Pathways Wellness

How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?

How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?
Raul Haro
September 23, 2023
Perhaps the biggest question asked by those considering addiction treatment is, “How long it takes to break an addiction?” The short answer is that it varies. This is due to many factors around addiction that can make the treatment of it more or less difficult. Addiction, however, is a treatable disease. Many people find success […]
CALL (949) 383-6197
How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?

Perhaps the biggest question asked by those considering addiction treatment is, “How long it takes to break an addiction?” The short answer is that it varies. This is due to many factors around addiction that can make the treatment of it more or less difficult. Addiction, however, is a treatable disease. Many people find success in recovering from addiction with the proper treatment, time, and personal effort.

Addiction itself can be rather complicated. It's a mental illness or disease resulting from substance use disorder (SUD). This is when someone cannot control their substance use and it completely takes over their lives. These substances and drugs can psychically change the brain and alter its chemical balance. Addiction doesn't just affect someone mentally, it affects them physically as well. These effects can have a negative cascade effect on both an individual and their community. At the least, addiction can ruin relationships and cause social harm. At worst, it can end in legal troubles and even death.

That's why it's so important to break an addiction as quickly as possible. This is done by seeking treatment at a mental health care or addiction treatment facility. One such treatment facility is Pathways Wellness Center, which specializes in outpatient addiction treatment. But the question remains: How does someone break an addiction? 

To answer that, someone must understand why it can be so difficult to break an addiction in the first place.

What Exactly Is an Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease and mental illness that affects someone's body and mind. Several types of addiction exist, though they are typically divided into three different categories. These are behavioral, chemical, and psychological addictions. 

Behavioral addictions come from someone seeking a high by engaging in specific behaviors. Some come from risky behaviors, such as gambling, unprotected sex, and thrill-seeking. Others may treat specific behaviors as a form of self-medicating to soothe negative feelings. Common examples of behaviors used in this way are playing video games, shopping, and browsing the internet. 

Chemical addictions come from using substances or drugs that contain addictive chemicals. These chemicals affect the brain and nervous system and can cause various effects, depending on the substance. Some substances are used as a stimulant to increase feelings of alertness, euphoria, or pleasure, known as a “high.” These types of substances are known as “uppers.” Other substances are used to reduce someone's emotional load or to suppress the nervous system, known as "downers." 

Both types of substances are highly addictive on a chemical level as they hijack the pleasure/reward center in the brain. In time, the body comes to expect these substances to function. When it cannot get them, an individual will experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This can change someone's behavior and cause them to do whatever it takes to get their substance or drug of choice. Doing so can not only damage relationships, but can cause someone to run afoul of the law, or even overdose. 

Psychological addictions come from those who strongly believe they need a behavior or substance to function. They emotionally and mentally depend on a substance to feel normal or okay. To break an addiction that is behavioral or chemical, they will need to break its psychological hold on them as well. 

Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders and Their Role in Addiction

What can further complicate someone's want to break an addiction is the presence of co-occurring mental health disorders. Often, addiction results from someone attempting to treat the symptoms of a mental health disorder on their own. For example, someone struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may begin to abuse alcohol to suppress their over-active nervous system. Someone who is depressed may turn to an upper, or “party” drug, such as cocaine or ecstasy, to feel energized or happy. This effort to soothe a problem can often result in addiction. Trying to break an addiction doesn't mean just stopping the behavior or substance use. It also means treating the underlying problem that caused the addiction in the first place. 

How Does Someone Break an Addiction?

Before someone can break an addiction, they must first acknowledge that they have a problem. This is the first step in recovering from an addiction. Admitting that someone has a problem, however, is easier said than done. It can be difficult for many people, as society often pushes the idea that people should be self-sufficient in all things. Such thinking makes people believe that they must break an addiction alone. More often than not, this can fail, further demoralizing the person who is struggling.

That's why it's so important for someone to seek addiction treatment at a reputable mental health care facility or addiction treatment center. It gives them the highest chance of success in breaking their addiction.

