The length of each stage of addiction recovery can vary widely depending on the severity of one’s addiction, the type of substance used and the frequency of use.

As soon as people start thinking about ending substance use and beginning a period of recovery, they want to know the answer to one question: How long does addiction recovery take?

The journey to recovery can be long and involved, so people naturally want to learn and understand how treatment works. Recovery is a lifelong process, but some drugs will move through the body quicker than others to speed up the path from addiction to recovery.

Article at a Glance:

  • Recovery often starts with detoxification, the body’s process of clearing drugs and alcohol from the system
  • Depending on the drugs used and individual differences of the person, detox can take anywhere from a few days to many months
  • Inpatient treatment is the most intense level of addiction care and tends to have a shorter duration than outpatient treatment
  • Residential treatments offer a balance of intensity and brevity, with durations lasting between a few weeks to one year
  • While outpatient treatment is the least intense level of addiction care, it typically lasts for several months 
  • Support groups provide a long-term, nonprofessional treatment option to sustain lifelong recovery

How Long Does Detox Take?

Many people starting professional addiction treatment will begin the path to recovery with a period of detoxification. Detox is a general term used to describe the body’s process of removing alcohol and other drugs from the system. 

When people talk about how long it takes to detox, they are referring to the amount of time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to present themselves and subside. Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable physical and mental health effects that arise when drugs disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. On average, medical detox treatment tends to last for four days, as this is how long most acute symptoms of withdrawal last. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the length of detox can vary depending on the substances used by the individual. For example, the number of days it takes to work through acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be different from the days needed to detox from other drugs. With some short-acting drugs, like methamphetamine, detox begins within a few hours after last use and acute withdrawal symptoms resolve in as little as three days. However, it may take ten days to detox from alcohol.  

How Long Does Inpatient Rehab Last?

Professional drug and alcohol detox programs may only take a few days or weeks to complete. Afterward, the individual can step down to an inpatient treatment program.

People curious about rehab commonly ask questions like:

  • How long are rehab programs?
  • How long does rehab last?
  • Who goes to rehab?

Inpatient or residential rehab are both terms used to describe any services that involve the individual leaving their home to live at the facility during their treatment. Residential rehabs generally offer a higher level of care, providing 24-hour support from a team of medical professionals. 

Inpatient rehab tends to be more restrictive for people who are still managing powerful mental or medical symptoms of addiction. These treatment options may be located in acute care hospitals or freestanding treatment centers. 

Rehab length can last anywhere from a few days to over a year, depending on the person’s needs and their progress through recovery. Some of the most popular lengths of rehab include:

  • 30-day rehab programs
  • 60-day rehab programs
  • 90-day rehab programs
  • Long-term drug rehab programs (120 days or more)

Many of these programs share the same treatments and structure. The main difference is duration. Based on a person’s symptoms, stressors and supports, their treatment team will recommend the best option.

Related Topic: How long is inpatient rehab?

How Long Do Outpatient Treatment Programs Take?

Outpatient treatment programs may be undergone on their own, or as part of a step-down treatment that usually involves medical detox and higher levels of care like inpatient treatment. Outpatient includes all services that allow a person to come to the facility, receive treatment and then return to home or work.

Outpatient treatments offer a lower level of care compared to residential treatment, so the programs may take longer to complete. As always, the person’s ability to address their addiction and move through the recovery process will shorten the duration of their treatment.

If a person is working, surrounded by a reliable support system, emotionally and financially stable and working through the motivation behind substance use, their treatment could be shorter. A person living in a chaotic and inconsistent environment with limited income, unstable housing, unsupportive relationships, high stress and numerous mental and medical issues may require a longer period of outpatient treatment.

Rather than days and weeks, people tend to measure outpatient treatment in terms of months and years. Approximately 90 days is the average duration of outpatient treatment, but some people will continue treatment indefinitely. However, in cases where treatment is undergone as part of a full continuum of care, a client’s time in outpatient care may be significantly shorter. 

Continuing Care & Long Term Recovery

Substance abuse treatment is based on two important principles:

  1. Maintaining long-term sobriety is challenging. While triggers may lessen over time, the urge to use substances remains for many people in recovery.
  2. Relapse is a part of recovery. Though unfortunate, relapses happen in recovery, just as they do in other chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and asthma. 

Part of maintaining long-term recovery requires a person to accept these aspects of addiction. A relapse is certainly a troubling event, but if the person gives up on their recovery when this happens, they will never succeed. Instead, people can benefit from using the relapse as a new opportunity to reevaluate and reinvestigate their treatment.

relapse may indicate the need for:

  • Increased involvement with professional treatment
  • More frequent appointments
  • A higher level of care
  • A medication change as recommended by a prescriber
  • Additional lifestyle changes to decrease stress and increase support

Not only does long-term recovery need the assistance of professional treatment, but it always benefits from other recovery-focused activities, like support groups. Support groups lack the guidance of professional therapy, and instead, rely on the sense of community and fellowship they create. Attending a support group connects someone to an entire network of people in recovery who are willing to share their experience and expertise on the subject of sobriety.

If detox, inpatient, residential or outpatient treatments seem like a good fit for you or someone you know, consider calling The Recovery Village today. The experts at The Recovery Village treat many substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions in various treatment settings. Reach out today for more information.

a woman is standing with her arms crossed.
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
a man smiling in front of a brick wall.
Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: […]Research-Based Guide.” January 2018. Accessed July 25, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved[…]a Problem with Drugs.” January 2016. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.” 2015. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted Withdrawal.” July 2010. Accessed July 25, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.