Pathways Wellness

How Long Is Alcohol Rehab? A Comprehensive Look at Treatment Durations

How Long Is Alcohol Rehab? A Comprehensive Look at Treatment Durations
Raul Haro
October 23, 2023
Perhaps the biggest concern people have when considering alcohol rehab is the length of treatment. There are several reasons for such concerns. Perhaps the most common is the fear that someone will be trapped in alcohol rehab forever, unable to leave and resume their lives again. This is not true, as addiction treatment centers are […]
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How Long is Alcohol Rehab? A Comprehensive Look at Treatment Durations

Perhaps the biggest concern people have when considering alcohol rehab is the length of treatment. There are several reasons for such concerns. Perhaps the most common is the fear that someone will be trapped in alcohol rehab forever, unable to leave and resume their lives again. This is not true, as addiction treatment centers are places of healing. Time spent there varies, but people eventually "graduate" and return to society.

But how long does alcohol rehab take at Pathways Wellness Center? Simply put, it varies due to several factors, some of which are beyond a person's control. The severity of the addiction is a major factor that can shorten or lengthen a person's enrollment in an alcohol rehab program. Environmental factors, such as where someone lives, can also play a major role in treatment length. Is the client living in a supportive and healthy environment? If not, then time must be taken to make their environment healthier so they can focus on their treatment. Age, gender identity, and genetics also can influence the severity and likelihood of alcohol addiction.

It takes a mental health care professional to be able to look at all these factors and determine an effective treatment plan. Only then can a person know for sure how long their alcohol rehab will last. Pathways Wellness Center does its best to provide a way for people with busy lives to receive quality addiction treatment. However, we encourage clients to take their time and not rush treatment. Rushing treatment is a surefire way to experience burnout. Alcohol rehab is a test of endurance, not a race. Taking time to heal right takes less time than rushing treatment and experiencing hardships as a result later.

Some estimations can be made on how long alcohol rehab can take depending on specific factors. It's especially important to consider alcohol addiction itself and how it affects people.

What Is an Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction is the inability to manage drinking habits due to a physical or emotional dependence on alcohol. It's also known as alcoholism, alcohol dependence, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Whatever someone chooses it call it, it's an addiction that can cause harm to the mind, body, and life.

Firstly, alcohol is a chemical that affects the brain. Our brains depend on a delicate balance of special chemicals called neurotransmitters that pass information along the brain and nervous system. When someone drinks alcohol, it affects these neurotransmitters and prevents them from functioning properly. It's why many people experience a “slowed down” effect when drinking, or have other symptoms such as dizziness and slurred speech. After repeated use, the brain begins to believe that it needs alcohol to function. This is because alcohol changes the chemical makeup of the brain. When someone stops drinking, it causes withdrawal symptoms. 

People also become psychologically or emotionally dependent on alcohol. Alcohol is sometimes used as a form of self-medication. Self-medicating is when someone uses a drug or substance to treat psychological symptoms, real or perceived, without the oversight of a doctor. Some people may drink alcohol to manage the symptoms of poor physical or mental health. Others may drink because they are dealing with pain or lingering trauma. Some may believe that they have to drink to maintain their relationships. These psychological dependencies are just as difficult to break as a physical addiction.

Alcohol addiction ranges from mild, moderate, and severe addictions. The severity of the addiction will strongly influence how long it takes to complete alcohol rehab. Someone with a mild alcohol addiction will take less time to recover than someone with a severe addiction. The length of addiction also matters as well, as the longer someone engages in alcohol use, the harder it is to recover. It's why someone should get help right away should they believe they are struggling with alcohol addiction. 

Different Types of Alcohol Rehab Programs

What also influences the length of alcohol rehab is what treatments are needed to help someone recover. As mentioned before, alcohol addiction ranges in severity. Those with a severe alcohol addiction often need a residential treatment program. There, they can undergo supervised detox, which helps clients remove alcohol from their systems under the direct care of medical professionals. It's a careful process, and it can take several weeks to be sure that a person is no longer struggling with withdrawal symptoms. 

