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Guide To Long Term Drug Treatment

Most people assume that they can overcome their substance use disorder in less than a month. However, they are wrong and forget that it is difficult to resolve a habit that took years to develop in a couple of days.

In fact, addiction is now classified as a chronic brain disorder. As such, it is not surprising that occasional relapses are so common - especially among those who use such psychoactive substances as opiates, cocaine, and meth. However, addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs might also be difficult to kick.

Most people assume that they can overcome their substance use disorder in less than a month. However, they are wrong and forget that it is difficult to resolve a habit that took years to develop in a couple of days.

To this end, short-term treatment done once is hardly ever enough to get rid of the habit. When you combine this with co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis, it is easier to see why long-term drug treatment is usually the best option.

This is primarily because recovery from drug addiction requires commitment over the long term. Additionally, it involves regular monitoring and multiple interventions for success.

So, what exactly is long term drug and alcohol treatment? What does it involve? What should you expect? In the following guide, you will get answers to these questions and any others you might have about substance use disorders and their effective treatments.

Read on to find out more:


Drug and alcohol addiction is chronic. As such, it might be difficult for you to overcome this condition simply by discontinuing the use of these addictive substances. Instead, you need to look for highly focused professional treatment and care that is evidence based.

In many cases, long-term rehabilitation will take anywhere between 120 and 180 days - or even longer - before you can overcome your chronic drug or alcohol addiction. Through this type of rehab, you will receive the structured and intensive treatments you require to be able to effective achieve and sustain abstinence as well as reclaim your normal life by the end of your stay at the rehab facility.

In 2013 SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that 8.6% of the entire American population (an approximate of 22.7 million people) required substance addiction treatment. In the same year, however, only about 0.9% (or 2.5 million) of these people received comprehensive treatment at a mental health or rehabilitation facility.

This means that the need for long-term intervention in the drug and alcohol abuse problem plaguing so many lives is even greater today than it was some time back. With such numbers, you never know whether you or someone you love and care about is suffering from addiction. What you can be sure of, however, is that there is hope in long term drug treatment.

Long Term Rehabilitation

Long term drug treatmentLong term rehabilitation involves setting programs with specific types of drug and substance abuse and addiction treatments. Through these programs, the addict will be required to dedicate a great deal of energy, mental fortitude, and time to get sober and clean.

For it to be effective, the program will require that you stay over the entire rehabilitation period in a residential facility. In most cases, the program may last anywhere from a couple of months to a year or even more.

According to recent research from such bodies as NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), SAMHSA, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), among others, the importance of this type of treatment cannot be overemphasized.

In general, outpatient and residential treatments may not work especially if they last less than 90 days. This is why most chronic substance abusers often find that positive outcomes are only possible through long term rehabilitation. Although entering into such a facility may prove to be a difficult decision to make, it is often the best decision.

In most cases, the addiction treatment plan outlined for you will be divided into several stages, typically consisting of detox (medically assisted), rehabilitation therapy, as well as ongoing aftercare support.

In most situations, long term drug treatment will require that you undergo detoxification for several days. After that, you will receive intensive substance abuse and addiction therapy (as well as aftercare planning) for 90 to 120 days (or longer depending on the severity of your condition).

Similarly, different approaches to addiction treatment will be offered either on an inpatient (highly recommended) or an outpatient basis. Although the treatment lengths may vary from one patient to another, most residential or inpatient treatment centers are more likely to accommodate your individual needs and requirements better than an outpatient center would.

In most situations, long term drug treatment will require that you undergo detoxification for several days. After that, you will receive intensive substance abuse and addiction therapy (as well as aftercare planning) for 90 to 120 days (or longer depending on the severity of your condition).

This type of rehabilitation is highly likely to work well even when you suffer from severe or long standing addictions as well as dual diagnosis. It would also prove to be beneficial if you have been struggling both with the substance use disorder as well as a co-occurring mental health disorder. The residential treatment facility may also provide you with assistance for yourself, your family, and other loved ones - such as adolescents in your life who might be addicted to alcohol and drugs.

NIDA further reports that highly structured long term rehabilitation programs are more effective when applied in therapeutic settings for anywhere between 6 and 12 months. This is why the body recommends that people who exhibit challenges with their recovery would be better off with this type of treatment than if they opted for short term rehabilitation.

Benefits Of Long Term Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse disorders are complicated conditions that often involve various factors - including daily habits, personal relationships, social situations, and emotional triggers and issues. By undergoing long term treatment for this type of addiction, you are likely to enjoy the following benefits:

1. Time

The main benefit arising from long term addiction treatment is time, or the gift of it. If you sign up for short term treatment (anywhere between 28 and 30 days), the first few weeks or days will be used up in detoxification. This means that there will be little time left for the doctors and addiction specialists to help you work on breaking your old harmful habits besotted with substance abuse as well as working on forming new ones.

