. Some rehab programs require (or encourage) longer durations of stay.

Short-term rehab means any program that requires less than three months of treatment. The first short-term residential rehab program, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, consisted of a 3-to-6-week inpatient treatment model. Patients then moved into an outpatient therapy program. Typically, short-term rehab programs are followed by extended outpatient care. This is because recovery takes time, and even several weeks of treatment is not sufficient for overcoming addiction.

This brings us to the answer you might be seeking now: Long-term rehab is recommended for treating substance addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment.” In addition, the NIDA states that young populations usually benefit from continuing care following treatment, such as drug use monitoring, follow-up visits at home, and participation in support groups.

At Turnbridge, we’ve seen similar results within our treatment community. As found in our recent Outcome Study, nine months of residential treatment was highly sufficient in treating substance use disorders. Specifically, among the Turnbridge graduates who completed at least 270 days of treatment, more than 95 percent remained sober after one year. The vast majority went on to complete two years of sobriety, as well.

The longer a person stays in treatment, the more benefits they are likely to experience. For example, those who spend 9 to 12 months in drug rehab are more likely to see dramatic improvements in physical health, decision-making abilities, stress management skills, and overall self-sufficiency.

Of course, treatment needs vary by person. The minimum length of treatment will depend on the severity of a person’s addiction, as well as any underlying conditions that may exist. Many times, substance addiction co-occurs with another mental health disorder, like depression or anxiety. Due to their complexity, co-occurring disorders generally require specialized treatment and longer-term care.

Why Long-Term Drug Treatment?

Substance addiction is a chronic condition that – much like diabetes and other chronic illnesses – can be treated with ongoing care and management. As much as we want to defeat addiction overnight, this is not realistic. Drug addiction takes time to heal.

When a person uses drugs repeatedly, over a period of time, chemical changes take place within the brain. Eventually, the brain becomes reliant on the drugs to function every day. The good news is that this can be treated—however, it takes time for the brain’s neuropathways to reconstruct. As our Director of Operations, John Palmer, BSW, explains in his article, “True recovery requires most of the body’s key functioning systems to get healthy again; this does not just happen spontaneously, and it is virtually impossible to achieve physical recovery as a result of a stay in a short-term treatment setting.”

In addition to the physical healing and re-wiring process, those in recovery must spend time developing new life skills. Once they leave treatment, they will need to know how to become self-sufficient. They will need to know how to cope with stress and emotions, without the use of drugs. They will need to know how to hold a job, develop relationships, and stay accountable for their health. And when cravings hit, they must know how to manage and overcome them. This cannot be learned overnight.

A long-term drug treatment program works hard to teach these skills. Clients develop a recovery toolkit that they can reach for during difficult times. They not only learn how to cope with difficult situations, but also how to replace their cravings with positive, healthy behaviors. In addition, they develop meaningful relationships with other peers in their treatment program, which usually turn into lifelong friendships after graduation day.

Long-term rehab programs are also more equipped to treat any underlying co-occurring disorders, which affect millions of Americans and more than one-third of people in substance abuse treatment. A residential dual diagnosis treatment program, like Turnbridge, gives clients the time, space, and care they need to restore their mental, physical, and emotional health.

Long-Term Rehab at Turnbridge

Turnbridge is a residential, long-term treatment center for young adults and adolescents battling drug addiction and co-occurring disorders. Despite our long-term and extended care programs, we encourage clients to take treatment day-by-day.

Turnbridge’s long-term rehab programs are broken into three phases of integration. As clients work through the recovery process and show positive skills development, they can advance to the next phase. There is no set timeline at Turnbridge. Clients move at their own pace, learning how to live a life without drugs, one day at a time.

At Turnbridge, we believe that every addiction is unique. And, as a result, their treatment must be tailored to their needs. Not one single type of treatment will work for everyone, and not one set duration of treatment will bring long-term sobriety. Some individuals progress through treatment more quickly, or more slowly, than others – and that is okay. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, and everyone has the potential to reach the finish line.

To learn about our long-term substance abuse treatment approach, please do not hesitate to call 877-581-1793. You may also explore our programs online here.