For more mild to severe alcohol addiction, one can utilize an outpatient treatment program for alcohol rehab. Pathways Wellness Center is an outpatient addiction treatment facility that offers several treatment programs. There is the partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP). A PHP is mostly for those with a moderate alcohol addiction who have a high chance of a relapse. Many people who start alcohol rehab begin in residential treatment and eventually move to a PHP for further treatment. IOPs are usually for those with a mild alcohol addiction or who have recovered enough from a severe addiction to begin transitioning back into normal life.

Alcohol rehab also includes aftercare. These are programs designed to help those who are in recovery stay in recovery. Relapse prevention, resume building, support network programs, and others are given to clients before and after alcohol rehab. Everyone, regardless of the treatment program they are in, will be able to receive aftercare. 

Detoxification as the First Step of Alcohol Rehab

The first stage of any alcohol rehab program is detoxification. Detoxing is when someone no longer consumes a drug or substance so the chemicals can fully leave the body. This is important, as someone cannot recover from their addiction if their body and brain are still chemically dependent on it. During this phase, a person will experience withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms happen because the body and brain chemistry are re-adjusting to the lack of alcohol. 

Detoxing can be dangerous, as some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. For mild and moderate alcohol withdrawal, a person can experience symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fever
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Feelings of anxiety

Those experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal can have seizures and even delirium tremens. These symptoms can sometimes be fatal without medical treatment. That's why it's important for someone to detox under the supervision and care of experienced medical experienced. Pathways Wellness Center helps its clients detox through a supervised detox program and the application of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when needed.

The time it takes to fully detox depends on how long a person has been consuming alcohol. It can take up to a week for those with mild to moderate alcohol addiction to fully detox. Those with a severe addiction can sometimes take longer, as the body needs time to establish a “new normal” without the influence of alcohol. Regardless of how long it takes, Pathways Wellness Center does its best to make the detox process as comfortable and safe as possible. 

The Difference Between Residential and Outpatient Rehab

Once someone decides to go into alcohol rehab, they need to choose a treatment program that is right for them. They don't have to make this decision alone, as a mental health care professional can help someone go over their options. Choosing between residential treatment, PHPs, and IOPs can be overwhelming at the best of times. Having a professional that can guide someone into making an informed choice is always helpful.

Residential treatment programs vary in length, with them typically lasting between one to three months. Again, time spent there depends on the addiction and severity of said addiction. Some addictions require extra medical care to detox safely. The purpose of a residential treatment program is to provide a safe environment away from triggers so a client can focus on detoxing and treatment. Eventually, a person will become stable enough to leave residential treatment and move on to another treatment program that can help them continue their recovery.

PHPs are the next step down and involve intensive treatments five times a week. Some clients spend up to six hours a day in treatment and go home afterward. This form of alcohol rehab is somewhat short, with the average length being a few weeks to a month. Some clients may need to stay longer if they are struggling. The idea is to make sure someone is stable and help them manage their withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Once someone is less likely to relapse without intense supervision, people move on to an IOP. 

IOPs take the longest, with treatment programs averaging a few months for mild addictions to up to a year for severe ones. However, people don't spend a lot of time in treatment. They often meet a few times a week for a couple of hours at a time. This is the most flexible form of treatment as it makes it easy to schedule treatments around work, school, and home obligations. Many people choose an IOP because it offers support while allowing the client to eventually transition into sober living.

Factors That Influence the Length of an Alcohol Rehab Program

Average completion times for alcohol rehab are just that: averages. There are a lot of personal factors that can influence how long a client has to stay in alcohol rehab. Much of it boils down to an individual's drive and desire to recover from their addiction. Alcohol rehab does not work on the unwilling, and a person has to truly accept that they need help from professionals before they can fully recover. This can be difficult, and many people take a couple of weeks before they realize that they are safe in treatment and that they will be treated with compassion and respect.  