In 2009 University College London researchers proved that most people take around 66 days to form new habits and stick with them. However, individual times for kicking these newly formed habits differed from one study participant to the next.

In most cases, this time may vary from 18 days to an entire year of addiction rehabilitation. If you have wrestled with alcohol and substance abuse problems for many years, therefore, you have a higher chance of shedding your old detrimental compulsive use disorders and habits before forming new and more productive ones.

2. Support

In the same way, long term drug treatment is beneficial because it will enable you receive support directly from highly trained addiction experts - including but not limited to medical doctors, counselors, and trained therapists.

The other people at the rehab facility may also contribute to some of this support - a scenario in which you may end up recovering faster and feeling safer and more confident in your ability to avoid a relapse.

Together, everyone at the facility will work towards creating the healthy and positive environment you need to start healing and eventually grow as a meaningful person and contributor to the good in society.

3. Distance

In the same way, since you will be away from home when you sign up for a long term treatment program, it follows that you will create the ideal distance from the emotional and psychological triggers that might have contributed to your substance use disorders, as well as from others who are highly likely to encourage you to go back to your old behavior.

In most cases, you will realize that long-term drug treatment centers often provide patients with the time and space you need to examine your life, reintegrate into society successfully, and mend any of your broken relationships. You may even receive employment assistance if you need to find meaningful work.

4. Varied Treatments

It is also essential to keep in mind that most long term drug and alcohol treatment centers tend to have just about every method required to help you completely recover from your addiction for the long haul.

5. Comfort

In most long term substance abuse treatment facilities, you will find that you feel comfortable and safe. The environment created at the centers will come with every imaginable comfort you are used to but also without the impersonal and clinical feel of a regular hospital.

6. Daily Care

Once you get into the long term drug treatment facility, you will realize that the center will provide you with the daily medical care and therapy you require to overcome your addiction.

When all is said and done, you should keep in mind that recovering from severe alcohol and drug addictions will often require that you work full time on a variety of therapy options - as well as professional medical care depending on how far along you are with your addiction. As such, you may end up appreciating the personal attention that the long term rehab facility has to offer.

7. Structured Activities

The treatment facility may also organize a variety of structured activities for you and the other patients to engage in while undergoing rehabilitation. These activities are designed in such a way that you will receive all the assistance you require to be able to change your currently deadly and fatal habits.

As you change your addictive behavior, you will get to learn new values and life skills - all of which will go a long way in contributing to the chances of success of the program. It is for this reason that most addicts find that the structured environment in a long term drug treatment facility is so empowering that they eventually recover and decide never to relapse.

8. Recovery on Track

After the long term drug treatment, you may be required to sign up for transitional aftercare programs. These programs will keep you on track with your recovery. As such, you should not be too surprised when you are checked into a sober living environment or halfway house as you start making the transition to sober, ordinary living. It is because of these transitional programs that you are more likely than not to receive the valuable support that is so essential if you are to completely avoid any recurring relapses.

9. Affordability

Although many long-term rehab centers and programs are quite pricey and out of the budget for most people, some of them are offered free of charge. You just need to know where you should look before taking a plunge.

The features above, among others, work hand in hand to make long term drug treatment the preferred choice for most addicts and chronic substance abusers. These benefits also increase the success rates at the facilities. In fact, most severely addicted individuals find that they would never be able to recover fully without the personalized and highly focused rehab found at most long-term facilities.

That said, the length of treatment will vary depending on your particular needs and preferences. Whereas some people recover fully in about 90 days, others need up to 2 years to find respite from their addiction. Some treatments, however, may take about 6 to 12 months.

As such, not every addict would benefit from receiving treatment in a long term rehabilitation facilities. However, if any of the points below describe your situation, then you might have to consider choosing a long stay over a short one before you get your life back on track:

  • You suffer from a severe substance or alcohol addiction
  • You have been suffering from the alcohol or substance abuse problems for several years now
  • You attended short term rehab sessions and detox in the past but to no avail
  • You have a great tendency to experience relapses even after a comprehensive stay at different rehab facilities

Long Term Drug Treatment Approachs

Treatment at a long term rehab facility typically begins with detoxification, a process in which you will be weaned of drugs and alcohol on a tapering basis. Depending on the substance you are addicted to, you may also receive additional supervision and supportive care, gradual drug/alcohol reduction therapy, drug replacement therapy, or even medication-assisted detoxification.

These treatments are typically designed to manage any and all potentially severe withdrawal symptoms as your system and body continue adjusting to a life without the support or influence of the substances you used to abuse and your body became dependent on.

