When people decide that they are ready to get help with breaking free from a drug or alcohol addiction, many decide to seek professional treatment. Detox is a common destination for people in the early stages of recovery because many people must get through an uncomfortable withdrawal process before seeking any additional care. After detox, some patients choose to go to addiction treatment facilities to address the underlying causes of their drug or alcohol problem. Treatment is one of the most effective ways to leave addiction behind, and the longer someone is able to participate in a clinical program, the better. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both agree that long-term treatment programs offer people the best chance at successful recovery from addiction and alcoholism. There are many reasons for this, and some of them have to do with the way the brain changes during active substance dependence.
Types of Treatment Programs
Treatment programs differ in nature, based on what services they offer, whether or not they are twelve-step based, their treatment philosophy, and a range of other characteristics. They also differ in program length. Some facilities only do medical detoxes, with patient stays that are generally as short as 3-14 days. Others offer the standard 28-day model, after which patients are discharged and sent home or to a sober living residence. And some, called long-term or extended care facilities, have programs that last for months.
Many people entering rehab for the first time (or after a series of stints) don’t want to be there for long. There is a strong temptation to simply complete detox and return to life, or to wait out the 28 days in rehab, marking each day off of a calendar in the hopes of going home. The reasons for this vary- some people believe they need to return to their family or work, others simply don’t like treatment or want to be there for very long. However, long-term treatment programs offer the best chance at long-term recovery and being successful following discharge. It’s not always the popular choice, but it’s usually the best one.
Why Long-Term Treatment Programs Work
One of the major reasons that long-term treatment programs are so effective is due to the way the brain works. When someone is drinking or using drugs addictively, the way that the brain processes events and feelings starts to change. This mostly happens in the “reward system” of the brain. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are responsible for feelings of pleasure, joy, and happiness, as well as functions like sleeping and mood regulation. When someone uses substances, the brain creates an artificially huge amount of these neurotransmitters- which is what gives us the “high” from substances. Over time, as someone uses more and more, the brain loses the ability to make these chemicals on its own, without drugs or alcohol. This is why we experience withdrawal symptoms and depression without substances.
Long-term treatment programs give the brain the time it needs to repair itself from the re-wiring caused by drugs and alcohol. In fact, it can take six months to over a year for the brain to fully heal from addiction or alcoholism. This phenomenon is why PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal, occurs. People tend to experience depression, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and cravings long after they have gone through detox. This is because the brain is still healing.
Being in a long-term treatment program can keep patients safe and give them access to therapy and support while their brain is still healing. This can prevent a relapse when someone experiences the temptation to use. Shorter programs discharge patients before their brains have fully recovered, which can increase the risk of relapse in response to unpleasant post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
Other Benefits of Long-Term Treatment Programs
In addition to giving patients a safe place to recover while their bodies and brains heal, long-term treatment programs also support recovery in the following ways:
- They allow clients time to build strong therapeutic relationships with staff so that they can really work on core issues
- They give clients ample time to focus on themselves and their recovery
- They give clients time to bond with one another and form strong sober support networks of their peers
- They instill good habits- by the time someone graduates, going to meetings, taking care of responsibilities, and working through relapse triggers is like second nature
All About Recovery offers long-term treatment programs to clients on an outpatient basis, so that they can receive all of the benefits of extended care and have time to heal while still remaining a part of their community, exploring employment and school options, and staying in touch with loved ones. If you want to put addiction or alcoholism behind you, call All About Recovery today at 888-712-8480 for information on programs available.