The second step to breaking an addiction is detoxification. This is when someone stops using a substance or drug so the body can remove its traces from its system. Behavioral addictions means not engaging in the particular behavior that is causing them harm, no matter how much they want to. When someone has a chemical addiction, they enter a supervised detox program. This is because some substances can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. For example, some substances can cause seizures or cardiac arrest if suddenly stopped. It requires the oversight of a medical professional to help someone detox safely. Some people are given medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at this time to help manage withdrawal symptoms. 

Once the substance completely leaves someone's system, they have detoxed. However, the changes made to the brain due to abusing substances are still there. It can cause someone to experience cravings long after the detox has been successful. To learn how to manage their cravings, an individual needs specialized treatment. This begins the next phase of addiction treatment, which is rehabilitation. 

The Role of Rehabilitation in Addiction Recovery

Rehabilitation, or rehab for short, is a process in which someone receives specialized addiction treatment. Someone can either enter a residential treatment program, where someone lives at the treatment center, or enroll in an outpatient program, which allows them to have treatment during the day and go home at night. Several things happen during this phase of treatment. If someone is struggling with a co-occurring mental health disorder, they receive treatment for that alongside addiction treatment.

An individual will receive some type of psychotherapy, depending on their specific needs. The two most common psychotherapies used in addiction treatment are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). If someone requires medication as part of treatment, they are given the tools they need to manage them. Clients will also participate in other forms of therapy, such as art therapy and adventure therapy

To break an addiction, a person must learn healthy coping skills and distress tolerance. These help someone learn how to manage difficulties in their life without turning to substance use. Many clients in treatment programs at this time also build support networks, which helps give them the encouragement they need for treatment and beyond. Another important aspect of rehab is relapse prevention courses. These courses don't just help clients recognize the signs of a relapse. It helps clients learn how to set healthy boundaries and say no to peer pressure, both of which help clients prevent a relapse.

Once someone has finished addiction treatment, they move to the last phase, which is ongoing recovery. Someone can break an addiction, but the echoes of addiction will remain with someone for the rest of their life. However, addiction treatment teaches people how to live despite that, finding joy in sober living. Someone may not actively be in addiction treatment at this time, but people are encouraged to check in with mental health care professionals regularly. Doing so helps people mitigate small problems before they can turn into big ones. 

Living in recovery means that people have to make permanent changes in their lives. However, they form a community that makes sure they will never be alone, and help will always be there when needed. 

Common Factors That Influence Addiction Recovery Time

Everyone needs to understand that there is no set timeline to break an addiction. Addiction treatment can and will take as much time as it needs to be effective. Attempting to force or rush addiction treatment can result in failure and relapse. These failures over time can demoralize someone so strongly that they simply give up. At that point, it's difficult to find the motivation and hope to try again. It's advised for someone to take their time with treatment, and speak with qualified mental health care professionals about setting a realistic treatment timeline. Always be prepared for this timeline to shift as new information is discovered and different therapies are tried. 

The reality is that addiction recovery is an extremely personal ongoing journey. Comparing oneself to other people again will set someone up for disappointment. Instead, one should focus on their recovery journey and be proud of the accomplishments they have achieved. Taking each victory as it comes can make the time go by faster. 

There are a couple of factors that can help someone make a rough estimate of how quickly they break an addiction. 

The Substance Itself Can Make It Difficult to Break an Addiction

A serious factor in how long it takes to recover from an addiction is the substance the person is addicted to. Some types of substances are more addictive and have more serious withdrawal symptoms than others. It also depends on the quantity of substances used and how long a person has been using them. If someone has taken multiple substances simultaneously, it can complicate and thus lengthen the detox process. How the substance was taken, such as by swallowing or injecting, can also make detox last longer. This is due to the risk of infections and other medical complications that may require longer supervision. 

Some substances are easy to get and can be purchased by any legal adult, such as nicotine and alcohol. How easy is it for them to simply walk to the store and buy a bottle of alcohol? Having a support network is also vital to recovery, and many people don't have or don't know how to make one. As a result, some people choose to enroll in a residential treatment program where they can recover from a negative environment. 

