Many people approach addiction recovery as though it’s a microwave: systematic, straightforward, and—above all else—fast. The “30-day treatment” myth doesn’t help with these misconceptions either.
But does microwave cooking lead to the best-tasting and healthiest version of your food? Definitely not. The same goes for addiction recovery: does a “quick treatment” lead to your most sustainable and holistic recovery from substance abuse and addiction? The research says no.
Unfortunately—and despite the lack of evidence to support it—the long-held 30-day treatment model quickly became a baseline normal for both insurance companies and treatment centers.
Among many reasons, one of the most convenient is the practicality of short-term treatment. In addition to coming to terms with one’s addictive pattern or substance abuse disorder, a person must also set aside time and space for the recovery process. These inconveniences may include:
All of these requirements demand the person to leave behind (albeit temporarily) their day to day life in order to start the healing process. It quickly becomes obvious then why minimizing treatment time is so appealing to many people.
But as the study discussed below suggests, shorter treatment times have a much higher risk of relapse. Therefore, committing to longer treatment time up front reduces the person’s risk, not only of relapse, but also the financial, emotional, and time exertions that even 30-day treatments require.
As a whole, there has been much less research on the long-term recovery process than the short-term. However, recent studies, including from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, have shown that longer treatments do produce better results and have a higher chance of preventing relapse.
It’s true that negative effects of substance abuse—such as physical, mental, social, and financial deterioration—are often the things that keep people sober in the early phases of recovery. But as time goes on, the motivators for sobriety change significantly.
Since recovery is a dynamic process, a person’s coping strategies and mechanisms must be as flexible and dynamic. Some of the most helpful motivators over the long-term include:
As more research is done on the positive effects of long-term treatment, medical professionals are starting to recommend treatment times between three and six months. The results are showing significantly better outcomes. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways a person can pursue longer treatments.
Another important aspect of addiction that long-term treatments can address are co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are additional mental, cognitive, and trauma-induced conditions that often accompany substance abuse and addiction.
Longer treatment times help to address and heal these disorders alongside the pursuit of sobriety. And with longer observation durations, professionals are able to perform better assessment and formulate more effective treatment plans.
When a person is experiencing PTSD or other co-occurring disorders, addiction is not the only thing that requires long-term treatment. With this knowledge, treatment centers have changed the way they approach recovery and healing, which can promote continued care and precent relapse cycles.
When a person is engaged in substance abuse and addictive patterns over a prolonged period of time, chemical changes occur within the brain. These changes can also induce or exacerbate dormant conditions like anxiety and depression. If the brain becomes dependent on the substances for everyday functionality, these patterns are even more difficult to detangle. But recovery is possible— it simply takes time and hard work for the neural pathways of the brain to rewire and heal.
Although new habits can be made by doing them every day for thirty days, the recovery process is more than just building new habits. Sustainable recovery with better outcomes over the long-haul does not happen overnight.
Over longer treatment durations, a person in recovery learns how to cope with difficult or triggering situations. But they also discover how to manage their cravings with healthy and life-giving behaviors.
Moreover, long-term treatment programs are better equipped to address any known or unknown co-occurring disorders, which affect more than thirty percent of people in substance abuse programs. Isn’t it worth the wait to give yourself the time, space, and holistic care you need? For better health outcomes and a truly sustainable sobriety, take the extra time to heal your physical, mental, and emotional needs.
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