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Long-Term Drug & Alcohol Rehab

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Long-Term Drug & Alcohol Rehab

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Numbers vary, but according to American Addiction Centers an estimated 144 people die each day from drug overdoses in the United States; in a given year, that’s around a total of 44,000 overdoses. These statistics are alarming, and Time magazine offered figures that are even higher. When an addict’s life is threatened by their drug or alcohol addiction, the best way to drastically reduce the odds of a tragic overdose is to enter a treatment program.

Extended, long-term rehab programs provide the necessary medical services to assist with withdrawal and detox, and they place the patient in a positive environment that not only discourages drug use but offers therapeutic support that helps them rethink their relationship with harmful substances.

What is Long-Term Care?

Long-term residential treatment is the most intensive and comprehensive form of care that a patient can receive. When enrolled in long-term care, patients spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a treatment facility. They have access to constant medical care, therapy sessions, and group counseling.

While there are different forms that long-term care can take, the most common is known as Therapeutic Community (TC). These rehabilitation programs can last anywhere from three months to one year. While enrolled in a TC program, patients are embedded in a community of residents and professional addiction specialists, which form a network of support that encourages open dialogue about addiction, helps root out underlying problems through therapy and counseling and builds friendships that last through the treatment programs and into sobriety.  

Benefits of Long-Term Care vs. Short-Term Care

While short-term rehab may work for some, for most users it’s simply not enough time to fully recover from their addiction before re-entering their social environments. In most programs, short-term rehabs only last for around 30 days. In contrast, long-term treatment can extend from three months to an entire year.

When enrolled in long-term care, patients have more time to work through the physical repercussions of their addiction. Long-term substance abuse takes a hard, physical toll on the body. The longer patients spend in a treatment program, where they are fed nutritious food and have access to constant medical care, the further their bodies can recover.

Long-term care also offers an invaluable hiatus from unhealthy social contexts. Patients enrolled in short-term care may not have enough time to reflect on the underlying causes of their addiction, and are more likely to return to their substance use disorder. With months of therapy and counseling, long-term patients are more likely to achieve mental clarity and to build a mental defense against the temptations of addiction.

However, for financial reasons, many people choose to enter short-term care programs. Many private insurance policies will cover rehabilitation, but only for a limited amount of time. In many cases, this is around 30 days. Also, in cases where an individual might exhibit a strong desire to get clean after battling a mild addiction, a short-term program might be enough to achieve sobriety.  

Who Should Seek Long-Term Treatment?

Long-term drug rehab is the best option for anyone who wants the highest chance of beating their addiction. However, it is most commonly billed as an option for users who have struggled with long-term, debilitating addictions.

After struggling with long-term drug dependencies, many users are faced with weeks or months of withdrawal symptoms. Often, these symptoms are unpleasant enough that they may encourage users to reinitiate the cycle of abuse. Long-term residential treatment facilities offer environments that block avenues to relapse, increasing the odds of sustained sobriety.

During the months spent in long-term care, patients build a network through the staff and other residents that becomes helpful upon release. Short-term programs aren’t often long enough to build deep-rooted relationships. One of the keys to maintaining sobriety is by having a support system; people who users can reach out to in times of weakness.

What to Expect

Upon entering a long-term rehab program for a substance use disorder, users can expect a full physical and mental health evaluation. This is to determine the extent of the damage done by the addiction and helps staff get a better sense of the patient’s family history and other variables that impact their chances of relapse.

Most patients also spend the first several weeks going through the detox and withdrawal phase. Another benefit of long-term rehab is the access to medically assisted withdrawal, which can easy many of the challenging withdrawal symptoms that can lead to relapse (or cause health complications). Learn about our relapse prevention program.

After the detox and withdrawal phase, patients can expect to ease into the community of the treatment center. They will engage in regularly therapy and counseling sessions, interact frequently with medical professionals and other residents, and begin a new, positive life within the facility.

Costs & Insurance Options

While coverage varies from policy to policy, most private insurance programs cover at least some part of an extended stay in a treatment facility. However, most baseline policies only cover around 30 days; long enough for a short-term treatment program, but far short of covering a long-term treatment program.

Many employee insurance packages also offer the same short-term coverage, but the extent of that coverage is based on the discretion of the employer.

Because it’s often difficult to navigate insurance policies, many rehabs retain an insurance specialist to help prospective clients determine what their coverage is and what they can afford. In general, long-term programs are more expensive than short-term programs, though prices can also fluctuate depending on the specific rehab program and the medical assistance that’s required.

Helping a Loved One

Watching a loved one struggle with drug addiction can be sad, frustrating, and incredibly challenging. It’s common to feel helpless, or even somewhat at fault. However, if you’re committed to helping your loved one recover by entering an extended care rehab program, it’s vital to stay positive, be persistent, and to remember that addiction is a disease… one that can be treated.

If possible, find a time to have a discussion with your loved one. Don’t corner them and start hurling accusations or judgments. This will only make them retreat deeper into their addiction. It’s imperative to remain loving, empathetic, and to express your genuine concern for their health.

Sometimes it’s necessary to hire an intervention specialist. These individuals can help you build a perfect intervention team and can help family members prepare statements that will let the addict see how his or her behavior is negatively impacting their loved ones. Through whatever avenue, getting your loved one into an extended long-term rehab program is their best chance of having a healthy, happy, sober life.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. How effective is drug addiction treatment? 2018

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. 2018.



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