In most cases, detox takes a couple of hours or days - the duration will mostly depend on the substance you are addicted to, the length of the addiction, as well as the severity of your dependence. However, preexisting mental and physical health conditions may also affect how long you undergo detox.

However, detox is just one step in a more comprehensive treatment plan. Without additional treatment efforts, the successful completion of detoxification does not guarantee that your recovery will last.

Chronic drug abusers and alcoholics are often advised to undergo ongoing therapy to ensure that you reap all the benefits of long-term drug treatment. At this stage, you may undergo various therapeutic techniques, including but not limited to:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Multidimensional family therapy

Steps Of The Long Term Rehabilitation Process

The road to sobriety is never easy or quick. Rather, it is a life-long commitment that will require hard work and dedication. However, the benefits and rewards you will gain after you transform your life from addiction to full recovery will prove worth every effort you make. This road, like any other journey, involves several simple steps.

The specific steps of your long-term drug treatment, however, will depend on what you are addicted to, the rehabilitation plans made, and your individual preferences and needs. Still, most recovery processes share certain core elements, including:

1. Intake

Drug rehab enrollmentIntake is designed to help you determine whether a particular drug and alcohol rehab center is the right fit (for you and vice versa). At this stage, therefore, you may want to ask the center a couple of questions depending on what you consider to be most important.

The center may also ask you a couple of questions, as well as require that you undergo diagnostic screenings and tests so that the addiction specialists can tailor your treatment plan optimally for you, the stage of your addiction, as well as your particular requirements.

In the same way, the rehab facility may ask about how severe your addiction is, your family history of substance use disorders, personal drug and alcohol use history, and the financial arrangements you have made for the long-term treatment.

As far as possible, you should ensure that the program matches your needs. With respect to addiction rehabilitation, there are so many programs out there that you will never be at a loss for options.

However, you should keep in mind that it is in your best interests to look for programs are an ideal match. Once you come across a facility that you are comfortable with, the chances that you will stick with the programs they outline for you will be infinitely higher. This may increase your chances of enjoying long term sobriety and health after treatment.

NIDA reports that there are certain key principles you should remember as you start on alcohol and drug treatment. These principles include:

  • Addiction affects behavior and mental facility
  • It is essential that you treat your addiction at the earliest opportunity to maximize the opportunities for success
  • Treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective; employers, the court system, friends, and family can all compel addicts to go to rehab and still ensure recovery
  • There is no single universal solution to long-term drug treatment; different facilities and treatment work differently for different people
  • Effective treatment and rehabilitation should address every aspect of life, and not just the addiction or substance abuse
  • Since a variety of mental health are linked to addiction, the therapists should evaluate these and address them during treatment
  • The treatment program should assess you for any co-existing diseases linked to your substance abuse, including tuberculosis, hepatitis, and HIV
  • You need to commit enough time to drug and alcohol abuse treatment to be able to effectively overcome your addiction
  • Physical detoxification is vital but is just the first step in a more comprehensive treatment plan; long term behavioral change will typically require ongoing support and behavioral therapy
  • Behavioral therapy is the most common type of addiction treatment, and may involve some combination of individual, family, and group therapy
  • At times, you might have to undergo pharmaceutical treatment alongside therapy
  • The best treatment programs monitor patients for potential relapses over the entire course of treatment
  • The professionals responsible at the long-term treatment facility should continually revise your treatment plans in line with your changing circumstances and needs

Before you enroll, therefore, you should consider some aspects in the treatment facility and the programs advertised. These factors include:

  • The financial options (check if they accept insurance, the payment options available, and you might be able to receive financial support)
  • The offerings at the facility, including the food, the quality of housing, and the comforts provided

Irrespective of the choice you make, there are two main types of rehabilitation facilities for long-term drug treatment. These include:

a) Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient alcohol and drug treatment programs are designed to remove addicts from their old habits and environments. They place those enrolled in a treatment facility complete with 24/7 care. This type of care helps eliminate stress by extracting you from the temptations that might cause you to relapse.

Otherwise referred to as residential treatment, inpatient programs are highly recommended. This is particularly so for people wither coexisting mental or medical health conditions (typically referred to as dual diagnosis.

The treatment may either be provided at a hospital or at a residential facility located outside the hospital setting. These options also include luxury inpatient facilities.

b) Outpatient Treatment

Most outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs are quite similar to inpatient addiction with the exception that you will be allowed to go back home to your normal life every night after treatment. It works best for people with significant familial or work obligations - such as taking care of elderly parents or the children.

Outpatient addiction care is the right option for those with short-lived or mild addiction. However, if your addiction is long term and serious or if you received a dual diagnosis, you may want to choose long term treatment.

2. Detox

Most addictions will require that you undergo detox before you begin on the main rehab process. This stage is designed to get rid of every trace of alcohol and drugs from the body.