Other Factors That Influence the Treatment Timeline

The environment also plays a large role in the speed of recovery. Anyone can break an addiction, but do their peers want them to? Do they have access to a safe environment, or are they living in a stressful or abusive environment? 

Someone's physical and mental health also can influence how quickly someone can break an addiction. If someone feels poorly or is in pain, it makes it difficult to focus on their treatment. Age, gender, and genetics also make it more or less difficult for someone to recover. 

Perhaps the most variable factor of all is someone's commitment to recovery. If someone doesn't want to break an addiction, or believes they don't have an addiction, they cannot recover. Treatment only works on those who are willing and ready to work hard on their recovery. 

How Pathways Wellness Center Helps Clients Break an Addiction

Pathways Wellness Center is an addiction treatment facility dedicated to helping its clients free themselves from addiction. This is done through our outpatient treatment programs. Outpatient treatment is not the same as residential treatment. For outpatient treatment, the client goes to treatment during the day and then goes home at night. How much time is spent in treatment is dependent on the program, but it's flexible enough to work around most schedules. In this regard, Pathways Wellness Center seeks to have addiction treatment accessible to as many people as possible. Everyone can make addiction treatment fit into their busy lives as long as they are committed to recovery. 

Pathways Wellness Center assists its clients through the entire process of breaking their addiction. Clients can seek information from knowledgeable staff, many of whom are in recovery themselves. This allows clients to receive productive advice and a unique perspective on addiction treatment compared to other facilities. For those lacking support, Pathways Wellness Center offers a peer network and support groups to give their clients the fellowship they need. After treatment is finished, Pathways Wellness Center helps clients stay in recovery by offering continued support and an active sober community. 

Several setbacks can endanger someone's recovery. The staff at Pathways Wellness Center understands this and seeks to teach clients important skills that can help them navigate around the difficulty. For example, peer pressure is a major cause of relapse. With this in mind, clients are taught how to set boundaries and practice them in a safe environment. Lack of familial support is another factor in relapses. Because of this, family therapy is available to help foster better connections between clients and their loved ones. These connections help people resist cravings and find their self-worth, all of which are important to recovery.

It's also vital to know that despite everything, relapses can and do happen. A person is not bad because they experience a relapse. Experiencing a relapse is not a punishment for failure or the mark of an immoral person. It simply means someone slipped during their recovery journey and needs extra help. Because relapses happen, Pathways Wellness Center makes it clear that clients can come back for help at any time. Asking for help is an important skill learned at Pathways Wellness Center, and clients who utilize this skill are more likely to have lasting recovery. 

Taking Time to Heal at Pathways Wellness Center

Pathways Wellness Center can help anyone break an addiction, but they emphasize again that recovery isn't a race. Addiction treatment takes time and care to be sure someone has all the tools they need to recover. It's especially true when recovering from a serious chemical addiction, as the body has been through so much and needs time to heal. Addiction recovery is like a bone healing itself from a break. Trying to run too soon can result in pain and serious injury. It's okay for someone to take their time so they recover safely. 

Remember that anyone can break an addiction. They just need the right treatment, support, personal commitment, and time. It's easy for anyone to reach out for help should they need it. If someone needs addiction help for themselves or a loved one, they can contact Pathways Wellness Center quickly and easily. Everyone deserves compassionate and quality treatment, including those reading this very blog.

It can be difficult to tell how long it will take for someone to break their addiction. There are a lot of factors involved that can make treatment take more or less time, depending on the individual. Sometimes treatment can take a lot of time to work. The important thing is to know that despite how much time it takes, anyone can break their addiction. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, we give our clients the support and encouragement they need to recover from their addiction. Recovery is not a race, and our clients can expect to receive their treatment with compassion and understanding. If you or a loved one is struggling, call us today at (888) 771-0966. 

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

Contact Us

Blog CTA - form