Other factors, like a co-occurring mental health disorder, can also complicate addiction treatment for alcohol. Some co-occurring mental health disorders are difficult to see, and it can take time for a mental health care professional to make an accurate diagnosis. These disorders must be treated at the same time as addiction and can lengthen the time someone needs to spend in alcohol rehab. Addiction severity is also important, and the more severe an addiction is, the longer treatment will take.

There are also other factors, such as insurance coverage, personal finances, personal obligations, and individual treatment center protocols that can influence treatment length. For example, by law, medical insurance must cover mental health care and addiction treatment. How much time it will cover or what treatment centers will accept them varies greatly between providers. It's important to choose a treatment plan that will help someone overcome their addiction. However, it's equally important to choose a program that someone is able to enroll in.

That's why Pathways Wellness Center puts a lot of care into helping clients choose an alcohol rehab program that will satisfy their needs. It's okay to enroll in a treatment plan that may take more time to complete if it allows one to fulfill more personal obligations. Others may want more intensive treatment so they can recover as quickly as possible. It's up to the client to decide for themselves what they want the most out of treatment. Pathways Wellness Center will then take all the information they have and create a custom-tailored personalized treatment plan. No two plans are alike, as no two people, and their addictions, are alike either.

Aftercare During and After Alcohol Rehab

An important part of alcohol rehab is aftercare. These are programs that are vital in helping clients stay in recovery after treatment. Relapse prevention is by far the most well-known aftercare program used in alcohol rehab. It helps clients understand what a relapse is and how to prevent it. There are also workshops to help build better support networks and improve social relationships. Some treatment facilities also help their clients prepare for work or school. The general idea is to provide as many resources as possible that a client can utilize once they finished treatment. 

Just because someone finishes treatment doesn't mean that they have to face life alone. Pathways Wellness Center staff maintain a welcoming, supportive environment, where anyone can go back to get help at any time. However, they work hard to give clients the tools they need to succeed and trust in themselves. One way in which they do this is by fostering a positive community made up of fellow alumni and peers, who help those in alcohol rehab learn about sober living. There are plenty of sober activities that happen in and around Glendora, California, all of which clients and alumni can participate in.

Some aftercare programs last the length of alcohol rehab. Others may last a little longer as a way to transition someone out of alcohol rehab. Again, people are not kicked out of their support network because they finished treatment. Some aftercare programs and support mechanisms will remain in effect as long as the client wishes them. Aftercare can last for as little as a few weeks post-treatment or remain a part of someone's life for several years.

Tips to Remember in Rehab

Remember, recovery is not a race, it's a journey. It takes a lot of commitment and self-determination to complete treatment. It's important to slow down sometimes and rest. No mental health care professional would judge someone for needing extra time to recover. Addiction is serious, and it's better to stick with the program at their own pace than it is to suddenly stop. It may seem silly to someone to be asked to draw a picture in alcohol rehab. However, every aspect of a treatment plan is important, even if someone doesn't understand why right away.

Having loved ones to offer support can help make treatment easier. They can give someone the encouragement they need to stick with their treatment program. Having people to cheer them along can help people see that they are worthy of help. For those who don't have a support network, Pathways Wellness Center helps them build one of their own. Nobody should have to undergo alcohol rehab alone, and having support makes it go by much faster.

However, addiction treatment cannot start unless the person needing it reaches out for help. They should contact their local addiction treatment facility as soon as possible. It's okay to be nervous, but know that staff members at Pathways Wellness Center would never belittle or judge someone for needing help. So don't wait, reach out and start the journey to recovery today.

One reason why some people fear alcohol rehab is because they worry about the length of treatment. There is no easy answer to tell anyone for sure how long it will take to overcome their alcohol addiction. However, they can be sure that they are not being put into prison or held against their will. Addiction treatment is about healing and helping someone achieve recovery, and here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, clients can expect quality treatment and compassionate care. Our staff knows what it's like to be in recovery and works hard to help people complete their treatment and recover as swiftly and safely as possible. To learn more about addiction treatment, call (888) 771-0966 today.

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.

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