In 1977, being 3 months sober, I had an emotional crisis of feeling that I was on a high cliff and being afraid that I would fall or jump. It was a Sunday and I talked to AA members all day. Everyone I called was home and they helped me to decide that I wasn’t going crazy as I thought but that I needed more help in my recovery. Maranatha Home in Jacksonville, North Carolina was my salvation.
When I went to rehab, I had been sober for 3 months so had no need of detox. I also had been going to daily AA meetings so my rehab started with a foundation. I only drank alcohol. Today’s rehab client often comes to rehab needing detox from several substances. So much of the 30 day program is spent detoxing the client.
With a 90 day program many more benefits can be achieved. I have been supporting Chris Fiore’s work. His “Anthony’s Act” is a grassroots movement to get rehab extended to 90 days. His Facebook page has a petition I signed. The petition states: “We are asking congress to amend the Affordable Care to provide for a minimum of Ninety (90) days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment up to a maximum of One Hundred Eighty (180) days per year at a facility certified to provide such care by the Secretary of Health of the state in which it is located. Let’s give those suffering with addiction a real chance at recovery.”
Dr. David Sack has listed the benefits of having a longer rehab in an article he wrote in 2012 for Psych Central. The article was titled, “How Long is ‘Long-Term’ Drug Rehab?” He lists these benefits–
• Detox Doesn’t Dominate. Depending on the individual and their drug history, detox may take up a significant portion of a 30-day drug rehab program. And while detox is a critical part of the process, it is not in itself treatment. With a longer treatment stay, clients still have several weeks or more following detox to engage in the deeper work of recovery.
• Healing the Brain. Research shows that the addicted brain can heal over time, but months or years of drug abuse cannot be undone in a few weeks. Brain scans of recovering addicts show that changes are still taking place three months or more after treatment. This is why many recovering addicts report clouded thinking, skills deficits and other issues even months into recovery.
• Practical Application of New Skills. Going to drug rehab and “stepping down” to lower levels of care (such as outpatient treatment or a sober living environment) ensures that clients are not thrown back into society prematurely, nor are they sequestered away from the real world without opportunities to test their skills. With gradual increases in freedom, clients can begin applying their new skills with guidance and support from their treatment team.
• New Habits Take Root. Recovery requires a change of lifestyle, not just putting an end to drug or alcohol use. It takes anywhere from three weeks to three months to form new habits. Recovering addicts who have already begun to integrate new habits into their daily lives, such as support group meetings, sober recreation, meditation, exercise and other recovery-related activities, will be able to make a smooth transition into life outside rehab.
• Living the Relapse Prevention Plan. Every client should leave treatment with a relapse prevention plan. But the person who leaves treatment not only knowing their relapse triggers but also having experience working through them in real time will be that much more secure in their recovery. Spending time in intensive outpatient treatment or a sober living environment provides this type of real-world exposure along with ongoing structure and support. As a result, recovering addicts know how to deal with drug cravings, stress and other common causes of relapse and feel comfortable reaching out to their sponsor, self-help group or loved ones for support.
• Healing Relationships. Long-term treatment allows clients to address the complexities of family dynamics, which often contributed to addictive patterns, and begin couples or family counseling, if needed.
• Identify and Treat Co-Occurring Disorders. Roughly half of people suffering from drug and alcohol addictions also struggle with other addictions (e.g., sex, food, gambling) and/or mental health disorders (such as depression, anxiety, trauma and eating disorders). These co-occurring disorders do not always come to light early in treatment. In fact, it is often only after intensive therapy and 30-plus days of treatment that these issues surface. Left unidentified and untreated, these underlying problems often lead to relapse.
“Perhaps the greatest testament to the efficacy of long-term treatment can be found in drug rehabs for professionals. Physician health programs, for example, have documented five-year abstinence rates of 79 percent and return to work rates of 96 percent, with virtually no evidence of risk or harm to patients from participating physicians. These programs involve comprehensive treatment followed by long-term monitoring and support that often lasts upwards of five years. This model, which has proven effective for professionals in safety-sensitive occupations, is likely equally effective for others.” Photo credit.