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Guide To Long-Term Rehab: Is It The Best Option For You?

Long-term rehabilitation programs offer people the opportunity to put time and space between themselves and active addiction, where they can focus intensely on personal healing and growth.

It is an incredible way to begin a new life after addiction, but it is not a level of care that is necessary for everyone to be successful in sobriety.

Do you need long-term drug rehab to make a strong start in recovery?

Learn more about long-term drug rehab, what it is, how it stacks up against other types of addiction treatment, and whether or not you or your loved one may benefit from attending a long-term drug treatment program in lieu of typical inpatient addiction treatment.


Long-term rehab programs allow clients to actively pursue treatment for six months or more, with many people staying in residence for a year. Comparatively, short-term addiction treatment programs often provide for 30 to 90 days of treatment.

During this time in long-term rehab, clients can:

Engage in medical detox, including long-term medical detox, where they can taper their dose of detox medications as slowly as necessary while having around-the-clock care and supervision.

Take part in medical and mental health assessments, provide a thorough drug history to providers, and develop a complete treatment plan designed to address personalized treatment goals.

In the beginning, they can receive the support needed to stay focused. Later, they can offer support to newcomers.

Try different types of therapy to determine what works best for them and their recovery.

Speak up when things aren’t working, take space as needed, and develop relationships with staff and peers that support an honest, healthy, and positive experience in the first few months of sobriety.

Determine the best course of action, including which therapies and other aftercare services will be most supportive.

Long-term rehab has the potential to be whatever you make of it. Clients have the opportunity to play an active role in creating a positive, interactive experience.


Everyone is different, and how long rehabilitation should last will vary significantly based on individual needs and desires. Many different issues can contribute to the development of an addiction, and each one requires treatment.

Factors that can contribute to an ongoing addiction that should be addressed during long-term rehab include:

If you were raised by parents who struggled with addiction, otherwise have a genetic predisposition to the development of an addiction, or were raised in an environment where drug use was normalized, it is important to explore this during treatment. Identifying assumptions you make about drinking and drug use, and what is or is not appropriate social behavior in a treatment setting, can help you reset your idea of what is healthy and functional in your relationships. You’ll begin to make better choices as you connect with new people.

Self-medication through substance abuse is also common among those living with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. It is impossible for treatment to be effective in this case unless intensive mental health treatment is also provided at the same time.

Without treatment for mental health disorders, the same triggers for drinking and drug use will continue and grow. Similarly, if mental health treatment is attempted without also addressing the substance use disorder, then drug and alcohol use will impede progress.

The good news is that long-term drug rehab provides the time to make real headway in addressing underlying mental health issues.

Physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect can all take a toll on you no matter when they happen in your life or who the perpetrator is. For almost everyone with past trauma, drug use is often a form of self-medication. Alcohol, drugs, and other vice addictions are used to escape the pain associated with those memories, and that is triggered by everyday interactions.

For many people, addiction began with a legitimate prescription for painkillers given to them by a doctor for the management of chronic pain. By the time they seek treatment, they are still dealing with an ongoing pain problem.

In fact, many have a harder time managing pain without medication than when they started taking the pills because the body adjusts and builds a tolerance over time. This can make it that much more complicated to avoid relapse, making medical treatment for chronic pain management a must in long-term drug rehab.


In general, it is recommended that an individual in recovery stays as long as necessary for their particular needs. No one-size-fits-all time limit is recommended.

For some people, a 30-day rehab program is more than sufficient to help them reconnect with recovery principles if they have relapsed after a time of sobriety. They do not need to go back and spend another year in an intensive long-term rehab program.

For others, especially those who have long struggled with relapses that last for months or years and tried different types of long-term addiction treatment programs, it may be necessary to continue building that foundation in a long-term program. This program can provide the buffer they need from the rest of the world as they begin to heal.


For people who are entering drug addiction treatment for the first time, a long-term rehab program is recommended if they have spent years in addiction or struggle with significant co-occurring mental health disorders, behavioral disorders, or vice addictions. It is necessary to take this time to focus solely on recovery and nothing else.

While it is not “better” than other styles of treatment, it often provides necessary separation from the stressors that contributed to the addiction. Clients can get sober time under their belts and make demonstrable progress toward their treatment goals.


Long-term addiction treatment programs offer many benefits, including:

  • An environment conducive to healing
  • The time to explore combinations of treatments
  • Space away from stressful relationships
  • An opportunity to build up sober time
  • A pressure-free zone to plateau and explore


Whether or not to enroll in a long-term drug rehab program is not a decision to be taken lightly. It is important that you take the time to consider your needs and what different programs have to offer, weighing the pros and cons of all of them.

In general, a long-term drug rehab program is recommended for anyone who:

  • Living with a substance use disorder for months, years
  • Diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder
  • Lives in a situation where others struggle with substance abuse
  • Has tried short-term rehab programs but been unsuccessful
  • Requires intensive treatment for chronic pain
  • Struggling with suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors


Effective long-term drug rehab programs provide for personalized care and treatment that is informed by your goals for your life in treatment and beyond. It is essential that you have a unique treatment plan that is designed for your needs and a multidisciplinary team of professionals all working together on your behalf to make sure your treatment is unfolding as expected and adjustments are made as goals change or are met.

For many, an effective long-term rehab program will also provide them with support for family members who would like to mend relationships and learn how to help the entire family begin the healing process in preparation for their loved one’s return. For others, support is provided for legal difficulties related to drug and alcohol use.

In short, if there is an issue related to a substance use disorder that may be an obstacle to sustained sobriety, an effective long-term treatment program will offer help.


If you have long tried to stop using drugs and alcohol with no success, or if you are living with co-occurring issues that are stopping you from being successful in an outpatient or short-term drug addiction treatment program, then long-term rehab may be the right choice for you.


(January 2018) Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. from from

(January 2018) Types of Treatment Programs. National Institute on Drug Abuse. from from

(June 2014) Treatment. National Institutes of Health. from from

(September 2016) Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. from from

(July 2018) Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery. The National Institutes of Health. from from

(March 2016) Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain — Misconceptions and Mitigation Strategies. The New England Journal of Medicine. from from

(August 2016) Childhood Trauma and Illicit Drug Use in Adolescence: A Population-Based National Comorbidity Survey Replication–Adolescent Supplement Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. from from

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