90 Days or More of Treatment Leads to Improved Outcomes

Deciding between 30-day vs. 90-day addiction treatment can seem daunting. Understanding the differences between 30-day residential treatment and 90-day residential treatment can help you choose the right duration for your individual situation. However, initial duration of care is not the only factor to consider; high-quality programs must also offer variety, flexibility, and continuity to ensure that the full range of your needs is met.

The decision to go to treatment does not come easily. For many, it is a choice arrived at only when you have run out of other options and realize—often painfully—that you need more than a 12-step group, more than counseling, more than an outpatient program. But once you have decided that residential care is your best way forward, you still have another choice to make: 30-day vs. 90-day treatment.

For many, shorter programs can seem like the more appealing choice, especially if you have obligations such as family and work waiting for you at home. And for some, 30-day treatment is the right decision. However, the duration of treatment should be carefully considered and driven by an honest examination of not only your wants, but your needs. What is the best way to get at the root of your addiction? What is the best way to create a path to real, sustainable recovery?

30-Day Residential Treatment

30 days is often the standard length of care people imagine when thinking about residential addiction treatment—the concept of the 30-day rehab program has been popularized in media, encouraged by insurance companies, and has long been considered the norm for addiction treatment. Thirty days is enough time to help someone successfully complete detox, complete evaluation, participate in psychoeducation based on clinical observations, and, often, stabilize on any new medications. By the end of the month, you ideally come away with an understanding of the full range of your needs.

In a high-quality 30-day treatment program, this process begins with broad-spectrum psychiatric assessment and is rooted in individualized care to nurture positive emotional and behavioral change. A critical piece of that care is helping clients develop function skills that can be applied to their lives in spite of their struggles. Through a comprehensive curriculum of therapy, you can get into very deep territory in terms of learning how to manage psychiatric symptoms, understanding the internal resources you need to manage your illness and cope with distressing experiences, and honing the tools you need to develop healthy behavioral patterns. With this foundation, a 30-day program allows you to examine the roots of your addiction, identify any co-occurring mental health disorders, and start the healing process within a supportive framework. It can plant the seeds for ongoing sobriety and create a strong base for continuing care.

Because of their relatively short duration, these programs are best suited for those coming to treatment for the first time, do not need extensive detox, do not have a severe co-occurring mental illness, and those who are seeking care relatively early in their addiction.

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90-Day Residential Treatment

While 30-day treatment has historically been the standard duration of addiction treatment, researchers are now finding that longer length of care can result in better long-term outcomes.

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.” One such study, Shari Roan writes, found that individuals “receiving substance-abuse treatment found that those in treatment for 90 days or more had significantly lower relapse rates than [those] in programs of 21 days.”

So what makes 90-day programs so much more effective? The answer is, in part, that 90 days is enough time to fully go through detox and have the mental and physical space to move to the next phase of treatment without interference from early withdrawal. It also allows you to stabilize on any psychopharmaceuticals or relapse prevention medication you may be prescribed and fine-tune your medication plan.

However, the most powerful benefits go beyond the basics. Understanding what you are taught in treatment isn’t hard, but often, implementing it is. The residential milieu is a powerful setting in which clinicians are able to observe how people re-enact and demonstrate where they struggle in life, in relationships, and in their own self-regulation. This allows the time and space not just for education, but for practicing solutions. When you have 90 days to do that, you are able to refine how those solutions are implemented and imprint them on your psychological fabric, moving from a conceptual understanding to practical integration. This happens not only due to the ability to delve deeper into diverse therapeutic modalities for longer, but also due to specific skill-building workshops that may be offered to 90-day residents and their families.

Although most people struggling with addiction can benefit from 90-day programs, this duration is particularly useful for those with extensive detox needs, severe co-occurring mental health disorders, and who have a history of relapse after attending intensive outpatient or other residential programs.

Variety, Flexibility, and Continuity

Offering both 30-day and 90-day stays allows quality addiction treatment programs to tailor care for your specific circumstances and engage you in ways that speak to your individual situation. It also gives you the flexibility to extend or shorten your stay based on how you are responding to treatment, your own assessment of your progress, and any new symptoms that emerge during your stay. Some programs also provide opportunities to stay in treatment beyond 90s days as necessary.

Regardless of the duration of residential care, it is vital that your treatment program offers comprehensive continuing care services to ensure that you preserve and build on the progress you have made. For some, this will include stepping down into a sober living environment, an intensive outpatient program, or specialized relapse prevention and process groups. These services provide opportunities to gradually and safely transition from a residential environment and give you the structure and support you need as you integrate your new skills into your everyday life.

Choosing residential addiction treatment is the first step toward creating a life free from drugs and alcohol. Choosing the right program gives you the best chance at lasting, sustainable recovery and a richer, more fulfilling life.