Substance use disorder can take its toll on your life. Addiction is especially disruptive, slowly infecting every aspect of your life from your job to your social life. When it’s finally time to seek sobriety seriously, what can you expect? And how long will it take before you reach a healthy lifestyle? If it’s your first-time seeking addiction treatment, it’s important to educate yourself about what you can expect the journey ahead to look like.
Millions of people struggle with substance use disorders every year; many achieve lifelong sobriety, while others don’t seek treatment at all. It’s clear that the road to recovery isn’t easy or else addiction wouldn’t be a problem of epidemic proportions in the United States. There are many barriers to sobriety, but the best way to make it to lasting recovery is to go through an addiction treatment program.
Learn more about the barriers to treatment, tips for getting sober, and how long it will take to make it to recovery.
When a person is struggling with a substance use disorder, there are a wide variety of barriers in their path. Addiction, by definition, involves compulsive drug use despite the consequences. Even if drugs or alcohol are causing serious problems in a person’s life, their compulsive need to use may blind them to the consequences. In other cases, a person may know they’ve become addicted to a substance, but they are still unable to bring themselves to quit or seek help.
If you have realized that you need to seek help, there are still more barriers to overcome. Many people find it difficult to overcome the social stigma that’s associated with addiction and seeking help for addiction. It may cause them to ignore the problem or try to overcome it on their own. However, addiction is incredibly difficult to overcome without help, and it will likely lead to relapse.
Drugs like benzodiazepines and alcohol can also cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which can make seeking sobriety without medical assistance physically dangerous. Relapse can also be dangerous with drugs like opioids. If you use again after gaining initial sobriety, you may have lost your tolerance, making your normal dose way too high for your current level of tolerance, leading to overdose.
Many people also cite personal responsibilities as the reason they can’t seek addiction treatment. They may have a job, kids to take care of, or a sick family member to look after. However, addiction tends to take over every aspect of your life. Even though you can maintain your addiction and responsibilities now, it doesn’t mean you can continue to go on like that. As your tolerance grows, and more of your time is spent seeking drugs or alcohol to satisfy cravings, the less time you will have to fulfill your responsibilities. Taking time off to address the problem is better in the long run.
Finally, the cost of treatment is often a concern people have that prevents them from seeking help. Today, most insurance companies recognize addiction as a treatable disease and offer some coverage for addiction treatment. Moreover, since addiction will start to take over every aspect of your life, it may eventually hinder your ability to make money and provide for yourself. Addiction often leads to job loss, poverty and homelessness. The cost of treatment is, again, preferable than an unaddressed substance use disorder in the long run.
The length of time it takes to reach sobriety depends on several factors, and it also depends on what you consider to be sober. When you enter an addiction treatment program, you will go through an assessment process that’s designed to determine your needs and the level of care that’s right for you. If you’ve just recently stopped using or if you’re currently using, you will need to go through some form of detox. Medical detox is designed to help you through the process of riding your body of its need for a psychoactive substance. It’s more than purging your body of chemicals; it also means resetting your brain’s chemical balance, which has adapted to the drug you’ve been using.
This process can take between five and 10 days. Through the medical detox process, you will be treated by medical professionals who are focused on mitigating your uncomfortable symptoms and avoiding any potential medical complications. After 10 days, your body will have readjusted to a chemical balance without drugs. Technically, you will be sober at this point.
But it usually takes more than medical detox to lead a person to lasting recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and addiction, between 40 percent and 60 percent of people who achieve sobriety, experience a relapse at some time later, which is similar to other chronic diseases such as hypertension and asthma.
So how much time does it take to reach lasting recovery?
The treatment process after detox is designed to identify underlying problems that contribute to your addiction. You may go through various levels of care and therapy types. It’s likely that you will go through one-on-one sessions with a counselor, but you may also go through group and family therapy. There are three more major levels of care after detox, including inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient care. The time you spend in each of these levels of care will depend on your progress. However, NIDA reports that studies have shown that 90 days is the optimal time for someone to spend in treatment from their first day in detox to their last day of outpatient services.
However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t leave your recovery efforts behind you when you complete treatment. The best relapse prevention strategies involve a continued commitment to the pursuit of treatment.
The time it takes for you to complete your treatment will depend on your progress. If you go through treatment successfully, you may avoid spending extra time in any one part of the program.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, July). Treatment and Recovery. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
Rapp, R. C., M.S.W. (2006, April). Treatment barriers identified by substance abusers … from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986793/