How Long Should a Person Stay in Treatment?

There is no set length of stay for addiction treatment. How long a person stays in rehab typically depends on a person’s individual needs.

Several factors can impact this decision, including:

  • The type of treatment needed.
  • The cost of treatment.
  • The severity of their addiction.
  • The presence of any co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • What resources and support they have lined up post-treatment.

In this article, we’ll examine each of these variables, so you can make an informed and appropriate choice about your care.

Type of Treatment

The first thing most people consider when seeking out a treatment facility is what type of treatment they need. Many addiction facilities offer multiple levels of care. These include:

It’s common for treatment plans to involve multiple levels of care as the patient progresses in their recovery.

The Cost Factor

doctor speaking to patient about how long she should stay at a treatment program

The cost of treatment is a big factor most people. The Nation Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that nearly 20% of people who needed treatment in 2020, and didn’t receive it, cited a lack of health insurance or an inability to pay for it as their reason. Because of this, a lot of people who drop out of treatment early may do so because of the accruing costs that arise during their stay.

Insurance often factors into how long a person stays in treatment. Most insurance plans have limits on the amount of treatment that will be covered; this may be dictated in terms of number of days for an inpatient treatment stay, or it may relate to an overall maximum coverage amount. Before enrolling in treatment, check with the treatment facility and your insurance provider to determine your exact level of coverage.

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Substance Use Disorder Severity

The severity of the substance use disorder directly affects the type of care required and the duration of that care.

For example, a person suffering from heroin or a long-term prescription painkiller addiction generally requires inpatient care, and sometimes treatment medications, whereas a person suffering from a short-term marijuana addiction may do well in a more flexible outpatient treatment program.

In addition, individuals who have relapsed following shorter stints in rehab may need to stay for a longer period of time the next time around.

Comorbidity

Mental illness is no stranger to the world of addiction. In 2020, an estimated 17 million Americans age 18 and up suffered from both a substance use disorder and at least one other mental illness, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Individuals with co-occurring disorders often require more intensive rehabilitation, as well as medication management and additional forms of therapy. All of these factors combined generally mean a longer stint in rehab will be necessary.

Safe Havens

For those clients who can’t stay in treatment as long as necessary due to life commitments, other interventions can be put into place to ease them into the transition period of acclimating to life without drugs or alcohol. Sober living facilities or live-in sober escorts are both great options for these individuals.

Sober living facilities are safe places for recovering people to stay, on a short-term or long-term basis, that provide a buffer from the outside world. Much like a treatment facility, there are no environmental triggers, since drugs and alcohol are not allowed on the premises. In addition, rules are in place to ensure the facility is safe and supportive of sobriety. Individuals who can’t return home because family members are using drugs and alcohol often choose to stay in sober living homes.

A sober escort is someone who accompanies the client to events where triggers to use might be present. This person can serve as a form of support, helping the individual to resist relapse. In some instances, sober escorts may reside with the client for a period of time.

How to Choose the Right the Length of Stay in Rehab

As noted above, the appropriate duration of addiction treatment depends on numerous factors, including the severity of a patient’s problems and their individual needs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse emphasizes the importance of remaining in treatment for an adequate amount of time, and while any amount of time in rehab may be beneficial, most people struggling with addiction need at least 90 days of treatment to stop or substantially reduce their substance use.

This “treatment” can include different types and settings, such as inpatient, outpatient, or a combination of both.

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