How Long Should Alcohol Treatment Be?
Stanley Bush Asks ...
I’m a 36 year old male alcoholic and I’m looking to go to an alcohol rehab facility. My question pertains to the optimal length of treatment. Some people seem to claim that a 28 day rehab offers the best and that longer programs just serve to ‘institutionalize’ you. Other people seem to claim that 28 days in doesn’t give you enough time to really make a true break away from the drinking. I have heard people suggesting 3 months programs or even longer programs as best.
While I can appreciate that individual circumstances will vary, can you make a general comment on the optimal length for a rehab stay?
Dr. David Sack Says ...
As you pointed out in your question, there is no one treatment program length that is right for everybody. In general, the more complex the problem a person has, and the more severe those problems are, the longer the treatment will need to be. In general, however, most people do better when their treatment is continued for a longer period of time.
Studies show when treatment is 90 days or longer, outcomes improved – whether the treatment was in an outpatient or residential setting. The more complex the problems, the more they will benefit from being in a residential setting. Patients with good support systems, secure jobs, and stable relationships may do very well with outpatient rehabilitation as opposed to residential rehabilitation. However, someone addicted to multiple substances and who has other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety may do better in a residential program. An experienced therapist can probably help you decide what treatment setting is best for you, but the evidence does indicate that treatment for 90 days or longer results in better outcomes.