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How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of an Addiction?

One of the first questions a patient has when they find they have a disease is, “How long till I get better?” There is a constant discussion in the field of addiction therapy as to what the best solution is. Some believe that defining a defined goal at which patients can be considered totally recovered is the only way to inspire hope for recovery.

This, however, misses the point about addiction’s fundamental nature. Patients should be aware that addiction rehabilitation is a lifelong process, thus they should be aware of what their path may entail. How long does each step of rehabilitation take? These questions can be answered in a variety of ways, but the explanations below follow the National Institute on Drug Addiction’s recommendations (NIDA).


This stage begins when the addict ceases to drink or use drugs. During drug or alcohol treatment programs, people learn that addiction is a disease that affects both body and mind. The physiological symptoms of addiction fade away in a very predictable amount of time during drug detox, but treating the psychological and spiritual aspects of addiction can be far more difficult. The addict establishes a firm foundation for recovery by learning about the disease of addiction, experimenting with a variety of orthodox and alternative therapies, participating in 12-Step recovery, and learning new skills within the family system.

Not surprisingly, studies have found a link between treatment length and lower relapse risk. While there is no set length of treatment, we see the necessary skill sets and insights emerge after at least 90 days, often through a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment and aftercare. NIDA considers programs lasting less than 90 days to be ineffective and advises patients to stay in treatment for much longer.

Early Recovery

Sobriety is most fragile in the early stages of rehabilitation. Relapse can be triggered by a variety of factors, including drug cravings, social and familial pressures, daily stress, and a variety of other factors. The individual must relearn how to live during this time. They learn healthy coping skills, how to have fun without drugs or alcohol, relationship and problem-solving skills, and get to know who they are now that they are clean.


When a person has been drug-free for 90 days or more, the focus shifts to applying the skills learned in drug rehab to all aspects of their lives. Recovering addicts may become disoriented as they reintegrate back into society, and they will need to rely on 12-Step recovery and outpatient support to stay on track. Maintenance is also an excellent time to review lessons that may have been forgotten or never learned in previous stages.

Full/Advanced Recovery

Many people who have kept their sobriety for five years claim that they are feeling better. Even decades later, relapse is a possibility if maintenance is not continued.Advanced recovery is a stage in which you are still growing and progressing. It’s about living in the moment, healing one’s self and others’ relationships, and giving back. It’s also a good time to keep working on co-occurring mental illnesses and other factors that contributed to the addiction. To avoid becoming complacent, recovering addicts should consider going back to school, advancing their careers, discovering new hobbies and interests, and making supportive friends.

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