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When reviewing available treatment options for yourself or a loved one, long term drug and alcohol treatment is unequivocally the best option available. Shorter programs are abundant, and mostly because health insurance providers are the entities who initially implemented limitations to drug and alcohol treatment, making 30-day programs those most often covered by health insurance. Setting these limitations puts addicted individuals at an immediate disadvantage, and doesn't give treatment professionals enough time to genuinely and realistically help someone recover from addiction, particularly a chronic severe addiction. When you think about what is at stake, there should be no time limit on saving someone's life. Long term drug and alcohol treatment centers have the most appropriate estimation of effort when it comes to realistically helping a person recover permanently from addiction, with long-standing statistics and research to back this up. Thankfully, some insurance companies are beginning to recognize this and are beginning to cover long term stays in rehab when necessary.
The lengths of treatment can vary by facility but the traditional definition of long term drug and alcohol treatment is at least 90 days. Most long term facilities provide treatment anywhere from 90-120 days and some don't place a limit on recovery time. For example, there are some long term drug and alcohol facilities which provide a treatment curriculum that is completed when the client has completed it at their own pace. This would make sense when you consider there is no one in treatment that is exactly the same, with each person struggling with their own challenges and degrees of addiction. So, some long term programs treat their clients with the understanding that it takes as long as it takes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states the following about how long drug and alcohol treatment should last: "participation for less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, and treatment lasting significantly longer is recommended for maintaining positive outcomes." Long term programs which offer treatment for 90 days or more are associated with more successful outcomes for many reasons. First, the longer someone is in treatment the more time they can spend understanding their addiction and the issues that trigger it. It takes time to adjust to life without drugs and alcohol in it, and when someone first makes it to treatment and following detox this adjustment is not easy to say the least. Getting used to a daily lifestyle without drugs and alcohol as a major component of it can take weeks or even months in some cases. If this adjustment is taking place while someone is in a long term drug and alcohol treatment program, they have the structure and support they need to not succumb to cravings and the time they need to address far more than just these acute challenges.
What long term drug and alcohol treatment actually does is break the cycle of dependence, because the client is set up to remain abstinent for an extended period of time. Long term drug and alcohol rehab is essentially "forced" sobriety, but even so the individual begins to learn how to function daily without being intoxicated or high. When encouraged to remain in rehab, the individual doesn't have access to drugs or alcohol and is able to focus on treatment without any outside distractions. When this focus is maintained for 90 days or longer, it gives someone a much better opportunity to realize they can actually live a sober life, having healthy relationships with others, be productive, and have a smile on their faces without unnecessary and self-harming chemical intervention. By living this way for weeks and months at a time while in long term drug and alcohol treatment, individuals can become confident they can maintain this and without intervention from others. Because their lives no longer revolve around drugs or drinking and they have the time and capacity to LIVE, they can begin applying new skill sets to build the life they want. Getting to this point is no small feat, and can take months of failures and successes in treatment, hundreds of hours of therapy and counseling, and intense introspection and self-improvement that takes place over several weeks and months with the help of treatment staff. As time progresses and more about the causes of their addiction are revealed and addressed, individuals in long term treatment begin to develop a sense of what they need to do to remain abstinent even after treatment.
Addiction can take a significant toll on a person physically, and many individuals need the respite that only long term drug and alcohol treatment can offer them in terms of physical and psychological healing. When someone goes to a long term drug and alcohol treatment facility, they become immersed in a process to help them overcome their addiction, but also one that will help them get back to a healthier state physically and mentally. They have a bed to lay in where they can get a solid and uninterrupted night's sleep. Their nutritional needs are met all day, every day. In many cases exercise and physical activity is encouraged to help clients become more physically in shape after having neglected this aspect of their lives while struggling with addiction. Sleep, 3 square meals, physical exercise and positive mental stimulation are all things which were in all likelihood long neglected because of addiction. Making them a priority again, these things not only improve physical health over an extended period of time, but emotional and psychological health. This is a side benefit of being fully immersed in treatment this long, but is of course essential for someone's long term recovery.
The reality of relapse is that anywhere from 40-60% of individuals who receive some type of treatment for their addiction will relapse, and most will several times. This can be seen as a failure, but a relapse is actually an opportunity and a time to reevaluate and modify the approach. For someone who has only tried self-help groups or outpatient treatment several times, it wouldn't make any sense to continue applying the same approaches and treatment modalities that didn't work. Someone who relapses after short term treatment shouldn't go back to a short term treatment program, and their relapse is not a failure but a sign that a higher level of intensity of treatment is needed. There is no promise that even someone in a long term drug and alcohol treatment program won't relapse, but even in these instances it is an opportunity to reevaluate the approach. Maybe there is a different long term program that suits someone's treatment needs better. A good example of this would be someone with a co-occurring mental health disorder. If they were in a long term program that didn't address this, their chance of relapse is significantly higher than someone without a dual diagnosis. Addiction may take some time to overcome, but it will take longer if the wrong solutions are applied to it, only setting up the individual for relapse. If you want to lower the chances of relapse, it is important to get someone in the right program for them.
The cost of not treating someone's addiction is of course much greater than any amount of money spent on treating it, but one of the factors affecting one's decision to enter rehab is how much it's going to cost. Things that affect the cost of rehab are what type of facility it is (i.e. a moderate or perhaps a luxury rehab), where the facility is located, the size of the program, the scope of treatment provided, the length of treatment, and the amenities available. So, you will want to keep in mind that a long term drug rehab is almost always going to be more expensive than a short term program, and long term prices can vary depending on the variety of services offered and how amenable the accommodations are. Someone who wants to stay in a luxury facility by the beach may have to pay more than someone who is receiving treatment in a hospital.
A long term program can cost anywhere from $10,000-$30,000 a month on average, and some or all of these costs may be covered through health insurance. So, if cost is an issue you will want to work with your insurance provider if you have health insurance to find the facility which has the most extensive offerings in terms of comprehensive care and treatment. Health insurance may only cover short term treatment, in which case you will need to pay for treatment through self-pay. In some cases, long term drug and alcohol treatment facilities may be able to offer payment options such as a payment plan, a sliding scale fee based on your income or perhaps guide you through the process of financing treatment.
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