In most cases, you may receive maintenance medication to ease any withdrawal symptoms you might be suffering from. The severity of the detoxification will depend on the following:

  • Your unique metabolism and body composition
  • The particular substance and typical dosage you were using
  • How long you were using drugs and alcohol
  • If you have a co-occurring disorder

In general, detoxification is safe especially when you do it under the supervision of a medical team such as at a long-term drug treatment facility. Since it might be potentially severe - or even fatal in some cases - you should never try to detox on your own.

3. Withdrawal

When you abuse drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, your body may become accustomed to certain levels of these substances in its system. After you remove the substance, your body will experience withdrawal symptoms - which will depend on the type of substance you used. These symptoms are varied but may include:

  • Agitation
  • Concentration
  • Cramping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Heart attack
  • Inability to sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Runny nose
  • Seizures
  • Severe fatigue
  • Shaking
  • Stroke
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Troubled breathing

The method of detox treatment (including any pharmaceutical or medical assistance) you receive will depend on your addiction. Prior to detoxification, medical personnel may assess you to determine the degree and type of pharmaceutical assistance that you may require.

Some of the drugs used for detox include methadone (for detox from opiate prescription drugs and heroin) and Buprenorphine (for detoxification from addiction to prescription opioid drugs and heroin). Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates may also be used if you are trying to detox from alcohol abuse.

4. Rehabilitation

After you successfully complete the detox process, your long-term drug treatment may proceed to the rehabilitation stage. At this point, you will get to the main reasons and factors behind your addiction. You will also work with the medical team and therapists to address these issues so that you can move on with your life without ever having to take drugs or alcohol.

Rehab often takes the form of:

a) Individual Therapy

Here, you may have to identify why and when you started using drugs and alcohol. You will learn strategies on how to direct your time and energy to new interests and hobbies. Similarly, you may be taught:

  • Time management skills
  • How to identify the triggers that cause you to relapse back to drugs and alcohol

As a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy is effective because it may address your thoughts about your life and about substance abuse. You will also get to reform your thinking patterns and start making behavioral changes that will lead you to a sober and healthy life.

b) Group Therapy

In group therapy, you will go for sessions with other people who suffer from a similar substance use disorder. At these sessions, you will interact with a therapist and learn that you are not alone in your struggles. The sense of community support built will prove integral to your chances of recovery and sobriety.

c) Family Therapy

A form of group therapy, family therapy is designed to deal with the issues that might have plagued your family, caused you to start abusing, or led you to hurt members of your family while intoxicated. Family members will participate in the sessions - such as by discussing the pain you caused, their desire to see you leading a healthy and sober life, and so on.

5. Recovery

The last stage in long-term drug treatment, this is the goal of undergoing rehabilitation. To this end, you should keep in mind that recovery is lifelong - a commitment that you will need to follow through for the rest of your days if you are to prevent yourself from relapsing back to drugs and alcohol.

Before you leave the treatment facility, therefore, you may meet with counselors to talk over your aftercare plans.

Even after you complete the long-term rehab program, you may still find that you have a long way to go before you recover fully from your addiction. As such, it might be difficult for you to anticipate the next step, particularly because everyone you encounter at the facility will have their own individualized and personalized aftercare plan.

That said, the most common recommendations the medics may make include:

a) Outpatient Treatment

First, you might be advised to enroll for an outpatient addiction treatment program. Most aftercare plans recommend these programs. After you leave the rehab facility, you will often be required to attend several therapy sessions on an outpatient basis every month (or even on daily basis).

The number of visits will eventually lessen as time passes and you start becoming more confident in your ability to avoid using drugs and resist any temptations that might come your way.

The doctors and addiction experts may also encourage that you attend self-help group meetings and group therapy meetings as part of your aftercare plan when you leave rehab.

b) Transitional Housing

At times, moving from the relative safety and sobriety of the environment created at most rehab facilities to the outside world might prove to be a bit of a shock. As such, you may be advised to live in halfway houses for some time before you go back to your home.

Halfway houses provide transitional living facilities and quarters where you can recover in a safe and sober environment until you are fully ready to rejoin society. They house small groups of recovering drug and alcohol addicts. This means that you will get the opportunity to discuss your difficulties and struggles with like-minded people going through the same problems.

c) Others

As a former addict, you may also have to maintain regular post-rehab therapy sessions. It might also be in your best interests to agree to scheduled drug testing to keep yourself accountable and sober. Alternatively, think about joining the following groups as part of your after-care:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Pills Anonymous (PA)


Although you have the option of undergoing short term rehab, it might prove to be more useful for your time, overall health and wellness, and chances of success to choose long-term drug treatment. Use the guide above to help you make the right decision and get started on your journey to full recovery and sobriety today.

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