Americans are a nation of problem-solvers. It’s in our blood: meet a challenge head-on, find a good strategy to overcome it and then buckle down and get it done with good old-fashioned hard work. From fast-food meals to same-day purchase delivery, we value the fast, efficient solution above all else. That doesn’t just apply to Americans, either – if you asked, most people probably would find quick, easy and relatively painless solutions very attractive.
The problem is quick fixes absolutely do not apply to addiction recovery.
Like any chronic disease, addiction defies quick recovery. It’s a complex disease that requires tremendous effort on behalf of the patient and professional health care providers to overcome. Staying clean is a complex dance of avoiding potential addiction triggers, learning new habits and even developing new ways to think. None of this is easy, and all of it requires time. Unfortunately, quick-fix strategies have often been applied to addiction treatment, with a 28 to 30-day stay in rehab being seen as a standard. For many addicts, that’s simply not enough time.
In 1999, research by Bennett Fletcher, senior research psychologist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that shorter stays in rehab tended to result in more relapses. A study of 1,605 cocaine users examined their drug use a year after they had received treatment. Nearly 35 percent of the users who spent 90 days or fewer in treatment reported cocaine use; compared to 17 percent of users who spent 90 days or longer. Data from NIDA’s Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Studies showed similar results. One of the studies involved examining 549 patients who entered a long-term residential treatment program. The relapse rates of patients that dropped out before 90 days were similar to those of patients who received only a day or two of treatment. Relapse rates for patients who stayed longer showed a gradual proportionality.
Staying in rehab longer seems to bring greater benefits for patients. Writing for PsychCentral, addiction psychiatrist David Sack, M.D., outlines several ways that lengthy rehab stays help. Firstly, the detoxification process occupies less of the patient’s stay in rehab and allows for a longer recovery period in a controlled environment. Detoxing is different for everyone, and for some patients the process can take up most of a 30-day period. Longer stays also allow the patient’s brain to heal more thoroughly from the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, which can cause damage to the brain. A long stay in rehab can allow the patient to learn and apply healthier habits and strategies towards living a sober life, as well as learning how to manage issues like drug cravings before returning to a daily routine outside of the rehab environment. And finally, longer rehab stays can allow treatment of co-occurring disorders the patient might have, like other addictions and depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although they may not be ideal for addiction patients, shorter treatment programs can still do a lot of good for anyone who struggles with addiction. If you or a loved one needs help, please call 866-269-2493 for assistance.